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The US flag in front of the Capitol Building

U.S. Congress adopts the Stars and Stripes

Image: Andrea Izzotti /

During the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress adopts a resolution stating that "the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white" and that "the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation." The national flag, which became known as the "Stars and Stripes," was based on the "Grand Union" flag, a banner carried by the Continental Army in 1776 that also consisted of 13 red and white stripes.

According to legend, Philadelphian seamstress Betsy Ross designed the new canton for the Stars and Stripes, which consisted of a circle of 13 stars and a blue background, at the request of General George Washington. Historians have been unable to conclusively prove or disprove this legend. With the entrance of new states into the United States after independence, new stripes and stars were added to represent new additions to the Union.

In 1818, however, Congress enacted a law stipulating that the 13 original stripes be restored to honour the original colonies and that only stars be added to represent new states. The current flag with 50 stars is the longest rendition in use, with Hawaii being the last state to gain statehood in 1959. On 14 June 1877, the first Flag Day observance was held on the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes. As instructed by Congress, the US flag was flown from all public buildings across the country. In the years after the first Flag Day, several states continued to observe the anniversary, and in 1949 Congress officially designated 14 June as Flag Day, a national day of observance.