The Meaning and History of Flag Day Symbols


Flag Day is an annual celebration that commemorates the American flag’s official adoption on June 14th, 1777. Also known as the Flag Day Symbols (Stars and Stripes), this iconic flag represents the nation, its people, their values, history, and aspirations.

The Meaning and History of Flag Day Symbols

Observing Flag Day

Flag Day is marked by various customary practices, including:

  • Displaying flags outside homes and buildings.
  • Participating in parades and picnics that pay tribute to the flag and veterans.
  • Learning about the flag’s history and proper etiquette.
  • Singing patriotic songs and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Origin and Evolution of the American Flag

The American flag has transformed significantly since its initial design in 1777.

Here are key facts and notable dates regarding its origin and evolution:

  • The first official flag, known as the Continental Colors or the Grand Union Flag, was adopted by the Continental Congress on January 1, 1776. It featured 13 red and white stripes and included the British Union Jack in the corner.
  • On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution stating that the flag of the United States would consist of 13 alternating red and white stripes, while the union would comprise 13 white stars on a blue field, symbolizing a new constellation. This marked the birth of the Stars and Stripes.

The Origin and Evolution of the American Flag

  • Although it is commonly believed that Betsy Ross, a seamstress who supported the Revolutionary War, crafted the first Stars and Stripes flag, there is no historical evidence to substantiate this claim. The most probable designer was Francis Hopkinson, a delegate from New Jersey who signed the Declaration of Independence.
  • As new states joined the Union, stars and stripes were added to the flag. In 1795, Vermont and Kentucky’s admission led to the addition of two stars and stripes. In 1818, Congress established a law fixing the number of stripes at 13, allowing for the inclusion of a new star for each state admitted on July 4th.
  • The current flag design, featuring 50 stars and 13 stripes, was adopted on July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became the 50th state. The creator of this design was Robert G. Heft, a 17-year-old high school student from Ohio, who submitted it as a class project.

The Adoption of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the National Anthem

Another significant symbol associated with Flag Day is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States since 1931.

The lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner” were penned by Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, and poet who witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Overwhelmed by the sight of a large American flag flying triumphantly over the fort after a night of intense fighting, Key composed a four-stanza poem titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” expressing his emotions and extolling the resilience of the American people.

The poem’s verses were set to the melody of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular British drinking song. The composition came to be known as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and gained widespread popularity as a patriotic anthem.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be played at military and naval ceremonies. Later, in 1931, Congress passed a law officially designating it as the national anthem of the United States.


The American flag and “The Star-Spangled Banner” are two symbols that commemorate Flag Day and embody the nation’s essence and historical significance.

These symbols represent the cherished values of freedom, unity, and patriotism that have guided the American people through wars, challenges, and achievements. They also inspire respect, gratitude, and pride for those who have fought and made sacrifices to secure the country’s independence and safety.

On Flag Day, it is important to honor these symbols by properly displaying them, acquiring knowledge about their history and proper use, and singing or reciting them with reverence.

As President Calvin Coolidge eloquently stated in his 1927 Flag Day proclamation, “It is highly appropriate that the people of our country annually observe a day that places special emphasis on the symbol of our nation, its independence, patriotism, unparalleled freedom, hopes, and accomplishments.”

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