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the American army, where, sung to the English air of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” it quickly gained great popularity. It was published in The Baltimore American on September 21st, with a note setting forth the circumstances of its origin but not mentioning the name of the writer.
THE GRAND UNION FLAG The evolution of the Stars and Stripes from the British flag began in 1774, at Taunton, Mass., when the patriots raised the British flag with the motto “Liberty and Union" added; union then meaning continued union with Great Britain, and liberty meaning the same liberty for the colonists as the people of England enjoyed.
Next came the memorable step of January 2, 1776, when George Washington, who six months before had assumed chief command of the united colonial armies at Cambridge, raised there a new flag of his own devising. This was the so-called Grand Union flag, and it consisted of thirteen stripes, alternately red and white, with the union jack in canton. That is to say, it was exactly like the Stars and Stripes, with the union jack in place of the stars; or it was like the British flag, with stripes instead of the plain red field. In brief, it was half British and half American.
That Grand Union flag was carried for more than a year at the beginning of the Revolution: at Boston, at New York, Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton. Leutze's fine painting of “Washington Crossing the Delaware" shows the Stars and Stripes carried on his boat, but the Stars and Stripes did not then exist and did not come into being until months later.
THE FIRST STARS AND STRIPES But after Trenton and Princeton it was deemed by Congress necessary that we should have another national flag, without the British feature of the union jack, and Washington, then spending the winter between Bound Brook and Morristown, N. J., was commissioned to design one, with Robert Morris and Colonel George Ross as his colleagues. Washington simply took the Grand Union flag, struck out the union jack from the canton, and substituted a circle of thirteen white stars on a blue canton, and the Stars and Stripes stood revealed. This was the second step in the evolution from the British flag.
There is no reason for doubting that the first sample flag was made by Mrs. Elizabeth Ross, widow of John Ross, at No. 239 Arch Street, Philadelphia. We may also accept the entirely plausible story that Washington drew the design with the six-pointed stars of English heraldry, and that Mrs. Ross suggested the change to fivepointed stars; for which we have much cause to be grateful to that clever woman. It is indisputable that on June 14, 1777, John Adams proposed and the Continental Congress adopted a resolution that
“The flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation."
FIRST USE OF THE FLAG There has been some dispute as to when the flag was first publicly displayed and used, but the overwhelming weight of evidence indicates that it was at Fort Schuyler, formerly called Fort Stanwix, on the site of the present city of Rome, N. Y. The flag was not officially promulgated until September 3, 1777, after which date it speedily came into general use in both the army and navy, as well as in civil life. It was first raised at sea on a warship when John Paul Jones sailed with the sloop Ranger from Portsmouth, N. H., on a memorable raid upon the coasts of the British Isles. That was on November 1, 1777, and the flag was specially made for Jones by some of the ladies of Portsmouth. Thirty days later he was at Nantes, France, first carrying the flag into a European port and securing for it recognition and a salute from a foreign power.
THE FLAG OF FIFTEEN STRIPES The flag presently began to increase and multiply. Vermont came into the Union in 1791, and Kentucky in 1792, and wanted some recognition; wherefore on January 13, 1794, it was enacted that the flag should thereafter consist of fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, with the blue canton resting on the fifth red stripe and the stars in three horizontal rows of five each. That was our flag for twentythree years, including some of the most heroic and historic in our national life. When “The Star Spangled Banner" was written, ours was a flag of fifteen stars and fifteen stripes. The painting of Perry's victory, which hangs in the Capitol, shows another anachronism, the flag having only thirteen stripes.
THE FINAL DESIGN OF THE FLAG But even when that change was made in 1794 there were those who perceived its folly, and protested against it, on the ground that further changes would have to be made, so that for a hundred years the flag would be unsettled and varying. Surely enough, in 1796 Tennessee was admitted to the Union, Ohio in 1803, Louisiana in 1812, Indiana in 1816, and Mississippi in 1817; so that there were five new states without representation in the flag. That would not do, and so Peter H. Wendover, a Representative of New York, secured the appointment of a committee, which on January 2, 1817, reported a bill for remodeling the flag. This report was based upon suggestions which were made to the committee at Wendover's request by Captain Samuel Chester Reid, of the navy, the commander of the famous privateer General Armstrong in the War of 1812; and it provided for a flag of thirteen stripes, as at first, representing the thirteen original states, and of twenty stars, representing the increased number of states, a new star to be added thereafter for each new state, the star to be added on the Fourth of July following the admission of the state. That was enacted on April 4, 1818, and remains to this day the flag law of the nation.
Thus on July 4, 1818, the flag assumed the form of thirteen stripes and twenty stars. The number of stars thereafter increased automatically on the Fourth of July of each year named, on account of the admission of the states named, as follows: Twenty-one in 1819, for Illinois; 23 in 1820, Alabama and Maine; 24 in 1822, Missouri; 25 in 1836, Arkansas; 26 in 1837, Michigan; 27 in 1845, Florida; 28 in 1846, Texas; 29 in 1847, Iowa; 30 in 1848, Wisconsin; 31 in 1851, California; 32 in 1858, Minnesota; 33 in 1859, Oregon; 34 in 1861, Kansas; 35 in 1863, West Virginia; 36 in 1865, Nevada; 37 in 1867, Nebraska; 38 in 1877, Colorado; 43 in 1890, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Idaho; 44 in 1891, Wyoming; 45 in 1896, Utah; 46 in 1908, Oklahoma; 48 in 1912, Arizona and New Mexico. Thus in 140 years the Stars and Stripes has assumed no fewer than twenty-five different forms. As it is today, LONG MAY IT WAVE!
THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thro' the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
Oh! say, does the Star Spangled Banner yet wave
On the shore, dimly seen thro' the mist of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes. What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream.
'Tis the Star Spangled Banner, oh! long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Oh! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!