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31 Fascinating Flag Facts that Will Make You the Hit of the 4th of July Cookout

1. July 2016 06:09

tiny American flags in a beer bottle

The 4th of July is almost here, so there’s a good chance you’ll either be hosting or attending a backyard barbecue in the near future. Whether you want to impress your friends, drop some knowledge on those know-it-all neighbors, or channel your inner Cliff Clavin from Cheers, we’ve got you covered. Read on for 31 little-known flag facts guaranteed to dazzle and amaze your fellow Independence Day revelers.

  1. The first US flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. It had 13 stars and 13 stripes.
  2. There’s no historical proof Betsy Ross sewed the original US flag. In fact, she didn’t get credit until 1870 when her grandson, William Canby, proclaimed to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that she was the flag’s creator. But he didn’t offer any concrete proof.
  3. Who was really behind the flag’s design? It was most likely designed by Francis Hopkinson, who also signed the Declaration of Independence.
  4. After Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the union in 1795, two stripes were added to the flag. But in 1818, Congress decided that could get out of hand really fast and reverted to 13 stripes, agreeing to add only stars for new states.
  5. When stars are added to the flag, it’s on the 4th of July following the new state’s admittance to the Union.
  6. Francis Scott Key’s poem "The Star-Spangled Banner" was inspired by a lone American flag he spotted flying over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1812 after a long night of British bombing. You can check out the famous flag (featuring that era’s 15 stripes) at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
  7. In 1885, Wisconsin schoolteacher BJ Cigrand was the first person to propose a national day to celebrate the flag. In 1949, President Truman officially designated June 14 as National Flag Day.
  8. Only two states observe Flag Day as an official holiday: Pennsylvania and New York. But New Yorkers celebrate on the second Sunday of June, not June 14.
  9. Approximately 150 million US flags are sold each year in the United States.
  10. Ninety-five percent of all US flags are made here.
  11. US flags sales peak between April and June.
  12. The two most popular days to display a US flag are July 4th and Memorial Day.
  13. Any US flag purchased by the US Defense Department must be 100 percent made in America, including raw materials such as fabric, ink, and dye.
  14. To help the rest of us buy local, the Flag Manufacturers Association of America (FMAA) established the “Certified Made in the U.S.A.” program. Any flags bearing the FMAA label are guaranteed to be manufactured in the United States using only domestic materials.
  15. The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 prohibits real estate management organizations or homeowner associations from passing any rules that would prevent homeowners from displaying the US flag on their property. But they can enact restrictions on sizes, flagpoles, etc.
  16. The United States Flag Code lays out the rules for all things flag-related, from when and how to display the flag to how to properly retire a flag. It was signed into law in 1942 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The next five facts come from the Flag Code.
  17. US flags on a flagpole should be displayed from sunrise to sunset.
  18. The flag should be raised quickly, but lowered slowly.
  19. If you want to display the US flag around the clock, it should be properly illuminated at night.
  20. If displayed on a wall or window, the flag can be placed either vertically or horizontally – just make sure the blue field is on the flag viewer’s upper left.
  21. The blue field of the flag is officially called the “Union” or the “canton.”
  22. It is totally OK to display an older flag design, so if you have a US flag that predates our current 50-star version, feel free to wow the neighbors.
  23. You won’t actually get in trouble if you violate the Flag Code. It’s more of an honor system.
  24. As of 2016, there have been 27 official versions of the US flag.
  25. The current design, featuring 50 stars, debuted in 1960 following the admittance of Alaska and Hawaii into the union.
  26. Our current flag was designed as part of a class project by 17-year-old Robert Heft. He received a B-minus. After his design was chosen for the US flag by President Eisenhower, Robert’s teacher bumped his grade up to an A.
  27. The official colors of the US flag are old glory red, white, and old glory blue.
  28. Of the six US flags planted on the moon by astronauts, five are still standing, according to photos taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The only exception is the flag from the Apollo 11 mission, which astronaut Buzz Aldrin says was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during takeoff.
  29. A flag expert is called a vexillologist.
  30. “Old Glory” was originally the name of one specific flag, owned by sea captain William Driver of Salem, Massachusetts. His mother gave him a US flag to display on his ship for his 21st birthday in 1824, and he immediately gave it the nickname “Old Glory.”
  31. Sometimes flag designers got a little…whimsical with the placement of the stars. Check out the Great Star Flag of 1837, the 1847 29-star flag, the 1861 Fort Sumter Flag, and 1877’s 38-star flag, and you’ll see what we mean.

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