The Thin Blue Line

thin-blue-line-flagYou’ve seen it cropping up the past few months on everything from flags and garden banners to hats and license plates – thin blue line merchandise has flooded the marketplace as people scramble to show our brave law enforcement officers their respect and pride for their service and sacrifices in the wake of the fatal shooting of five Dallas police officers this past July.

But what is the thin blue line? The emblem, which features a black horizontal top stripe, a single blue line running horizontally through the center and a bottom black horizontal stripe is representative of three things: the public (the black stripe on top), the criminal element (the bottom black stripe) and law enforcement (the blue stripe in the middle). The phrase is analogous to the term the Thin Red Line, which was a military action by the British Sutherland Highlanders 93rd (Highland) Regiment at the Battle of Balaklava on October 25, 1854 during the Crimean War. During this particular battle, a correspondent for the British newspaper, the Times, wrote that he could see nothing between the charging Russians and the British regiment’s base of operations at Balaklava but the “thin red streak tipped with a line of steel” of the 93rd. This was condensed into “the thin red line”, and the phrase became symbolic of British composure during battle.

Simply put, law enforcement is the barrier, or thin blue line, that protects law-abiding civilians from lawless criminals. AmericanFlags.com is honored to support the men and women of law enforcement by offering a wide variety of Thin Blue Line merchandise.

Nice Try, Early American Flag Designers

You can’t say they didn’t make any effort. There are plenty of designs that didn’t make the official cut, although even the official flag has been modified twenty-six different times. Mostly, of course, to denote new states added to the canton as stars, which always necessitates a redesign of the pattern, some more successful than others.

Rather than a step-by-step showcase of how the field has changed and how it’s likely to change again if new states are ratified, let’s take a look at some of the more exotic offerings our forefathers were planning on for the flag.

We’ll start with a classic: the original “Grand Union” flag, called the “Continental Colors” as well. It has the basic elements: thirteen alternating red and white stripes, and a canton in the upper left hand corner at the hoist, but the star field is not yet a feature. The Union Jack resides there instead, as this was a common feature for Great Britain’s colonies to sport.

Other similar variations on the theme include the “Betsy Ross” flag, although, honestly it’s not clear that she ever had anything to do with the flag––the story that she had sewn it wasn’t presented until nearly a century later.

Definitely great, though. The Cowpens flag is almost the same thing, except with twelve stars in the circle and one in the center; it was carried over the Battle of Cowpens by the 3rd Maryland Regiment and is depicted in the famous painting The Spirit of ’76 by Archibald MacNeal Willard.

The Great Star Flag has twenty stars, arranged in a star shape:

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Which is awesome, but didn’t last long, only flying over the Capitol Dome for six months or so, before more states came in so it had to change again. A later attempt to arrange the stars in a star used different-sized stars and looks, arguably, even cooler:

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Fitting twenty-six stars in an inverted star shape, it lasted eight years.

It should be pointed out that none of these designs were technically ever federally-mandated designs: Congress didn’t designate an actual pattern to the stars on the canton until the forty-eight star flag in 1912. In fact, the colors of the flag weren’t standardized until 1934, which is something you would think even Congress would have gotten around to sooner.

While those are interesting, today’s blog consumer demands more. What about some of the flags that never even made it to non-official status? Glad you asked, straw reader! Let’s look at some now!

Here’s the Brandywine flag, named for Captain Robert Wilson’s company in the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment, after it was carried in the Battle of Brandywine in 1777:

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Yes, it’s square with an entire other flag in the canton. Bold, indeed!

The Green Mountain Boys flag, now being used by the Vermont National Guard regimental unit:

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The stars are arranged in a “natural pattern,” not in a “sewn on while on horseback” pattern like you might have first thought.

George Rogers Clark, the “Conqueror of the Northwest,” had his own flag that was a contender:

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Pretty striking, but perhaps a bit of an eyestrain? It’s probably not even actually the colors he marched under. Some scholars say the red and green may represent the wampum presented by a Piankeshaw chief, symbolic of the local Wabash River.

How about the Guilford Courthouse flag?

Well, it’s probably not even really a flag, technically speaking; at least, never meant to be presented as an actual consideration for a national flag. It was common practice for soldiers and sailors to make a flag that was evocative of the nation’s flag but distinct enough to use as a regimental or company flag. The reversed colors, the shape, the elongated canton, the eight-pointed stars―all point to this being exactly what was going on here. Too bad, too; it’s definitely a memorable design.

The Easton flag, now being used to represent the city of Easton, Pennsylvania:

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A very classy, inverted design. This was used as the company flag for Captain Abraham Horn during the War of 1812, and some think it might date from that era rather than the frequently claimed 1776, hoisted at the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8th.

There was no shortage of fascinating designs provided by the vexillologists of our past. As the country’s needs evolve, perhaps the flags of our future will be just as intriguing.

I Claim This Land … The Flags of Global Colonization

The world as we know it today is astonishingly different from what it was over five hundred years ago. The Age of Colonization was a groundbreaking time of discovery, one where unexpected, dramatic (and occasionally traumatic) voyages changed cultures and ecology across the globe.

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Main sea trade routes discovered during the Age of Exploration.

Starting with the largest naval powers of Europe (Portugal, Spain, and England), explorers set out to discover valuable assets. Spices, furs, timber, rich fabrics, rare scents, and more unusual goods were sought all over the world. There was a race, so to speak, to seek out and claim the most valuable territories and their treasures. These colonies enriched and lent value to their conquering empires.

Throughout the Age of Exploration, the globe was marked with the flags of European occupation, some firmly held, others hotly disputed.

The Spread of Empires

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, the map of the world was a pattern of Imperial and Royal flags. Some of these can still be seen in the standards of now independent countries or states. Indeed, it did not matter if a place was already inhabited. As long as it was unclaimed by a European power, the land was fair game.

The energy, curiosity, and rampant greed of the time makes for fascinating storytelling. Anyone who got hooked on the Showtime television series “The Tudors” can attest to this fact.

Ambition and Early Invention: The Portuguese

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The modern Portuguese flag.

The Portuguese were great traders and merchants, and were always seeking intriguing and exotic merchandise. Some of the most valuable commodities were caravanned across the Sahara Desert at great expense––salt and gold, as well as ivory, rich cloth, and slaves.

Desert travel was dangerous, expensive, and time consuming, so the Portuguese began exploring alternate routes––less harrowing ones––in order to make better profits. With the Sahara covering 3.629 million square miles, the option to go around it by land was impractical, but a sea route was highly desirable.

Exploring Africa under the sponsorship of Prince Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese established lucrative trading ports along the Atlantic coast. Small pockets of Portuguese influence began appearing on the Arabian Peninsula, India, and, later, Brazil. They also invented an elegant new cargo ship, one that was nimble, swift, and elegant: the caravel.

It was through these travels that they discovered the Azores and Madeira, destinations that are still exotic and beautiful to this day.

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The Azores: A Portuguese colony.

Spain: Gold, Silver, and Conquest

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The modern Spanish flag.

Christopher Columbus’ famous journey marked the emergence of Spain as a major sea power. It is arguably one of the single most important journeys ever made, because it marks the discovery of the New World. Others had reached there beforehand, but none had planted a flag and claimed the land in the name of their sovereign. Spain was the first, starting with that initial landing in the Bahamas. From there, it claimed the lion’s share of South America (excluding Brazil, of course).

Spain kept a tight grip on its overseas colonies for their vast riches of gold and silver. It is for this reason that the Age of Exploration and the Age of Piracy have considerable overlap, especially in the Caribbean. While they each jealously guarded their colonies, there were considerable clashes between the Spanish, French, and English, and much dispute over ownership, taxation, and jurisdiction in these areas.

In red, Spanish colonies claimed during the Age of Discovery.

The Tudors and the Elizabethan Age

After repelling the Spanish Armada and its failed attempt at invasion in 1588, England emerged as the greatest sea power of its time. Great riches poured into the coffers of King Henry VII, allowing him to set up great economic and political stability. The New World––North America, this time––furnished the empire with timber, fish, and rare furs. India was a wellspring of lush fabrics and rare spices.

Though this collection is from a later time, the evidence of British colonization is reflected in numerous flags around the world. The echoes of colonial history still linger to this day.

The rule and excess of the court of King Henry VIII is partially due to the ready availability of so much wealth. And, while his reign makes for interesting reading for both his scandalous love life and religious reforms, he also set the stage for his successor, one of the most powerful women ever to rule England.

Elizabeth I never married, yet was not deterred by her single status. She singlehandedly guided her country into a new age of enlightenment, fueled by colonial riches and bolstered by the growth of intellectualism. It is peculiar to think that the availability of pepper and beaver pelts allowed for the emergence of Shakespeare, but, without these foreign riches, it is unlikely that he would have achieved the immortality he has in the literary world.

Antiquity vs. the Modern World

Today you can see how the marks of older inhabitation have molded former colonies into modern independent nations. Some still carry badges of their former colony flags in their own heraldry. Others display distinct attitudes and political systems that hearken back to their original colonial status.

Either way, the flags of colonization have transformed their locations and have been reinvented in fascinating new ways. Though new ways thrive in these places, the flags planted in their soil have left indelible marks in history and in the modern cultures that thrive there today.

The First Official National Flag: A Historical Debate

It seems like a simple quest, searching for the oldest national flag in existence. In reality, the actual historical trail gets much murkier. Legends, national heroes, personal standards, and religious visions all figure into a much more complex picture.

Just to make everything more interesting, the ancient tradition of heraldry, both personal and family, complicates the issue. From the foggiest scraps of historical records emerge the usage of flags and symbols to identify people and tribes. Official adoption of those symbols by larger groups comes much later, and it is harder to trace the actual beginning of a flag as national identity.

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Contender #1: The Dannebrog

One version of history is easy enough to accept. The Dannebrog, the national flag of Denmark, has been in continuous usage since a battle in 1219 AD.

The legend is a little richer in romantic details. On June 15th, King Waldemar II defeated a force of Estonians with a banner that descended from heaven above (or so the story goes). It is interesting to see this legend falls into the formulaic vision of “under this flag you shall be victorious,” which was a common religious metaphor of the age. With a strange twist, though: “cross from the sky” type miracles were much more common in the Iberian peninsula, where clashes between Christians and Moors were not unusual.

This was the Dannebrog, the flag of the Danes, or simply “the red flag.” Simple and elegant in appearance, it features a brilliant white cross against a red background. Through the course of history, this particular design was also used by the Portuguese Order of Christ and by the Knights Hospitaller from the Baltic states (both crusading orders).

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Contender #2: The Saltire of Scotland

The white-on-blue X-shaped cross of Scotland is intensely familiar to most people, if only as part of the combined heraldry that makes up the modern Union Jack. It can also be seen in the provincial flag of Nova Scotia (a.k.a. New Scotland) in Canada.

Much like the Scots themselves, the history of the Saltire itself is contentious and contrary. What is documentable and historically accurate is that the Saltire has been in continuous usage since 832 AD, in one way or another. And, much like the Dannebrog, the Saltire has its roots in an ecstatic vision.

The night before a huge battle in 832 AD , the Pictish King Angus II was preparing for a clash with the English King Aethelstan. In the midst of planning and strategy, Angus was struck by a vision of St. Andrew (soon to become the patron saint of Scotland). The martyred saint promised victory for the outnumbered Picts, and the dream bolstered King Angus II’s faith and hope in the coming battle.

The next day, Angus’ troops were struck by the vision on a massive white Saltire blazoned against a brilliant blue sky. Heartened by the omen, the Picts vanquished their enemies, and the Cross of St. Andrew began its association with Scotland.

Which One Is Older?

The difference here is subtle. The Saltire simply is older. But, with its inclusion in the Union Jack in 1603, with the union of England and Scotland, Scotland is no longer its own independent territory. Inclusion has done nothing to nullify the rich, bloody, and fascinating history of Scotland, but its inclusion means that it is not an independent state. The Danish flag has been used continuously to represent a single, discrete national entity for over 700 years.

Either way, both flags have impressive and heroic pedigrees. But there are other contenders with equally impressive historical lines.

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An Interesting Contender …

The flag of Austria.

Though its roots are in a dynastic family and not an ecstatic vision, the flag of Austria is both very old and very rich with its own legend. Medieval times were brutal to say the least, and the origin of this banner is nothing short of gory.

The tale begins in 1189 AD during the Siege of Acre (in modern Israel today). Duke Leopold V of Austria was entrenched in a particularly vicious and bloody series of conflicts. When he finally could lay down his sword, his pristine white surcoat was completely drenched in the blood of his foes. On removing his sword belt, a single wide white swathe was revealed: a design so striking that Leopold adopted it as his personal heraldry.

Though used continuously in one form or another (mostly as a family crest), it was finally adopted as the national flag of Austria in 1230 AD. So, while being extremely old in its inception, its official usage came much later than both the flags of Denmark and Scotland.

Old Flags, Older Traditions

Simple designs last the longest and remain the clearest in people’s memories. It makes sense for a couple reasons. Clear color blocking schemes like straight lines and crosses are rudimentary enough for even illiterate peasants to recognize and replicate.

It is for this reason that the legends––the spoken tales––of these flags stretch further back through time than the written records we use to authenticate true historical records. Regardless of their origin story, each flag has an intriguing past with both practical and mystical aspects flavoring the tale.

Remembering September 11, 2001

9-11The world as we knew it was forever shattered on the morning of September 11, 2001, when three commercial airliners hijacked by Al-Qaeda members struck the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC in coordinated terror attacks. Another hijacked airliner crashed in a Pennsylvania field after the flight’s crew and passengers attacked the terrorists in an attempt to take back the plane. All on board each plane were killed that day, along with thousands of innocent civilians and emergency responders on the ground and in the buildings.

Fifteen years later, our hearts and prayers continue to go out to those who perished and those who were affected on that fateful day. Below is a list of broadcasts commemorating the 15th Anniversary of September 11, 2001. All times are Eastern. We will never forget.

9/11 Memorial Livestream — The livestream will begin at 8:40 a.m. on Sept. 11 at 911memorial.org. Stay connected and join others in sharing how you are commemorating the 15th anniversary by using #Honor911 on social media.

FOX News Channel 9/11 15th Anniversary coverage — Full-day coverage beginning at 6 am.

Washington Journal: Remembering 9/11 — Sept. 11 at 7am on CSPAN.

Sunday TODAY on NBC— Sept. 11 at 8am

White House Moment of Silence for 9/11 — Sept. 11 at 8:30am on CSPAN.

9/11 Ceremony in New York City — Live — Sept. 11 at 8:35am on CSPAN.

9/11 Ceremony at the Pentagon — Live — Sept. 11 at 9:30am on CSPAN.

9/11 Ceremony in Shanksville, PA — Live — Sept. 11 at 10am on CSPAN.

9/11 Ceremony in New York City — Live — Sept. 11 at 10:30am on CSPAN.

2016 National Anthem Sing Along – Friday, September 9, 2016

Patriots, mark your calendars – and warm up those vocal cords! Join the American Public Education Foundation from your home, school, or business for the 2016 National Anthem Sing Along on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10 a.m. PST and 1 p.m. EST.

This is the largest National Anthem sing-a-long in the country and the third annual simultaneous sing-a-long event created by the APEF-9/12 Generation Project, whose focus is to bring students together in the same way the world came together on September 12, 2001. Students from across our great nation will learn about the words and meaning of the flag and sing the first stanza of The Star-Spangled Banner.

The organization is hoping to beat its record of over 277,000 singers so make sure to sign up now with all of your family, friends, classmates, and colleagues to participate in this historic event! Registration is free at http://www.theapef.org/national-anthem-sing-a-long

And just in case you want to brush up on the lyrics before the sing-a-long, here’s the first stanza, so you can practice!

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, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Why Being Patriotic Means So Much

Orson Welles once said, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”

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Such a truth exists in that statement, as it is only by choosing to connect with the people around us that we are able to experience a fulfilling existence. In America, that is done by expressing a deep affection for our country, by being patriotic.

There are certain times, particularly when tragedy strikes, that we see people come together in support of America. It is during these times that their patriotism shines through. The question is, why are people proud of where they come from and, as it pertains to America, why does being patriotic matter to people in the first place?

Let’s go deeper into what makes patriotism such a necessity for so many people.

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A Sense of Belonging

On the surface, needing to belong may sound ugly, but the truth is, it’s human nature to long for social interaction, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. The reason that we need this is because it’s the only way to achieve personal growth, to advance past where we are. Having a sense of belonging involves more than just being acquainted with other people. It is being accepted and supported by other members of a group.

How Being Patriotic Is Instilled at an Early Age

When those who grew up in the United States think about their younger days, one of the memories that inevitably comes to mind is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. This was often done before many of us knew what it meant or why we were saying it in the first place. As we grew up and learned more, we gradually became aware of what it meant to salute our flag and be an American citizen.

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Growing in Our Patriotism

Everything we learned, from how our country came to exist, how our freedom was fought for and won, and the significance of the Founding Fathers, to how current events play into that history, made us more enlightened about patriotism. Eventually, we knew that we were saluting a flag with 13 stripes representing our original 13 colonies and 50 stripes representing each state in our union. The red, white, and blue became more than just colors – they were symbols of what we should strive to be.

Why We Need to Be Patriotic

“United we stand, divided we fall.” This phrase and variations of it have been attributed to many sources, from the ancient Greek fable-weaver Aesop, to Founding Father John Dickinson, to the New Testament of the Bible (Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17). While it may be difficult to pin down the original source of this quote, its meaning is abundantly clear – not only our failure, but our very survival, depends on working together. Failing to do so will inevitably lead to us paying the ultimate price.

So, being patriotic is more than just something we should do on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Veteran’s Day. In fact, few of us take those days as seriously as we should, but patriotism is something we all need year-round. Together we will accomplish more, and America will be more successful. Patriotism gives us a sense of belonging, a place where can all fit, regardless of our individual backgrounds.

Patriotism All the Time

Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of being patriotic, never wavering from their belief in what they envisioned for our country. We tend to cling to our patriotism in times of great need – after 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings, and other acts of violence. It is during these times that being patriotic crosses all political, racial, and cultural lines, bringing us together as one people. However, if we are to fulfill our potential as a free nation, patriotism should be a part of our everyday lives.

Conclusion

Too often we are divided based on small differences among ourselves rather than coming together based on what we have in common. The American flag is the ultimate symbol of patriotism and is a great representation of what are. The 13 stripes represent all 13 original colonies. Each individual colony was different from the next, but, ultimately, they all became unified to become part of something greater than what they were by themselves.

Where to Find Some of the Most Famous American Flags

Where to Find Some of the Most Famous American Flags

With its 13 stripes and 50 stars, the red, white, and blue banner that serves as the flag of the United States is one of the world’s most recognizable symbols. It even has a slew of nicknames, including “Stars and Stripes,” “Old Glory,” and even simply “The Red, White, and Blue.” There have been many versions of the American flag over the years, but certain variations have a particular historical significance for United States citizens the world over.

The stories of the most famous flags are preserved in museums throughout the United States, but where exactly are the flags? In some cases, they are kept alongside the stories that go with them, but in others they may not be where one might expect.

The Betsy Ross Flag

It is widely accepted that, in 1776, Betsy Ross sewed the first United States flag at the behest of none other than George Washington. The flag she designed featured 13 white stars arranged circularly over a square blue background and alternating red and white stripes. The following year, Ross’s flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. This day, June 14, 1777, was established Flag Day (origins of this day are heavily debatable, but that’s for another time).

Where to Find This Flag

Unfortunately, our nation’s first flag isn’t around anymore, but that doesn’t mean Betsy Ross’s involvement in designing it hasn’t been properly acknowledged. In fact, the headquarters for Flag Day are in the Betsy Ross House, located in Philadelphia, where she is believed to have sewn America’s inaugural flag. If you go there, you’ll be treated to a tour, complete with actors and backdrops of that time period.

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The Star Spangled Banner

Every American knows that “The Star Spangled Banner” is the United States’ national anthem, and most know that it was written by a man named Francis Scott Key. While this is all common knowledge, it’s often overlooked that there was a specific flag that was the source of Key’s inspiration on a war-torn day during the War of 1812. The Star Spangled Banner flag was such a symbol of unity and encouragement throughout the War of 1812 that it became arguably the most beloved flag in American history.

Where to Find This Flag

One would assume that the banner and the anthem it inspired would be in the same place, but that’s not the case. If you want to see the anthem, you’ll have to go travel to Baltimore (where Key penned the anthem) to what is known as The Star Spangled Banner Flag House. Along with the national anthem, this site also features exhibits centered around the War of 1812 and other historical items related to life in Baltimore during that time period.

So, where is the original Star Spangled Banner flag located? Just a short drive from Baltimore, in Washington D.C.

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The Flag from 9/11

The 9/11 flag is the unofficial flag of our modern times. Famous for being flown over Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001 attacks, this flag has served as a reminder of not only the tragedy itself, but of our nation’s identity and its ability to come together and persevere through adversity.

Where to Find This Flag

The 9/11 flag has been used as a traveling exhibit many times, but it can typically be seen as part of New York City’s September 11th Memorial. In 2012, Flag Day became a very healing occasion, as the 9/11 flag was transported to the Flag House Museum in Baltimore to have some of the Star Spangled Banner’s threads sewn into its fabric.

Visit America’s Famous Flags

When planning a tour of America’s most historically significant sites, most of us think of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, or even the Paul Revere House in Boston. Thoughts of seeing the nation’s flags are often overlooked, likely because most people don’t know where they are or that they are even available to be seen.

So, when you make your way on a tour of United States historical sites, take the time to visit some of the flags that symbolized what America was, what it is, and what it wants to be in the future.

How Many Flags Over Texas?

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It’s a good question. Texas has been governed by six different nations over the course of its history, it has its own state flag, and there is the matter of Texas’s constitution allowing it to split four new states away from itself, which would all require new flags for themselves. We’ll get into that part of the problem later.

First, let’s discuss the flags that have already flown over the state. Texas was originally settled by Europeans around 1685. The French established a colony called Fort Saint Louis, which they had originally meant to place on the Mississippi River. The colony only lasted a few years before collapsing, but its presence meant that the Spanish felt they had to reestablish their claim, having made landfall and a map a century and a half earlier, then largely ignoring it.

The Spanish thus constructed missions in East Texas, which were routed by native resistance. They tried again after the French started settling southern Louisiana, establishing San Antonio in 1718 as the first civilian Spanish settlement in Texas.

This gives us two of the famous “Six Flags Over Texas”: Spain (twice: 1519 – 1685, and then again from 1690 – 1821), and France (from 1685 – 1690). Which flags were they, though? Spain used several different flags during its exploration of the New World. One of the most commonly seen on “Six Flags” displays, since it was chosen by the Texas Centennial Exposition committee, is the Castile and Leon royal banner, consisting of two lions and two castles:

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Nice, right? Unfortunately, Spain wasn’t using this flag during the period they were in Texas – it’s the banner used by Cortez during the conquering of Mexico. They mostly were using this one at the time:

Which is fine, representing the House of Burgundy, except that nobody seems to recognize it as a Spanish flag anymore. The Texas Historical Commission proposed in 1996 that the Spanish flag from 1785 be used. It is supplanting the royal banner in displays as per the Historical Commission’s recommendation.

The French flag is even less clear. There was no official national flag of France, at the time, and the flag carried by the leader of the colony is unclear. A few proposals were made, including one with three white or gold fleur-de-lis on a blue banner.

Two down. Next is Mexico, which controlled the area from 1821 – 1836. Its flag was adopted in 1823 and is more or less the same today, barring some artistic variance:

Nowadays you are more likely to see a stylized eagle in place of the realistic one depicted here. Very little controversy or confusion with this flag.

Next, of course, the state of Texas itself. It has had two different official flags. The first is extremely straightforward – a yellow star on a blue banner. It only lasted from 1836 – 1839. It was then replaced with the current flagEveryone knows this one.

The Confederate flag, flown over Texas between 1861 – 1865, brings us back to vagueness and confusion again. Their flag went through several changes during their existence, from the Stars and Bars, which was never actually officially adopted by the Confederacy, but nonetheless was used for two years; to the Stainless Banner.

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The one most commonly seen in displays is the Stars and Bars; as mentioned, this was never legislatively adopted as an official flag, largely because it resembles the Stars and Stripes of the United States too strongly. This made it unsuitable as a war banner, to say the least.

The Stars and Stripes, of course, is the flag of the previous (1845 – 1861) and next (1865 – present) nation to claim Texas: the United States of America.

The design is well-known, as is its symbolism. The thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies, with the field of white stars on the blue canton representing the total number of current states.

After the Civil War, the United States controlled Texas.

This brings us to the point of how Texas actually entered the Union. On December 29, 1845, statehood was granted to Texas, with the proviso that it be a slave state. The Missouri Compromise, however, forbade slavery north of the 36-degree 30-minute northern latitude line, as well as west of Missouri. The new territory extended further in both directions. In order to overcome objections to the violation, Congress passed a joint resolution that allowed Texas to split itself into as many as five states.

Technically, it allows Texas to split off up to four new states, and the remainder would retain the name and statehood of Texas, but that’s just wording. The idea with this compromise was that any new states would follow the Missouri Compromise rules according to location; new states above the restriction would automatically be free states, while any remaining in the area where slavery was still allowed would hold a popular vote to determine their slavery status.

In 1850, with the admission of California to the United States as a free state, Southerners wanted to split off an additional slave state from Texas to balance it. Instead, Texas was given ten million dollars in exchange for ceding its territory north of the line and west of Missouri, which eventually became parts of Colorado and New Mexico. A few years later, the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and, thus, the question was settled for all time.

Except that the Civil War happened, and, with its end, slavery was no longer allowed in any state, which meant that Texas’s ability to split into new states was unneeded. However, and this is the important part, it was never repealed. Technically, Texas can split off new states if it wants to do so.

Ordinarily such a move would require an act of Congress, which is fine; Congress has been doing that sort of thing for a long time. If it wanted to split a state after its ratification, it only needs permission from the state’s legislation. That’s how the nation was built in the first place, after all.

Land purchases were made, and then, after some time to let new settlers sort of eke out an idea of where to live and what to concern themselves with, Congress would divide them up into various states and those states would start concerning themselves with legislature and government. But it seems that Texas can do this without any permission from the federal government; indeed, without any input whatsoever.

Related to this ability is the common belief that Texas can secede from the United States at any time; this statement is more plainly false. (See above note on the Civil War and how that is not allowed.) This seems to stem from Texas’s long history of independence and the fact that it entered the Union as a sovereign republic nation. However, it was not the first republic to join the Union, nor the last. In fact, the last republic to do so was a kingdom prior to that, and Hawaii has no legal right to secede, either.

Back to the problem of the division, though. There is the issue of how to divide Texas: probably along county lines. Nate Silver came up with a method of dividing the state up into politically sound parts in 2009. He considered things like population density and demographics, to wind up with:

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New Texas is where Austin, the current capital of Texas, is located. It would be the technical remainder of the previous state of Texas and thus retains the name. Trinity has Dallas and Fort Worth; Gulfland has Houston and Corpus Christi, and would rely largely on offshore oil drilling for its economy; Plainland and El Norte would each have only about two and a half million people. This would change the political balance of power of the United States, although perhaps not as much as some might think, especially given the divisions outlined above.

So, all we need to know now is what each of our new states wants to have for its flag, right?

Not quite. There are several other proposals for division that have been raised and denied in the past; any of these previous attempts would have an equal claim for their own flags as well. For example, the best-known effort was in the late 1860s, for a vertical division into East and West Texas, which was presented to Congress but not ratified. An attempt to break off the panhandle into the state of Jefferson was floated in 1915 but also went nowhere. It’s been tried several times, most recently in the 1990s.

So, sure, on paper it looks like Texas has a unique ability to stymie Congress and suddenly add up to four stars to the flag. Can it, in fact, do that?

Now we run into the legal ramifications of precedent and what that means for Texas. In order to see what the meaning of “state” is, we turn to the Supreme Court’s decision in Escanaba Company v. the City of Chicago [107 U.S. 678 (1883). In this case, Chicago was legislating when certain drawbridges could raise and lower, and the Escanaba Company determined that the schedule was inconvenient to them and their profits. So they sued. In the briefing, Justice Stephen Field acknowledged that states have certain rights, and that they are superseded by federal jurisdiction where necessary, in this case covering free trade between states, which Escanaba claimed was being overruled by Chicago. It eventually comes to this phrasing in the opinion of the court:

Whatever the limitation upon [Illinois’s] powers as a government whilst in a territorial condition, whether from the [Northwest] Ordinance of 1787 or the legislation of Congress, it ceased to have any operative force, except as voluntarily adopted by her, after she became a State of the Union. On her admission she at once became entitled to and possessed of all the rights of dominion and sovereignty which belonged to the original States. She was admitted, and could be admitted, only, on the same footing with them. The language of the resolution admitting her is “on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever”… Equality of constitutional right and power is the condition of all States of the Union, old and new. (Escanaba Company v. the City of Chicago [107 U.S. 678 (1883)])

Meaning what, exactly? The last line is the important one: equality … is the condition of all States of the Union, old and new. This reveals that regardless of what a state’s constitution contains, the very fact that it is a state constrains it to abide by the rules and regulations that all the other states abide by.

If a thing is constitutionally allowed to one state, it is allowed to all others; conversely, if a thing is not allowed to all other states, it is not allowed to only one state. Therefore, since no state can divide itself without express approval from Congress, Texas cannot either.

So, the legal result is clear: Texas does not get to just produce four additional states at whim, much though some people might like it. This means, unfortunately, that there will be in this case no additional state flags produced, although designing them might be an interesting project for a rainy afternoon. If the reader does so, please remember that flags with animals on them are popular for American states and that none of them so far have any armadillos. Now is your chance to rectify this oversight!

Maybe another one that is nothing except tiny gold stars strewn on a blue field, to reflect the previous French flag above? Certainly, though, the flag that is the most needed is a jackalope rampant, probably on a red and blue field. This would cement the ambitious reader with fame in the vexillology community for all time.

Top 8 Moments in the History of the American Flag

There have been many unforgettable moments in our nation’s history, but there are a handful of moments specifically related to the American flag that really stand out. Some of these moments are simply fascinating historical happenings, while others represent significant events that helped shape the United States of America as a nation.

With that in mind, let’s discuss a healthy dose of each type of moment and explore a little bit more about one of our nation’s greatest symbols.

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Moment #1: The First Flag Is Sewn

If you hear the name Betsy Ross, you may not immediately remember that she was the woman who sewed the very first Stars and Stripes American Flag. Historical accounts say that Ms. Ross, who was a sought-after seamstress from Philadelphia, was hired by George Washington himself to sew the initial American flag featuring the stars and stripes. Because of this, it’s fair to say that Betsy Ross’s name is truly sewn into the fabric of American history.

Moment #2: 13 Stripes Are Here to Stay

Originally, tradition dictated that a new stripe would be added every time a new state was admitted into the union. When five more states were added in 1818, this tradition came to a screeching halt. Congress passed legislation stating that 13 would be the fixed number of stripes on the flag, and, rather than continuing the stripe-adding tradition of recent years, a star would be added to represent each state.

Moment #3: What’s in a Name?

It may seem a strange custom to name a flag, but there is actually a rich history of doing just that. In 1831, Captain William Driver referred to the Stars and Stripes banner as “Old Glory.” It may be that Captain Driver felt a deep kinship to the flag because of its presence on so many of his ocean voyages over the years. Whatever the reason, the name stuck, and the American flag is known as “Old Glory” to this day.

Moment #4: The Famous Photograph

The Battle of San Juan Hill was a brutal battle that took place during the Spanish-American War in 1898. On the day of this battle, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt led his men to victory over Spanish forces, after which he and his “Rough Riders” raised an American flag and posed atop San Juan Hill for one of the most famous photos in our nation’s history.

Moment #5: Raising the Flag Over Iwo-Jima

If there is one photograph that comes to mind when you think of the American flag, it’s probably this one. Taken in 1945, “Raising the Flag Over Iwo-Jima” was so well-received that it actually won the Pulitzer Prize for photography.

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Moment #6: The Half-Staff Proclamation

On certain days of the year, you look around and see flags flying at half-staff. Few people realize that the half-staff flying of the flag at specific dates and times, including Memorial Day, Peace Officers Day, for 10 days following the death of a Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Supreme Court Chief Justice (active or retired), and for the 30 days following the death of the President or any former President is a necessary protocol.

Moment #7: One Small Step for Man …

When Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, he made a famous statement about how this accomplishment was “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Almost everyone remembers these words. What they also remember is the moment (or at least a picture of the moment) when Armstrong and fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin staked the American flag to the moon.

Moment #8: After the Collapse of the World Trade Center

When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, Americans were devastated. Out of this darkness came a photograph of firefighters lifting the flag high above the ruins left behind. This picture painted an image of bravery and courage that served as a symbol of comfort and unity in the days, weeks, and months after the attack.

In Conclusion

There are so many moments in American history associated with the American flag, it’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few, let alone put them in any order. We remember these moments in time not only because of the significance of the events themselves, but because of what our flag represents to us as a nation and as individuals.