On the 14th of June, our cousins from across the pond celebrate Flag Day, a day which commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June the 14th 1777. Although not an official holiday, it’s a day of parades, parties and patriotism across the country. To celebrate the famous stars and stripes, here’s 5 interesting facts you never knew about the flag of the United States.
Flags on the Moon
One of the most iconic images in mankind’s existence is that of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planting the flag of the United States on the moon’s surface. Five more followed in the next three years from Apollo 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17.
As of 2012, five of the six flags are still standing (one was knocked over by Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 upon departure.) Although, after decades of exposure to the moon’s harsh climates and intense ultraviolet radiation, the flags are now probably white.
Widely recognised as mother of the first American flag, Betsy Ross is credited with making the original banner. The 13 stripes and 13-starred circle signified the colonies that had declared independence from the British and, although the stars have increased, the number of stripes has stayed constant, barring one version which had 15 in 1795.
Although the story of the Philadelphia seamstress being approached by George Washington to create the flag of a country is an endearing one, there is little to substantiate the claim that Ross did indeed create the flag beyond her grandson’s word in 1870.
The Current Flag
The current 50-star, 13-striped design of the flag of the United States of America is 56 years old and counting, the first to last over 50 years.
The man credited with designing the flag is Robert G Heft. At the time, Heft was a 17-year old student who had received a B- after submitting the flag for a project in his history class. He later submitted it to congress for consideration. President Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Heft’s design over 1,500 other applicants. Subsequently, Heft’s teacher promptly changed the grade to a well-deserved A.
Flying The Flag
There is a particular etiquette that is observed when flying the American flag. For example, the flag should never be flown in bad weather, should never be flown upside down, and be referred to officially as the Flag of the United States of America, which is a bit of a mouthful.
There are also issues with its image. Technically, any use of the flag, other than as a banner is illegal. However, this is rarely enforced. If it were, then it would be a contributing factor in an extraordinary rise in crime.
No definitive explanation has been given for the reasoning behind the colour of the American flag. A reasonable explanation is that the design takes inspiration from the Union Jack. President Ronald Reagan remarked in 1986 that the red is for courage, white for pure intentions and blue for vigilance.