Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado
New Stars in the Constellation
The 15 star-and-stripe flag was adopted in January of 1794 to represent the addition of the new states of Vermont and Kentucky. Two years later Tennessee became our 16th state. Thus it was that, at the turn of the century, sixteen states were represented by the flag of 15 stars and fifteen stripes.
|Over the first
seventeen years of the new century, four more states were added to the union.
Evenso, throughout the early part of the century and all the way through the war of 1812,
it was a 15 star flag like Mary Pickersgill's that continued to represent a nation that by
1817 numbered 20 states. Meanwhile congress wrestled with how to represent their
rapidly growing nation in the flag. The fifteen state flag needed to be increased
almost 35% to represent the new states of Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, and
Mississippi. And, should the country continue its rapid growth, who could tell HOW
large the flag might become if a star and a stripe was added for each new
state. Navy Captain Samuel C. Reid suggested the most logical option:
|Congress saw the practicality of
Captain Reid's idea and sent the President legislation accordingly. On April 4,
1818 President Monroe signed the bill establishing that the Flag of the United States of
America would consist of 13 alternating red and white stripes that would remain unchanged,
and that the field of blue would contain 20 stars to represent the current number of
states in the union. Unlike previous actions regarding the flag, this bill further
provided for expansion by:
|In keeping with this new legislation,
the first flag of 20 stars was flown on July 4, 1818. It was a flag with four rows
with five stars in each row like the flag at lower left. Once again, however, the
legislation establishing the design of the flag fell short of defining the arrangement of
the stars in the blue union, or even again to establish if the stars would have 5 points
or 6. It was an oversight that wouldn't be addressed for almost another
century. Below are some of the popular designs of the 20-star United States flag
that was established in 1818.
After the new 20 star flag was introduced, the United States grew at the rate of one-state-each-year for the next four years. When Illinois joined the Union in December of 1818, the flag increased to 21 stars the following July 4th. In December, 1819 Alabama joined the Union, but before the 4th of July arrived (on March 15, 1820) Maine was separated from Massachusetts and became a state. Thus, on July 4, 1820 our flag bore 23 stars.
Shortly after this new flag was introduced on the 4th of July, 1820; it was raised atop the 14,110 high summit of Pike's Peak in Colorado.
Since 1761 Maine had been a part of Massachusetts, but separated and became a separate state as part of the Missouri Compromise that added the area of Missouri as a state in 1822, increasing the field of blue to 24 stars, usually arranged in four rows of five stars each. Thus it was that our Nation celebrated its 50th birthday in 1826 with 24 total states, almost half the total it would achieve in the two hundred years leading to the bi-centennial in 1976.
The growth of the United States slowed for fifteen years, then resumed in 1836 with the addition of Arkansas. The following year Michigan became number 26. Eight years later Florida achieved statehood and the following year (1846) Texas was added. The 28-star flag adopted on July 4, 1846 continued to grow over the next fifteen years, as our Nation both grew and as it moved towards a civil war that threatened to tear eleven stars from that flag.
|The admission of Kansas as our 34th state in January, 1861 led to a flag of 34 stars. These were usually arranged in a pattern of two rows of seven at the top and bottom, with a row of 6 stars in the center. The field almost appears divided upon first glance, perhaps a somewhat prophetic statement of what lay ahead for the United States of America as well as our Nation's flag.|
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