The American Flag


The national flag of the United States has thirteen red and white stripes and a blue rectangle with fifty stars in it in the top left corner. The stripes represent the 13 American colonies and the stars show the 50 American states.

Until 1912 there had been no common design for the American flag. It has changed many times during its over two hundred year history. Flag makers around the country arranged the stars in the way they wanted, sometimes in circles, sometimes in rows. Sometimes text was put into the middle of the blue rectangle

According to the history books the first American flag was made by Betsy Ross who knew George Washington well. One day Washington showed up in her shop in Philadelphia and showed her the design of the flag. The first unofficial flag, made in 1776 at the beginning of the War of Independence, showed 13 stripes and the Union Jack in the left corner.

The bombing of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem about the American flag. A few years later the lyrics were used for the Star Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem.

During the American Civil War the southern states, which broke away from the Union, designed their own flag. It had the same colors but the stars were arranged in a different pattern.


In 1912 the American president ordered that the American flag was to have the same design all over the country. For over 50 years the flag has not changed. In 1959 the last major change took place when Alaska and Hawaii become American states, replacing the 48-star flag with the 50-star flag.

The American flag is a common sight around the world, one which everybody recognizes. In the US it is often displayed in public buildings and schools. Often, it serves as a motif on badges, cars or stamps. The flag has become a powerful symbol of Americanism.

The Stars and Stripes has travelled to many places around the world. In 1909 Robert Peary placed a flag at the North Pole and in 1969 American astronaut Neill Armstrong put an American flag on the moon.


The Betsy Ross version of the American flag in 1777

The Betsy Ross version of the American flag in 1777


Related Topics


  • according to = as said by …
  • arrange = put in a certain position
  • badge = a small piece of plastic or metal which you carry on your shirt or coat; it shows people you have a certain opinion of something or work for an organization
  • colony = a country or area of land that is controlled by a bigger, larger and more powerful one
  • common = often seen ; the same
  • design = drawing
  • display = show
  • inspire = motivate
  • lyrics = words of a song
  • national anthem = official song of a country
  • place = put
  • poem = piece of writing in which words at the end of a line have the same sound
  • public = for everybody
  • recognize = know, be aware of
  • rectangle = a shape that has four straight sides; two of them are usually longer
  • replace = in exchange for
  • row = line
  • serve = to be used as
  • Stars and Stripes = the American flag
  • stripe = band of color
  • Union Jack = national flag of Great Britain
  • unofficial = private, not formal
  • War of Independence = war in which the United States became independent from Great Britain