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 U.S., such as the flags of governmental agencies. There are also separate flags for embassies and boats.
- 1 National flags
- 2 Executive branch flags
- 2.1 Office of the President
- 2.2 Office of the Vice President
- 2.3 Department of State
- 2.4 Department of the Treasury
- 2.5 Department of Defense
- 2.6 Department of Justice
- 2.7 Department of the Interior
- 2.8 Department of Agriculture
- 2.9 Department of Commerce
- 2.10 Department of Labor
- 2.11 Department of Health and Human Services
- 2.12 Department of Housing and Urban Development
- 2.13 Department of Transportation
- 2.14 Department of Energy
- 2.15 Department of Education
- 2.16 Department of Veterans Affairs
- 2.17 Department of Homeland Security
- 3 Legislative branch flags
- 4 Other federal flags
- 5 State and territory flags
- 6 Associated state flags
- 7 County flags
- 8 City flags
- 9 Maritime flags
- 10 Native American tribal flags
- 11 Historical flags
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Historical progression of designs
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
Executive branch flags
Office of the President
Office of the Vice President
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Defense
Flag of the Secretary of Defense
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Defense
Flag of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Flag of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Flag of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau
Flag of the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman
Flag of the National Security Agency
Flag of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Flag of the Defense Commissary Agency
Flag of the Secretary of the Army
Flag of the Under Secretary of the Army
Flag of the Chief of Staff of the Army
Flag of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army
Flag of the Surgeon General of the Army
Flag of the First Army
Flag of the Second Army
Flag of Army Central
Flag of the Fourth Army
Flag of Army North
Flag of the Sixth Army
Flag of the Seventh Army
Flag of the Eighth Army
Flag of the 1st Armored Division
Flag of the 2nd Armored Division
Flag of the 3rd Armored Division
Flag of the 1st Cavalry Division
Flag of the 1st Infantry Division
Flag of the 2nd Infantry Division
Flag of the 3rd Infantry Division
Flag of the 10th Mountain Division
Flag of the 25th Infantry Division
Flag of the 28th Infantry Division
Flag of the 29th Infantry Division
Flag of the 36th Infantry Division
Flag of the 40th Infantry Division
Flag of the 42nd Military Police Brigade
Flag of the 82nd Airborne Division
Flag of the 101st Airborne Division
Flag of the I Corps
Flag of the XVIII Airborne Corps
Department of Justice
Department of the Interior
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Labor
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Transportation
Department of Energy
Department of Education
Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Homeland Security
Flag of the Department of Homeland Security
Flag of the Secretary of Homeland Security
Flag of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
Flag of Customs and Border Protection
Flag of the Border Patrol
Flag of the Secret Service
Flag of the Federal Protective Service
Flag of the CBP Office of Field Operations
Flag of the Transportation Security Administration
Legislative branch flags
Other federal flags
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 National Reconnaissance Office
Flag of the Central Intelligence Agency
Flag of the Environmental Protection Agency
Flag of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Flag of the Securities and Exchange Commission
Flag of the Peace Corps
Flag of the Tennessee Valley Authority
Flag of the Federal Trade Commission
Flag of the National Science Foundation
Flag of the Smithsonian Institution
Flag of the Federal Reserve System
Flag of the Senior Executive Service
Flag of the Social Security Administration
State and territory flags
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.
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.
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. (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
Dates in parentheses denote when the current flag was adopted by the state's legislature.
Current federal district flag
Current territory flags
Uninhabited territory flags
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 five of these nine insular areas:
Associated state flags
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.
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
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American Revolutionary War
Former federal flags
Flag of the President (1899)
Flag of the President (1902)
Flag of the President (1916)
Flag of the President (1945)
Flag of the Vice President (1915)
Flag of the Vice President (1936)
Flag of the Vice President (1948)
Flag of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (1899–1970)
Flag of the Environmental Science Services Administration (1965–1970)
Flag of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (until 2003)
Flag of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (until 2003)
Flag of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
Flag of the Department of the Interior (until 1917)
Flag of the Secretary of the Interior (1917–1934)
Infantry Battalion flag (de facto flag of the U.S. Navy until 1959)
Flag of the Secretary of Labor (1915–1960)
Flag of the Department of Labor (1915–1960)
Flag of the Secretary of the Treasury (1887–1915)
Flag of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
Flag of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Flag of the Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service
Flag of the Marine Hospital Service
Flag of the Bureau of Navigation (?–1946)
Flag of the Director of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (?–1946)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1799)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1815)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1836)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1841)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1867)
Ensign of the Revenue-Marine (1868)
Ensign of the Coast Guard (1915–1953)
Flag of the Coast Guard Auxiliary (1940–1968)
Flag of the Office of Homeland Security (2001–2002)
Flag of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency
Flag of the General Accounting Office
Flag of U.S. Forces – Iraq (2010-2011)
Flag of the United States Bureau of Fisheries (?–1940)
Flag of the Commissioner of Fisheries (?–1940)
Pennant of the
United States Life-Saving Service
Pennant of the United States Lighthouse Service
Flag of the Commissioner of Lighthouses
Flag of the Superintendent of Lighthouses
Flag of the Marine Corps
Fort Sumter Flag (1861)
Flag of the Department of Transportation (1967–1980)
- Flag Day in the United States
- Flag desecration in the United States
- Flags of cities of the United States
- Flags of counties of the United States
- Flags of the U.S. states and territories
- North American Vexillological Association
- United States Flag Code
- The Mississippi flag was first adopted in April 1894. However, it was repealed in 1906, but remained in de facto usage until its official re-adoption in April 2001.
- Artimovich, Nick. "Questions & Answers". North American Vexillological Association. p. 8. Archived from the original on April 17, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
- 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.
- "State Flag of Alabama". Alabama Emblems, Symbols and Honors. Alabama Department of Archives & History. 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- 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.
- 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.)
- "Official State Symbols of North Carolina". North Carolina State Library. State of North Carolina. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
- "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.
- "Enrolled Senate Bill No. 1359". Oklahoma State Courts Network. May 23, 2006. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
This act shall become effective November 1, 2006.
- Text states that Oregon adopted its flag in 1925
- Dan Bammes (2011-02-17). "Legislature: Fixing the Flag". KUER-FM. Retrieved 2011-02-17.
- "Utah State Flag Concurrent Resolution, 2011 General Session, State of Utah". Retrieved February 17, 2011.
- Keith McCord (12 February 2011). "Resolution aims to correct state flag goof". KSL-TV. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- Dennis Romboy (9 March 2011). "Utahns celebrate first State Flag Day". KSL-TV. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
- 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.)
- "Symbols of Washington State". Washington State Legislature. Archived from the original on 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
- 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.
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