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Flags of the United States of America

etats_unis
United States adopted on July 4, 1960
Country Characteristics
Capital: Washington, D.C.
Area: 9,833,517 km2 (3rd row)
Population: 328,239,523 inhabitants (2019) (3rd row)
Currency: US dollar
Type of state : federal republic
Independence: 1776 (Great Britain)
Caractéristiques du drapeau
Ration flag 10/19
FIAV grid DPn
Function DN
car_USA

History and meaning

The flag of the United States of America is composed of 13 horizontal stripes of equal width, 7 red stripes framing 6 white stripes.
The canton has 50 white stars on a blue background (5 rows of 6 stars and 4 rows of 5). Each star represents a state. From 13 stars on the first flag in 1877, this flag was then enriched with a new star for the adhesion of each new state.
The 13 stripes also represent the first 13 states. This flag is nicknamed Stars and Stripes or the Star-Spangled Banner, it has inspired the flag of many countries.
This flag also has the peculiarity that the bands constituting it must be sewn (not printed) to symbolize the union of all the states.

Before the United States

The Amerindians

Before the arrival of Spanish, French and English colonizers, North America was inhabited by numerous Amerindian populations [2].

The Amerindian tribes did not have flags. They have now defined themselves by them to assert their identity.
Below some Indian flags.

arapahos
Arapahos (Wyoming)
cherokees
Cherokees (Oklahoma)
cheyennes
Cheyennes (Montana)
comanche
Comanches (Oklahoma, Texas, California, New Mexico)
crown
Crow (Montana)
iroquois
Iroquois (New York)
navajos
Navajos (Arizona, New Mexico and Utah)
pawnees
Pawnees (Oklahoma)
sac
Sauk and Fox (Iowa)
sioux
Sioux (Dakota)

Viceroyalty of New Spain

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was created in 1535 and disappeared in 1821 with the independence of Mexico. It occupied the southern United States (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas).
The flag is a cross of Burgundy

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New Spain (1535 - 1821)
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Viceroyalty of New Spain (in red)

The New France

The New France was composed of Louisiana, Acadia and Canada. It existed from 1534 to 1763. At the end of the Seven Years’ War (1759 - 1763), France ceded West Louisiana to Spain and Canada, Acadia and East Louisiana to Great Britain. Napoleon recovered East Louisiana and finally sold it to the United States in 1803.

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Location of New France
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Map of the division of Louisiana in 1763 [1]

White flag with a shield bearing three fleurs-de-lis in a necklace of the order of the Holy Spirit surmounted by a crown.

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New France (1599 - 1763)

The Thirteen Colonies

The Thirteen Colonies are British colonies created between 1607 and 1732. In order: Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia. In 1775, they signed the United States Declaration of Independence. In 1776, they separated from Great Britain which triggered the American War of Independence which led to the creation of the United States of America.

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Treize colonies - British Red Ensign
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Location of the 13 colonies

The constitution of the United States from 13 to 50 states

Grand Union Flag

The Grand Union Flag is the first flag used during the American Revolutionary War. There are still doubts about the 1st use of the Grand Union Flag. Probably 1755 but tradition says that it was George Washington’s troops who hoisted it in 1776 to Charlestown.
Its colors would come from the British Red Ensign.

USA_1775_1777
Grand Union flag between 1775 and 1777

13 stars

In 1777 a flag was defined with thirteen stars in the canton representing the thirteen founding states of the United States of America. The arrangement of the stars not being specified, different models existed. Below are four examples.

USA_777_975
In a circle
USA13a
A Star
USA13b
A Rhombus
USA13c
In a square

15 stars

In 1795 with the arrival of Kentucky and Vermont, the number of stars increased to fifteen. Different arrangements have existed although the stars are most often aligned in four or five rows.

USA_795_818
Flag between 1795 and 1818
USA15
Kentucky, Vermont

20 stars

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Flag between 1818 and 1819
USA20
Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiane, Indiana, Mississippi

21 stars

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Flag between 1819 and 1820
USA21
Illinois

23 stars

USA_820_822
Flag between 1820 and 1822
USA23
Alabama, Maine

24 stars

USA_822_836
Flag between 1822 and 1836
USA24
Missouri

25 stars

USA_836_837
Flag between 1836 and 1837
USA25
Arkansas

26 stars

USA_837_845
Flag between 1837 and 1845
USA26
Michigan

27 stars

USA_845_846
Flag between 1845 and 1846
USA27
Florida

28 stars

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Flag between 1846 and 1847
USA28
Texas

29 stars

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Flag between 1847 and 1848
USA29
Iowa

30 stars

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Flag between 1848 and 1851
USA30
Wisconsin

31 stars

In 1848, gold was discovered in California. It will be the "gold rush" which will last until 1856. The influx of settlers will cause a rapid expansion of the region and in 1851, California will become the 31st state.

USA_851_858
Flag between 1851 and 1858
USA31
California

32 stars

USA_858_859
Flag between 1858 and 1859
USA32
Minnesota

33 stars

In 1861, 7 anti-abolitionist southern states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas) seceded to form the Confederate States of America. Their President will be Jefferson Davis. During the American Civil War, they opposed the abolitionist northern states, The Union, whose president was Abraham Lincoln.

USA33
Oregon and Confederate States

On the first flag of the Confederate States of America (the southerners), the 7 stars represent the secessionist states (in pink on the map).

USA_859_861
Flag between 1859 and 1861
USA21S
Confederate flag

34 stars

Soon, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Confederate Arizona (a territory straddling present-day Arizona and New Mexico) will join the Confederate camp (in yellow on the map). In the states of Missouri and Kentucky (in purple on the map) pro-secessionist movements have formed although the local Senate has voted in favour of the Union.

USA34
Secessionist States and Kansas

The new secessionist states are added to the confederate flag, which now has 13 stars..

USA_861_863
Flag between 1861 and 1863
USA21S4
Confederate flag between 1861 and 1863

35 stars

In 1863 northern Virginia decided to join the Union. It takes the name of West Virginia.

USA35
West Virginia

In 1863 the confederates changed their flag to a white flag with the Union War Flag in the canton. A blue cross with thirteen stars on a red background.

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Flag between 1863 and 1865
USA21S3
Confederate flag between 1863 and 1865

36 stars

The Civil War ended in 1865 with the surrender of the southern army.

USA36
Nevada

In 1865, a red stripe was added to the confederate flag to prevent it from being confused with a white surrender flag.

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Flag between 1865 and 1867
USA21S2
Confederate flag in 1865

37 stars

USA_867_877
Flag between 1867 and 1877
USA37
Nebraska

38 stars

USA_877_890
Flag between 1877 and 1890
USA38
Colorado

43 stars

USA_890_891
Flag between 1890 and 1891
USA43
Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington

44 stars

USA_891_896
Flag between 1891 and 1896
USA44
Wyoming

45 stars

USA_896_908
Flag between 1896 and 1908
USA45
Utah

46 stars

USA_908_912
Flag between 1908 and 1912
USA46
Oklahoma

48 stars

USA48
Arizona, New Mexico
USA_912_959
Flag between 1912 and 1959
USA48b
A big thank you to Maryse for this superb 48 stars

49 stars

USA_959_960
Flag between 1959 and 1960
USA4*
Alaska

50 stars

The last state to join the United States was the state of Hawaii on July 4, 1960. The addition of a 50th star will give the United States its current flag.

USA50
Hawaï

July 21, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon and set a flag more than 300,000 miles from the United States..

USA_lune
That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind

U.S. Anthem and Flag

The anthem of the United States speaks of its flag and glorifies it, and it bears the same name as the Star-Spangled Banner. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful national anthems. The words of the first verse are as follows:

O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Click on the photo or the link to hear the United States anthem

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Famous photo by photographer Joe Rosenthal showing American soldiers hoisting the flag on "Iwo Jima" island

Click on the Youtube link.

Flags inspired by that of the United States

salvador_1877_1912
14th Province of El Salvador (1877 - 1912)
uruguay_1828_1830
1st Flag of Uruguay (1828 - 1830)
bresil_empire
1st Flag of the Republic of Brazil onn 1889
liberia
Libéria

Controversy over the flag of the Confederate States of America

The flag of the Confederate States of America has become the symbol of white supremacy and racism, it is notably used by the ku klux klan. It constitutes a provocation in Washington. The flag of the state of Mississippi which contained this cross was modified in 2020.

USA_guer
Drapeau de guerre sudiste (1861 - 1865)
USA_confederation
Drapeau utilisé par le ku klux klan
Category vexillological site
Developed by John Duff
Created on 15-06-2017
Last update 26-01-2021
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