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.

The Thirteen Colonies and Their Flags

It may come as a surprise to many that the colonies didn’t become states until four years or more after the war ended. While our Independence was declared on July 2nd and the Declaration of Independence was accepted on July 4th of 1776, the war raged on until 1783. The colonies overthrew the governors and British Lords who ruled them, in 1776, and began their own governments.

Not an easy task to do while fighting for your sovereignty! Understandably, it took a few years to have state constitutions and formally accept the Constitution of the United States as their governing principles. Going hand in hand with constitutions, each state had a date on which they were accepted into the union and their own unique flags with which they identified themselves.

Let’s take a look at each one and how they came to represent the 13 states we know today.

Delaware was named for the tribe and also an early governor of colonial Virginia, Lord de la Warr. Officially adopted on July 24, 1913, the Delaware state flag has a background of colonial blue surrounding a diamond of buff color in which the coat of arms of the state is placed.

Below the diamond are the words “December 7, 1787,” indicating the day on which Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States constitution. Because of this action, Delaware became the first state in the Union, and is, therefore, accorded the first position in such national events as presidential inaugurations.

According to members of the original commission established to design the flag, the shades of buff and colonial blue represent those of the uniform of General George Washington. Inside the diamond, the flag recognizes the importance of commerce to the state, with the ship and agriculture depicted by wheat, corn, the ox, and the farmer. Tribute is also paid to the revolutionary war soldiers. The words in the ribbon banner read Liberty and Independence.

The next state to enter the union was Pennsylvania, which occurred on December 12, 1787. Named for one of the founders of the colony, William Penn, and the Latin word “Sylvania” meaning “forest,” Pennsylvania’s state flag is composed of a blue field on which is embroidered the State Coat of Arms. The first State Flag bearing the State Coat of Arms was authorized by the General Assembly in 1799. An act of the General Assembly on June 13, 1907 standardized the flag and required that the blue field match the blue of Old Glory.

Named for the Isle of Jersey in England, New Jersey was the third state to join the United States on December 18, 1787. The state flag of New Jersey is buff colored. The state coat of arms is emblazoned in the center, the shield with three plows and a horse’s head above it. The two women represent the goddesses of Liberty and Agriculture. A ribbon at the bottom includes the year of independence in 1776 and reads: “Liberty and Prosperity.” The New Jersey state flag was formally adopted in 1896.

Georgia was the fourth state to become a part of the union on January 2, 1788. Named for King George II of England, their flag may look familiar, as it is similar to the flag of the Confederate States of America. The Georgia flag has three red and white stripes and the state coat of arms on a blue field in the upper left corner.

Thirteen stars surrounding the seal denote Georgia’s position as one of the original thirteen colonies. On the seal three pillars supporting an arch represent the three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive. A man with sword drawn is defending the Constitution, whose principles are wisdom, justice, and moderation. The date 1776 represents the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The flag was officially adopted on May 8th, 2003.

Connecticut was named for the Algonquin word quinnehtukqutmeaning “by the long tidal river” and was founded by Thomas Hooker among others. They became part of the United States on February 6, 1788. On a field of azure blue is an ornamental white shield with three grapevines, each bearing three bunches of purple grapes.

The state’s motto “He who Transplanted Sustains Us” is displayed on a white ribbon. The vines stand for the first settlements of English people who began to move from Massachusetts to Connecticut in the 1630s. These settlements were thought of as grape vines that had been transplanted. The flag was adopted in 1897.

Though founded in 1630 by John Winthrop and other Pilgrims, Massachusetts didn’t become a state until February 6, 1788, as the sixth state to join the union. On a white field is a blue shield emblazoned with the image of a Native American, Massachuset. He holds a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. The arrow is pointing downward, representing peace. The white star represents Massachusetts as one of the original thirteen states. Around the shield is a blue ribbon with the motto: “By the Sword We Seek Peace, but Peace Only Under Liberty.” Above the shield is an arm and sword, representing the first part of the motto. Though the flag was adopted in 1915, it was amended in 1971.

Named for Queen Henrietta Maria, Maryland joined the union on April 28, 1788. The Maryland flag contains the family crest of the Calvert and Crossland families. Maryland was founded as an English colony in 1634 by Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. The black and Gold designs belong to the Calvert family. The red and white design belongs to the Crossland family. The flag was finally made official in 1904.

Settled by the English colonist, South Carolina was named for King Charles I, whose name in Latin is “Carolus.” Joining the United States on May 23, 1788 made South Carolina the 8th state in the union. Asked by the Revolutionary Council of Safety in the fall of 1775 to design a flag for the use of South Carolina troops, Col. William Moultrie chose a blue which matched the color of their uniforms and a crescent which reproduced the silver emblem worn on the front of their caps. The palmetto tree was added later to represent Moultrie’s heroic defense of the palmetto-log fort on Sullivan’s Island against the attack of the British fleet on June 28, 1776.

John Wheelwright founded New Hampshire in 1638, and the state became the 9th to join the union on June 21, 1788. New Hampshire’s state seal depicts the frigate USS Raleigh, and is surrounded by a laurel wreath with nine stars. The Raleigh is one of the first 13 warships sponsored by the Continental Congress for a new American navy, built in 1776 at Portsmouth. The seal is surrounded by a laurel wreath. The wreath is an ancient symbol of fame, honor, and victory. The nine stars within the wreath show that New Hampshire was the ninth state to join the Union. The water stands for the harbor of Portsmouth, and in the yellow-colored spit of land is granite, a strong igneous rock, representing both New Hampshire’s rugged landscape and the sturdy character of her people.

The first colony founded by John Smith in 1607 was Virginia, which became the 11th state to join the union on June 25, 1788. The state was named for the Virgin Queen of England, Elizabeth I. A deep blue field contains the seal of Virginia with the Latin motto “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” which means “Thus Always to Tyrants.” The flag was immediately adopted in 1776.

The two figures are acting out the meaning of the motto. Both are dressed as warriors. The woman, Virtue, represents Virginia. The man holding a scourge and chain shows that he is a tyrant. His fallen crown is nearby, clearly a nod to the British monarchy.

New York, named after the Duke of York, officially became a state on July 26, 1788. The state coat of arms is emblazoned on a dark blue field. The seal portrays the goddess Liberty holding a pole with a Liberty Cap on top, representing freedom. At her feet is a discarded crown, a symbol of the monarchy from England which no longer ruled the colonies at the end of the Revolutionary War.

On the right is the goddess, Justice. She wears a blindfold and carries the scales of justice, meaning that everyone receives equal treatment under the law. The state motto “Excelsior” on a white ribbon expresses the idea of reaching upward to higher goals. On the shield a sun rises over the Hudson highlands as ships sail the Hudson River. Above the shield is an eagle resting on a globe representing the Western Hemisphere.

North Carolina was settled by Virginia colonists looking to expand their settlements in 1653. Like its southern counterpart, it was named for King Charles I and became a state on November 21, 1789. The law states “That the flag of North Carolina shall consist of a blue union, containing in the center thereof a white star with the letter N in gilt on the left and the letter C in gilt on the right of said star, the circle containing the same to be one-third the width of the union.

The fly of the flag shall consist of two equally proportioned bars; the upper bar to be red, the lower bar to be white; that the length of the bars horizontally shall be equal to the perpendicular length of the union, and the total length of the flag shall be one-third more than its width. That above the star in the center of the union there shall be a gilt scroll in semi-circular form, containing in black letters this inscription ‘May 20th, 1775,’ and that below the star there shall be a similar scroll containing in black letters the inscription: ‘April 12th, 1776.’” These dates represent the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the Halifax Resolves, respectively, making North Carolina one of the forerunners of American independence.

Rhode Island was settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, who had been banned from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views. It was the first state to renounce the British crown, and the last to join the union on May 20, 1790, holding out until they were assured the Bill of Rights would be a part of the constitution.

Placed on a white field is a circle of thirteen gold stars representing the first thirteen states. The stars surround a gold ship’s anchor. The state’s motto “Hope” is on a blue ribbon below the anchor. It is possibly named in honor of the Greek Island of Rhodes, or was named Roode Eylandt by Adriaen Block, Dutch explorer, because of its red clay.

The History of the Washington State Flag

Which state flag features a deep green background and is the only one to have a picture of a person (think Founding Fathers)? If the title of this article didn’t already give it away, you were still probably able to guess that the answer is Washington. One of the most distinctive flags in the United States, the Washington State flag is easy to remember once you’ve seen it.

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Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889, but it wasn’t until March 5, 1923 that their state flag became official. The Washington State flag itself is arguably the most distinct flag in the entire United States of America. Everything from the iconic emblem in the middle of the flag to the flag’s color scheme make it stand out from the others without standing apart from them.

Here is a brief history on how the Washington State flag came to be and what makes it unique from the other 49.

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Seal

You would be hard-pressed to argue that the most prominent part of the Washington state flag is anything but the portrait of George Washington. To emphasize its importance, Washington’s portrait is enclosed by a golden border that brandishes the year 1889. The picture of George Washington was, naturally, intended to pay homage to the first President of the United States, the man after whom the state was named.

Not only was featuring Washington’s picture on the flag a way of conveying its connection to the union as a whole, it also made the flag stand out as the only one in the United States to feature a president (or any person, for that matter).

Color

The color of a flag provides a backdrop for everything else. It’s essentially the canvas on which the picture is painted. The green field featured on the Washington state flag is intended to represent the state, which is known as the Evergreen State.

If you’ve ever driven through Washington, you know what an accurate nickname this is, as more often than not you find yourself surrounded by towering evergreens as you speed down the interstate. For most states, it would seem odd to base their flag’s color on a feature of its natural environment, but Washington’s forests give the state such a unique distinction that, in this case, it makes perfect sense.

Washington State Flag Design and History

Even though Washington entered the union in 1889, more than three decades passed before it had its own flag. In fact, it wasn’t until 25 years later, in 1914, when the Daughters of the American Revolution wanted Washington to provide a state flag which could be displayed in Washington, D.C., that it was noted the state still had not come up with a design for the flag.

Soon after, the Daughters of the American Revolution formed a committee that would come up with ideas and design the flag so that the capitol would have a flag to display to represent Washington. Finally, in 1923, Washington officially adopted the flag after a vote by the state legislature.

The seal of the Washington state flag was designed by the Talcott brothers, who were silversmiths. Besides serving as a tribute to America’s first president, George Washington’s image was also an unofficial oath that the citizens of the state would strive to embody his characteristics and principles. The green background represented not only the deep green forests in Washington, but also served as a declaration that Washington citizens would be committed to preserving their land and protecting their natural resources.

There have been many variations of the Washington state flag over the years, partly due to a fairly vague original description of it. Finally standardized in 1967, nearly a half-century after it was officially adopted, this is the flag that waves over Washington’s capital in Olympia and represents the state and those who live there to this very day.

In Conclusion

It’s fitting that Washington’s state flag has a picture of the state’s namesake right in its center, and just as fitting that the lush green on the flag is what can best be described as forest green. The only thing which is surprising is that Washington, one of the last states to join the union, was the first to give a nod to one of the Founding Fathers, a group of men who played such a significant role in our history.

A couple things are for certain – without them, our country would not have been as great as it was, and Washington State would not have come to be, and neither would its flag.

A Rattlesnake on the American Flag Instead of an Eagle?

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Was our country’s national symbol almost a poisonous reptile rather than the eagle we’ve all come to know and love? If Benjamin Franklin had his way, this may very well have been the case. In fact, Franklin didn’t even like the eagle, so much so that he believed the majestic bird of prey was “a bird of poor moral character.” The rattlesnake, on the other hand, was a fierce, but honorable creature, never attacking unless provoked and never surrendering unless a fight was over. 

An Early Symbol of National Identity

In 1754, Franklin sketched the image of a snake cut into eight sections, each one representing the individual colonies at the time. Under the snake was scrawled the words, “Join, or Die,” which were intended as an appeal to unity during the French and Indian War.

A snake chopped into several pieces may sound morbid, but the image stemmed from a well-known superstition of those days that was based on the belief that a snake that was sliced into pieces could rejoin the living if the body was put back together before sunset. As more newspapers printed this picture, the snake gradually became a symbol of national identity and pride.

Symbol of American Independence

The snake was used many times as Americans united over the years. In 1765, the British, in an attempt to pay off the debt they had incurred from the French and Indian War, started the Stamp Act. Many colonists believed that they had thrived despite the British government, not because of them, and, therefore, were not indebted to them.

The colonists soon became known as the “Sons of Liberty,” and the general public became more and more ready to revolt against the British. Once again, Franklin’s chopped-up snake reared its head and made its presence felt as a source of unity and, this time, independence.

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Don’t Tread on Me

The snake symbol eventually spread beyond the newspapers and, by 1775, it was on everything from paper money, to banners, to flags. During its ascent, the snake symbol changed significantly. Rather than being shown as a generic snake, it was now typically depicted as an American timber rattlesnake. Although historical accounts differ as to how and why the now-famous coiled rattlesnake came to represent our country on the Gadsden flag, the ominous and equally now-famous words, “Don’t Tread on Me” send a clear message to all who see it.

Back to Benjamin Franklin

“An American Guesser” anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal toward the end of 1775, noting that he had seen some drums belonging to Marines with the aforementioned snake accompanied with the same warning.

This anonymous writer went on to explain why a snake would be the ideal American symbol, noting that there were thirteen rattles on the snake, which equaled the number of colonies in America, also eloquently observing “how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, how firmly they are united together” and how “one of those rattles, singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man alive.”

This anonymous writer is now widely believed to have been Benjamin Franklin due to his well-known fondness for the rattlesnake as a national symbol.

Why Is It Known as the Gadsden flag?

Franklin may have designed the original rattlesnake symbol, but the flag on which “Don’t Tread on Me” appears is not named after him. That honor was bestowed upon Colonel Christopher Gadsden. According to historical records, Gadsden presented one of these flags to Esek Hopkins, whom Gadsden had chosen as the Navy’s commander-in-chief. Gadsden soon made a copy of the flag and proposed to Congress that it should be the official standard of the head of the United States Navy.

Don’t Tread on Me

You could say that the Gadsden flag and its powerful mantra were initiated in 1776 when Commodore Hopkins proudly flew them when the Navy’s ships set out to sea for the first time in its now-storied history. The Gadsden flag has one of the more fascinating origins of any flag in the world. This flag is in large part distinguished by the message it bears so clearly: We value freedom, and if our freedom is threatened, we will do what is necessary to defend it. Of course, the flag says it much better and more simply.