History of the flags of the United States

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A 2.00 m × 1.70 m oil painting showing historical American flags.

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

National flags[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.

Other historical versions[edit]

Possible future designs[edit]

With the addition of states, the U.S. flag increases the number of stars. Examples of possible designs for U.S. flags with up to 5 additional states are displayed here.

Executive branch flags[edit]

Office of the President[edit]

Office of the Vice President[edit]

Department of State[edit]

Department of the Treasury[edit]

Department of Defense[edit]

Department of the Army[edit]


Department of the Navy[edit]

Marine Corps


Department of the Air Force[edit]

Air Force

Space Force

Department of Justice[edit]

Department of the Interior[edit]

Department of Agriculture[edit]

Department of Commerce[edit]

Department of Labor[edit]

Department of Health and Human Services[edit]

Department of Housing and Urban Development[edit]

Department of Transportation[edit]

Department of Energy[edit]

Department of Education[edit]

Department of Veterans Affairs[edit]

Department of Homeland Security[edit]

Coast Guard[edit]

Legislative branch flags[edit]


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.

State and territory flags[edit]

Map showing the flags of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the 5 major U.S. territories

The flags of the U.S. states, territories and federal district exhibit a variety of regional influences and local histories, as well as different styles and design principles. Nonetheless, the majority of the states' flags share the same design pattern consisting of the state seal superimposed on a monochrome background, commonly every different shade of blue.

The most recent current state flag is that of Utah (February 16, 2011), while the most recent current territorial flag is that of the Northern Mariana Islands (July 1, 1985).


Modern U.S. state flags date from the 1890s, when states wanted to have distinctive symbols at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Most U.S. state flags were designed and adopted between 1893 and World War I.[1]

According to a 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association, New Mexico has the best-designed flag of any U.S. state, U.S. territory, or Canadian province, while Georgia's state flag was rated the worst design.[2] (Georgia adopted a new flag in 2003; Nebraska's state flag, whose design was rated second worst, remains in use to date.)

Current state flags[edit]

Dates in parentheses denote when the current flag was adopted by the state's legislature.

Current federal district flag[edit]

Current territory flags[edit]

Uninhabited territory flags[edit]

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

Associated state flags[edit]

While the countries mentioned are recognized independent nations with UN seats, the U.S. maintains and exercises jurisdictional control over the countries in defense, security, and funding grants.

County flags[edit]

County organizations[edit]

City flags[edit]

Municipal organizations[edit]

Maritime flags[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.




Native American tribal flags[edit]

Historical flags[edit]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

Former federal flags[edit]

Other states[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Mississippi flag was first adopted in April 1894. However, it was repealed in 1906, remaining in de facto usage until its official re-adoption in April 2001. It was abolished on June 30, 2020, leaving the state without a de jure state flag.[5][6]


  1. ^ Artimovich, Nick. "Questions & Answers". North American Vexillological Association. p. 8. Archived from the original on April 17, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
  2. ^ Kaye, Ted (2001-06-10). "NEW MEXICO TOPS STATE/PROVINCIAL FLAGS SURVEY, GEORGIA LOSES BY WIDE MARGIN". North American Vexillological Association. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
  3. ^ "State Flag of Alabama". Alabama Emblems, Symbols and Honors. Alabama Department of Archives & History. 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
  4. ^ Anderson, Ed (November 22, 2010). "New Louisiana state flag with bleeding pelican is unfurled". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  5. ^ @hhaleytalbotnbc (June 30, 2020). "Senator Wicker oversaw the removal of the Mississippi state flag from the Capitol subway moments ago. It was replaced by a flag with the state seal on it" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  6. ^ State of Mississippi (February 7, 2001). "Miss. Code Ann. § 3-3-16: Design of state flag". Mississippi Code of 1972. LexisNexis. HISTORY: SOURCES: Laws, 2001, ch. 301, § 2, eff from and after February 7, 2001 (the date the United States Attorney General interposed no objection under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to the addition of this section.)
  7. ^ "Official State Symbols of North Carolina". North Carolina State Library. State of North Carolina. Archived from the original on 2008-02-06. Retrieved 2008-01-26. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  8. ^ "The Oklahoma State Flag". NetState. NState, LLC. February 6, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2015. Colors shall be colorfast and shall not bleed one into another. Added by Laws 1925, c. 234, p. 340, § 1. Amended by Laws 1941, p. 90, § 1; Laws 2006, c. 181, § 1, eff. Nov. 1, 2006.
  9. ^ "Enrolled Senate Bill No. 1359". Oklahoma State Courts Network. May 23, 2006. Retrieved January 26, 2015. This act shall become effective November 1, 2006.
  10. ^ Text states that Oregon adopted its flag in 1925
  11. ^ Dan Bammes (2011-02-17). "Legislature: Fixing the Flag". KUER-FM. Retrieved 2011-02-17.
  12. ^ "Utah State Flag Concurrent Resolution, 2011 General Session, State of Utah". Retrieved February 17, 2011.
  13. ^ Keith McCord (12 February 2011). "Resolution aims to correct state flag goof". KSL-TV. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  14. ^ Dennis Romboy (9 March 2011). "Utahns celebrate first State Flag Day". KSL-TV. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  15. ^ Commonwealth of Virginia (February 1, 1950). "§ 1-506. Flag of the Commonwealth". Code of Virginia. Virginia: Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved January 28, 2015. The flag of the Commonwealth shall be a deep blue field, with a circular white centre of the same material. Upon this circle shall be painted or embroidered, to show on both sides alike, the coat of arms of the Commonwealth, as described in § 1-500 for the obverse of the great seal of the Commonwealth; and there may be a white fringe on the outer edge, furthest from the flagstaff. This shall be known and respected as the flag of the Commonwealth. (Code 1950, § 7-32; 1966, c. 102, § 7.1-32; 2005, c. 839.)
  16. ^ "Symbols of Washington State". Washington State Legislature. Archived from the original on 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
  17. ^ State of Wisconsin. "286". Section: 1.08: State flag. Laws of 1979. Retrieved August 21, 2015. The department of administration shall ensure that all official state flags that are manufactured on or after May 1, 1981, conform to the requirements of this section. State flags manufactured before May 1, 1981, may continue to be used as state flags.

External links[edit]