A 2.00 m × 1.70 m oil painting showing historical U.S. flags.
This article describes the evolution of the flag of the United States of America, 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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
^ abState 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.)
^"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.
^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.)
^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.