Here's the True Meaning of the American Flag

Updated 04/25/19

Though you might not be sure what the meaning of the American flag actually is, you've probably, at some point in history class, heard the creation story of the American flag. General George Washington went to visit Betsy Ross, an upholsterer, to order a flag for our new nation in the summer of 1776 (or possibly 1777). Not only did she sew this iconic flag, but she also helped to finalize the design. OK, so you know how the flag came to be, but what you may not know is what the colors and symbols on the flag actually represent—even if you've been thinking for your entire life that you did.

What the Symbols and Colors Represent

You'd probably assume that the stars and stripes have something to do with the state of the nation at the time of the flag's creation, and you wouldn't be wrong, but if you want to be exact, the 13 horizontal stripes represent the original 13 colonies, while the stars represent the union's 50 states.

While the meaning of the stars and stripes might be a bit obvious, what's lesser known about our nation's most iconic symbol is what the colors actually represent. It was no accident that the red, white, and blue combination was chosen, as each color is symbolic. Red stands for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

american flag with sparklers
 

The original flag, created by Ross, had only 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies. However, each time a new state was admitted to the union, a new star was added to the flag. The flag that we use today, the longest-used one in American history, was ordered by President Eisenhower, and adopted in July 1960.

Cheers to the red, white, and blue!

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