The U.S. Flag: 10 Cool Facts That You Didn’t Know

US flag
By Ben Hartwig
15 January, 2019

The U.S. Flag is a symbol that every American holds near and dear, but many don’t know the history behind it. We’ve found some of the coolest facts about it that you’ll probably want to know for your next trivia night:

  1. It Was Designed by a High School Student

In 1958, the current flag was designed by Robert G. Heft of Lancaster, Ohio, who was only 17 years old at the time. There were over 1,500 entries to determine the new design, and Heft’s was chosen by none other than President Dwight D. Eisenhower himself.

  1. Flag Maintenance

Did you know there are rules about how to maintain a flag and what to do with one that has seen better days? If it can no longer be flown or repaired, it must be burnt or otherwise destroyed in a respectful manner. Dirty flags should be washed or if it happens to touch the ground (which is also a no-no).

  1. Meanings of the Colors

We all know that red, white and blue make up the flag, but do you know what they mean? The red symbolizes hardiness and valor; white is purity and innocence; and blue is vigilance, perseverance and justice.

  1. Times for Flag Flying

The federal flag laws and regulations says that a flag should be on display from sunrise to sunset, unless the weather doesn’t allow it. It can stay on display 24 hours, but must be lit at night.

  1. The Flag on the Moon

Neil Armstrong lodged the first U.S. flag on the moon in July of 1969 as part of the mission of Apollo 11. This was the first landing ever achieved with a man aboard. Five additional flags were placed there when the Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 missions landed on the moon.

  1. There Is a Right Way to View the Flag

The federal flag laws and regulations also say that the flag should be faced and your right hand should cover your heart when viewing the flag on display. This does not apply to anyone in uniform. If a flag is being raised or lowered at the ceremony, this manner of viewing should also be observed.

  1. Where Did ‘Old Glory’ Originate?

You’ve probably heard of the flag being called ‘Old Glory.’ In fact, this was the name for a specific flag that was owned by William Driver. His mother and other women of Salem gave it to him, and he gave it the name when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast in 1831. He also displayed Old Glory outside his home. Later, this term of endearment came to be used commonly as the name for any U.S. flag.

  1. Who’s Betsy Ross, Anyway?

History books tell us that Betsy Ross designed the first American flag, but there is hardly any evidence around that supports this claim. She did sew numerous flags, but only the record presented by her own grandson in 1870 to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania says that she created the first flag nearly 100 years prior. He also provided affidavits signed by his family as evidence.

  1. The First Flag

Congress approved the Stars and Stripes for the first American flag on June 14, 1777. The original design had 13 stripes and 13 stars, representing the 13 original colonies.

  1. Switching to More Stars than Stripes

For some time, a new star and stripe were added each time a new state was formed. The total number came to 15 stripes and stars by 1818, when Kentucky and Vermont joined the union. Lawmakers could see that the flag could potentially end up getting quite crowded, so decided to only add stars for each new state from that point on, leaving the number of stripes to the original 13.

It’s quite interesting when we learn that not everything we’ve been taught in the history books is correct, don’t you think? Many of the standby facts that everyone “knows” about the flag are only loosely based on fact or only partially correct in the first place – these little niblets will help arm you the next time someone tries to question your knowledge of Old Glory!

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