The Evolution of the Stars on the American Flag

How many stars are there on the American Flag?

As Americans, we rarely give much thought to the stars on the American flag.  We know there are fifty of them; and that’s really all that matters, right?  Many people don’t realize that the number of stars on the American flag wasn’t always equal to the number of states.

Back in January of 1794, right after Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the Union, a resolution was made to expand the American flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes.  This version remained the official flag of the United States all the way up until 1818.  During that time, this flag was what inspired Francis Scott Key to compose the Star Spangled Banner.  This United States flag also the ensign of the American forces during the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, and in 1805 it was the first flag flown above a fortress of the Old World when it was raised over a pirate stronghold in Tripoli.

Not long after these events, government officials began to realize that they couldn’t continue to add a new star and a new stripe with each new state.  It was then that a Navy captain named Samuel Reid suggested that the number of stripes remain thirteen as a tribute to the thirteen original colonies, and that only a star be added to represent each new state in the Union.  When this concept was presented to Congress and to President Monroe in 1818, the bill was readily enacted and we began adding a new star for every state.  The most recent addition to the American flag was in 1960, when Hawaii was admitted into Union.

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