On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act:
Resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.
June 14, 1777, in Journals of the Continental Congress.
According to American legend, in June 1776, George Washington commissioned Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, to create a flag for the new nation in anticipation of a declaration of its independence. However, no one knows with absolute certainty who designed the first stars and stripes or who made it.
A flag of this design was first carried into battle on September 11, 1777, in the Battle of the Brandywine. The American flag was first saluted by foreign naval vessels on February 14, 1778, when the Ranger, bearing the Stars and Stripes and under the command of Captain Paul Jones, arrived in a French port. The flag first flew over a foreign territory in early 1778 at Nassau, Bahama Islands, where Americans captured a British fort.
When two new States were admitted to the Union (Kentucky and Vermont), a resolution was adopted in January of 1794, expanding the flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes. This flag was the official flag of our country from 1795 to 1818.
In 1818, after 5 more states joined the Union, Congress passed legislation fixing the number of stripes at 13 and requiring that the number of stars equal the number of states.
An Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 – established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.
An Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 – provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.
An Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 – provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizon tally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.
There have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag so far; stars have been added to it as states have entered the Union. The current version dates to July 4, 1960, when Hawaii became the 50th state.
Both President Wilson, in 1916, and President Coolidge, in 1927, issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as the National Flag Day. But it wasn’t until August 3, 1949, that Congress approved the national observance, and President Harry Truman signed it into law.
Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes. They are seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union.
The colors of the flag are symbolic as well.
Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.