History of the flags of the United States

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This article describes the evolution of the flag of the United States, as well as other flags used within the country, such as the flags of governmental agencies. There are also separate flags for embassies and boats.

National flag[edit]

Historical progression of designs[edit]

Since 1818, a star for each new state has been added to the flag on the Fourth of July immediately following each state's admission. In years which multiple states were admitted, the number of stars on the flag jumped correspondingly; the most pronounced example of this is 1890, when five states were admitted within the span of a single year (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington in November 1889 and Idaho on July 3, 1890). This change has typically been the only change made with each revision of the flag since 1777, with the exception of changes in 1795 and 1818, which increased the number of stripes to 15 and then returned it to 13, respectively.

As the exact pattern of stars was not specified prior to 1912, and the exact colors not specified prior to 1934, many of the historical U.S. national flags shown below are typical rather than official designs.

1960–present
1960–present
1959–1960
1959–1960
1912–1959
1912–1959
1908–1912
1908–1912
1896–1908
1896–1908
1891–1896
1891–1896
1890–1891
1890–1891
1877–1890
1877–1890
1867–1877
1867–1877
1865–1867
1865–1867
1863–1865
1863–1865
1861–1863
1861–1863
1859–1861
1859–1861
1858–1859
1858–1859
1851–1858
1851–1858
1848–1851
1848–1851
1847–1848
1847–1848
1846–1847
1846–1847
1845–1846
1845–1846
1837–1845
1837–1845
1836–1837
1836–1837
1822–1836
1822–1836
1820–1822
1820–1822
1819–1820
1819–1820
1818–1819
1818–1819
1795–1818 (the Star Spangled Banner)
1795–1818 (the Star Spangled Banner)
1777–1795
1777–1795
1775–1777 (the Grand Union Flag)
1775–1777 (the Grand Union Flag)

Other historical versions[edit]

US historical flags-United States of America oil painting 2.00m x 1.70m
Betsy Ross circular 13-star version
Betsy Ross circular 13-star version
Battle of Bennington version
Battle of Bennington version

Proposed future designs[edit]

A possible United States 51-star flag
A possible United States 51-star flag
United States 51-star flag (proposed by New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico)
United States 51-star flag (proposed by New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico)
A possible United States 52-star flag
A possible United States 52-star flag

...

Cabinet-level flags[edit]

Flag of the President
Flag of the President
Flag of the Executive Office of the President
Flag of the Executive Office of the President
Flag of the Trade Representative
Flag of the Trade Representative
Flag of the Vice President
Flag of the Vice President
Flag of the Department of State
Flag of the Department of State
Flag of the Secretary of State
Flag of the Secretary of State
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of State
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of State
Flag of United States ambassadors
Flag of United States ambassadors
Flag of a Consular officer
Flag of a Consular officer
Flag of a Foreign Service officer
Flag of a Foreign Service officer
Flag of the Department of the Treasury
Flag of the Department of the Treasury
Flag of the Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of the Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of an Under Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of an Under Secretary of the Treasury
Flag of the Comptroller of the Currency
Flag of the Comptroller of the Currency
Flag of the Secretary of Defense
Flag of the Secretary of Defense
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Defense
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Defense
Flag of the Secretary of the Army
Flag of the Secretary of the Army
Flag of the Secretary of the Navy
Flag of the Secretary of the Navy
Flag of the Secretary of the Air Force
Flag of the Secretary of the Air Force
Flag of the Surgeon General of the Army
Flag of the Surgeon General of the Army
Flag of the National Security Agency
Flag of the National Security Agency
Flag of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Flag of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Flag of the Department of Justice
Flag of the Department of Justice
Flag of the Attorney General
Flag of the Attorney General
Flag of the Solicitor General
Flag of the Solicitor General
Flag of the Drug Enforcement Administration
Flag of the Drug Enforcement Administration
Flag of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Flag of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Flag of the Marshals Service
Flag of the Marshals Service
Flag of the Marshals Service
Flag of the Marshals Service
Flag of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Flag of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Flag of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Flag of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Flag of the Department of the Interior
Flag of the Department of the Interior
Flag of the Secretary of the Interior
Flag of the Secretary of the Interior
Flag of the National Park Service
Flag of the National Park Service
Guidon of the National Park Service
Guidon of the National Park Service
Flag of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Flag of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Flag of the Fish and Wildlife Service
Flag of the Fish and Wildlife Service
Flag of the Bureau of Land Management
Flag of the Bureau of Land Management
Flag of the Geological Survey
Flag of the Geological Survey
Flag of the Department of Agriculture
Flag of the Department of Agriculture
Flag of the Secretary of Agriculture
Flag of the Secretary of Agriculture
Flag of the Forest Service
Flag of the Forest Service
Flag of the Department of Commerce
Flag of the Department of Commerce
Flag of the Secretary of Commerce
Flag of the Secretary of Commerce
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce
Flag of the General Counsel of the Department of Commerce
Flag of the General Counsel of the Department of Commerce
Flag of the Head of a Department of Commerce Primary Operating Unit
Flag of the Head of a Department of Commerce Primary Operating Unit
Flag of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Flag of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Flag of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps
Flag of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps
Flag of the Department of Labor
Flag of the Department of Labor
Flag of the Secretary of Labor
Flag of the Secretary of Labor
Flag of the Department of Health and Human Services
Flag of the Department of Health and Human Services
Flag of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
Flag of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
Flag of the Public Health Service
Flag of the Public Health Service
Flag of the Surgeon General
Flag of the Surgeon General
Flag of the Department of Housing and Urban Development
Flag of the Department of Housing and Urban Development
Flag of the Department of Transportation
Flag of the Department of Transportation
Flag of the Secretary of Transportation
Flag of the Secretary of Transportation
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Transportation
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Transportation
Flag of an Assistant Secretary of Transportation
Flag of an Assistant Secretary of Transportation
Flag of the Federal Aviation Administration
Flag of the Federal Aviation Administration
Flag of the Maritime Administration
Flag of the Maritime Administration
Flag of the Department of Energy
Flag of the Department of Energy
Flag of the Secretary of Energy
Flag of the Secretary of Energy
Flag of the Department of Education
Flag of the Department of Education
Flag of the Secretary of Education
Flag of the Secretary of Education
Flag of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Flag of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Flag of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Flag of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Flag of the Department of Homeland Security
Flag of the Department of Homeland Security
Flag of Customs and border Protection
Flag of Customs and border Protection
Flag of the Border Patrol
Flag of the Border Patrol
Flag of the Secret Service
Flag of the Secret Service
Flag of the Coast Guard Auxiliary
Flag of the Coast Guard Auxiliary
Flag of a Coast Guard admiral
Flag of a Coast Guard admiral
Flag of a Coast Guard vice admiral
Flag of a Coast Guard vice admiral
Flag of a Coast Guard rear admiral
Flag of a Coast Guard rear admiral
Flag of a Coast Guard rear admiral (lower half)
Flag of a Coast Guard rear admiral (lower half)

Other federal flags[edit]

Many agencies, departments, and offices of the U.S. federal government have their own flags, guidons, or standards. Following traditional American vexillology, these usually consist of the agency's departmental seal on a blank opaque background, but not always.

Flag of the Central Intelligence Agency
Flag of the Central Intelligence Agency
Flag of the Environmental Protection Agency
Flag of the Environmental Protection Agency
Flag of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Flag of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Flag of the Securities and Exchange Commission
Flag of the Securities and Exchange Commission
Flag of the Peace Corps
Flag of the Peace Corps
Flag of the Library of Congress
Flag of the Library of Congress
Flag of the Tennessee Valley Authority
Flag of the Tennessee Valley Authority
Flag of the Government Accountability Office
Flag of the Government Accountability Office
Flag of the Federal Trade Commission
Flag of the Federal Trade Commission
Flag of the National Science Foundation
Flag of the National Science Foundation
Flag of the Smithsonian Institution
Flag of the Smithsonian Institution
Flag of the House of Representatives
Flag of the House of Representatives
Flag of the Speaker of the House of Representatives
Flag of the Speaker of the House of Representatives
Flag of the Senate
Flag of the Senate
Flag of the Federal Reserve System
Flag of the Federal Reserve System
Flag of the Senior Executive Service
Flag of the Senior Executive Service

Armed forces flags[edit]

Flag of the Army
Flag of the Army
Flag of the Marine Corps
Flag of the Marine Corps
Flag of the Navy
Flag of the Navy
Flag of the Air Force
Flag of the Air Force
Flag of the Coast Guard
Flag of the Coast Guard

State flags[edit]

As examples, here are the six highest-rated U.S. state flags in terms of design quality, according to a 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA).[1]

New Mexico
New Mexico
Texas
Texas
Maryland
Maryland
Alaska
Alaska
Arizona
Arizona
South Carolina
South Carolina

Territorial and commonwealth flags[edit]

Puerto Rico (territory with commonwealth status)
Puerto Rico (territory with commonwealth status)
Guam (territory)
Guam (territory)
American Samoa (territory)
American Samoa (territory)
U.S. Virgin Islands (territory)
U.S. Virgin Islands (territory)
Northern Mariana Islands (commonwealth in political union)
Northern Mariana Islands (commonwealth in political union)

Insular area flags[edit]

The U.S. national flag is the official flag for all islands, atolls, and reefs comprising the United States Minor Outlying Islands. However, unofficial flags are in use on five of these eleven insular areas:

Johnston Atoll
Johnston Atoll
Midway Atoll
Midway Atoll
Navassa Island
Navassa Island
Palmyra Atoll
Palmyra Atoll
Wake Island
Wake Island

County flags[edit]

As examples, here are 8 county flags from various U.S. states.

Flag of Kings County, CA
Flag of Kings County, CA
Flag of Miami-Dade County, FL
Flag of Miami-Dade County, FL
Flag of Montgomery County, MD
Flag of Montgomery County, MD
Flag of Prince George's County, MD
Flag of Prince George's County, MD
Flag of Alamance County, NC
Flag of Alamance County, NC
Flag of Montgomery County, PA
Flag of Montgomery County, PA
Flag of Dallas County, TX
Flag of Dallas County, TX
Flag of Pierce County, WA
Flag of Pierce County, WA

City flags[edit]

In 2004, NAVA conducted a survey to rank 150 U.S. city flags in terms of design quality.[2] Here are the top 8 city flags as ranked and their mean ratings on the survey's 10-point scale:

Flag of Washington, D.C.(9.17)
Flag of Washington, D.C.
(9.17)
Flag of Chicago, IL(9.03)
Flag of Chicago, IL
(9.03)
Flag of Denver, CO(8.86)
Flag of Denver, CO
(8.86)
Flag of Phoenix, AZ(8.65)
Flag of Phoenix, AZ
(8.65)
Flag of St. Louis, MO(8.56)
Flag of St. Louis, MO
(8.56)
Flag of Wichita, KS(8.41)
Flag of Wichita, KS
(8.41)
Flag of Portland, OR(8.38)
Flag of Portland, OR
(8.38)
Flag of Indianapolis, IN(8.35)
Flag of Indianapolis, IN
(8.35)

Maritime flags[edit]

Ensigns[edit]

National[edit]

Since 1777, the national ensign of the United States has also simultaneously served as its national flag. The current version is shown below; for previous versions, please see the section Historical progression of designs above.

Ensign of the United States (1960-present)
Ensign of the United States (1960-present)
Grand Union Flag (naval ensign, 1775–1777)
Grand Union Flag (naval ensign, 1775–1777)
Civil Ensign (circa 1776)
Civil Ensign (circa 1776)

State[edit]

Naval and Maritime Flag of Massachusetts
Naval and Maritime Flag of Massachusetts
Merchant and Marine Flag of Maine
Merchant and Marine Flag of Maine

Other[edit]

Ensign of the Coast Guard
Ensign of the Coast Guard
Ensign of the Power Squadrons
Ensign of the Power Squadrons
Yacht ensign
Yacht ensign
Jacks[edit]
Union Jack (state jack, 2002–present; naval and state jack, 1960–2002)
Union Jack (state jack, 2002–present; naval and state jack, 1960–2002)
First Navy Jack (naval jack, 2002–present)
First Navy Jack (naval jack, 2002–present)
Naval Jack (circa 1776)
Naval Jack (circa 1776)

Native American tribal flags[edit]

Flag of the Arapaho
Flag of the Arapaho
Flag of the Cherokee Nation
Flag of the Cherokee Nation
Flag of the Sac and Fox
Flag of the Sac and Fox

Historic flags[edit]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

Cowpens flag
Cowpens flag
Betsy Ross flag
Betsy Ross flag
Brandywine flag
Brandywine flag
Easton Flag
Easton Flag
Bedford Flag (1775)
Bedford Flag (1775)
Guilford Courthouse flag
Guilford Courthouse flag
Bunker Hill flag
Bunker Hill flag
Continental Flag
Continental Flag
Serapis flag
Serapis flag
Gadsden Flag
Gadsden Flag
Moultrie Liberty Flag
Moultrie Liberty Flag

Former federal flags[edit]

Flag of the President (1899)
Flag of the President (1899)
Flag of the President (1902)
Flag of the President (1902)
Flag of the President (1916)
Flag of the President (1916)
Flag of the President (1945)
Flag of the President (1945)
Flag of the Vice President (1915)
Flag of the Vice President (1915)
Flag of the Vice President (1936)
Flag of the Vice President (1936)
Flag of the Vice President (1948)
Flag of the Vice President (1948)
Flag of the Vice President (1975)
Flag of the Vice President (1975)
Flag of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (1899-1970)
Flag of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (1899-1970)
Flag of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (until 2003)
Flag of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (until 2003)
Flag of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (until 2003)
Flag of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (until 2003)
Flag of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
Flag of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
Flag of the Department of the Interior (until 1917)
Flag of the Department of the Interior (until 1917)
Flag of the Secretary of the Interior (1917-1934)
Flag of the Secretary of the Interior (1917-1934)
Infantry Battalion flag (de facto flag of the U.S. Navy until 1959)
Infantry Battalion flag (de facto flag of the U.S. Navy until 1959)
Flag of the Secretary of Labor (1915-1960)
Flag of the Secretary of Labor (1915-1960)
Flag of the Department of Labor (1915-1960)
Flag of the Department of Labor (1915-1960)
Flag of the Secretary of the Treasury (1887-1915)
Flag of the Secretary of the Treasury (1887-1915)
Flag of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
Flag of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
Flag of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Flag of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Flag of the Under Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare
Flag of the Under Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare
Flag of the Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare
Flag of the Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare
Flag of the Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service
Flag of the Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service
Flag of the Marine Hospital Service
Flag of the Marine Hospital Service
Flag of the Bureau of Navigation (1838-1946) ( ? -1946)
Flag of the Bureau of Navigation (1838-1946) ( ? -1946)
Flag of the Director of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation ( ? -1946)
Flag of the Director of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation ( ? -1946)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1836)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1836)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1841)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1841)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1867)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1867)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1868)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1868)
Ensign of the Coast Guard (1915-1953)
Ensign of the Coast Guard (1915-1953)
Flag of the Coast Guard Auxiliary (1940)
Flag of the Coast Guard Auxiliary (1940)
Flag of the Office of Homeland Security (2001-2002)
Flag of the Office of Homeland Security (2001-2002)
Flag of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency
Flag of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency
Flag of the General Accounting Office
Flag of the General Accounting Office
Boat flag (1912-1916)
Boat flag (1912-1916)
Flag of U.S. Forces – Iraq (2010-2011)
Flag of U.S. Forces – Iraq (2010-2011)
Flag of the United States Bureau of Fisheries ( ? -1940)
Flag of the United States Bureau of Fisheries ( ? -1940)
Flag of the Commissioner of Fisheries ( ? -1940)
Flag of the Commissioner of Fisheries ( ? -1940)
Pennant of theUnited States Life-Saving Service( ? -1915)
Pennant of the
United States Life-Saving Service
( ? -1915)
Pennant of the United States Lighthouse Service( ? -1939)
Pennant of the United States Lighthouse Service
( ? -1939)
Flag of the Commissioner of Lighthouses( ? -1939
Flag of the Commissioner of Lighthouses
( ? -1939
Flag of the Superintendent of Lighthouses( ? -1939)
Flag of the Superintendent of Lighthouses
( ? -1939)

Other states[edit]

Flag of the Green Mountain Boys, the Vermont Republic (1777-1791), and the state of Vermont (1791-1804)
Flag of the Green Mountain Boys, the Vermont Republic (1777-1791), and the state of Vermont (1791-1804)
Texas Come and Take It flag
Texas Come and Take It flag
Flag of the California Republic
Flag of the California Republic
Bonnie Blue Flag (1810)
Bonnie Blue Flag (1810)
Flag of the State of Muskogee (1797-1803)
Flag of the State of Muskogee (1797-1803)
J.P Gillis Flag (California)
J.P Gillis Flag (California)
Fort Sumter Flag (1861)
Fort Sumter Flag (1861)
Alamo flag (Texas)
Alamo flag (Texas)
Flag of Richmond, Virginia (1914-1933)
Flag of Richmond, Virginia (1914-1933)
Flag of Falls County, Texas (1986)
Flag of Falls County, Texas (1986)
Flag of Anne Arundel County, Maryland (until 1997)
Flag of Anne Arundel County, Maryland (until 1997)
Flag of Los Angeles County, California (1967-2004)
Flag of Los Angeles County, California (1967-2004)
Flag of Virginia (1861)
Flag of Virginia (1861)
Flag of Florida (1861)
Flag of Florida (1861)
Flag of Illinois (1915-1969)
Flag of Illinois (1915-1969)
Flag of Rhode Island (1882-1897)
Flag of Rhode Island (1882-1897)
Flag of South Carolina (January 1861)
Flag of South Carolina (January 1861)
Flag of Montgomery County, Maryland (1944-1976)
Flag of Montgomery County, Maryland (1944-1976)
Flag of Phoenix, Arizona (1921-1990)
Flag of Phoenix, Arizona (1921-1990)
Flag of Puerto Rico (1892)
Flag of Puerto Rico (1892)
Flag of Puerto Rico (1952-1995)
Flag of Puerto Rico (1952-1995)
Flag of South Dakota (1909-1963)
Flag of South Dakota (1909-1963)
Flag of South Dakota (1963-1992)
Flag of South Dakota (1963-1992)
Flag of Georgia (before 1879)
Flag of Georgia (before 1879)
Flag of Georgia (1879–1902)
Flag of Georgia (1879–1902)
Flag of Georgia (1902-1906)
Flag of Georgia (1902-1906)
Flag of Georgia (1906-1920)
Flag of Georgia (1906-1920)
Flag of Georgia (1920-1956)
Flag of Georgia (1920-1956)
Flag of Georgia (2001-2003)
Flag of Georgia (2001-2003)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey New Mexico Tops State/Provincial Flags Survey, Georgia Loses By Wide Margin]
  2. ^ Nava - American City Flags Survey

External links[edit]