History Timeline 2000's

Photo above: World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., opened April 29, 2004. Right: Court of Flags at the United Nations, Mateusz Stachowski, SXC Free Images.

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U.S. Timeline - The 2000s

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  • Timeline

  • 2007 - Detail

    July 4, 2007 - The fifty star flag of the United States of America becomes the longest flying flag in American history after flying over forty-seven years.

    USA Flag at Fort McHenry

    It had been flying since 1960 after the admittance of Hawaii into the union as a state. The Fifty Star Flag, as of July 4, 2007, was the longest flying flag in United States history. The flag, as well as the Forty-Nine Star Flag, whose duration was much shorter upon Alaska's admittance earlier in 1959, flying for only one year, included over one thousand five hundred designs send to Washington from citizens of the United States. Once chosen, an Executive Order by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 21, 1959, the date of Hawaii's admittance, made it official. It would include nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically and be flown for the first time at Fort McHenry on July 4, 1960.

    Who designed the flag? Ohio history student Robert G. Heft, seventeen years old, who got a B- on his project, with the possibility of an upgrade if the design was accepted as official. It was with a personal phone call from the President to acknowledge the victory. He got an A from the teacher after that, too.

    First flight? At 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 1969, the Fifty Star Flag, ten feet high by nineteen feet wide, was flown for the first time at Fort McHenry with subsequent ceremony. Forty thousand spectators witnessed the flight. There was a fifty gun salute. The ceremony had begun at 10:45 p.m. on July 3. It ended with the raising of the flag, the singing of the National Anthem, and fireworks.

    A Short Flag History

    Although many think of the Betsy Ross flag from the early days of the American Revolution as the first American flag, and in many ways it was the first official flag, what today is regarded as the initial standard was the Grand Union Flag, flown by Continental Army troops from December 3, 1775 forward. It included the traditional thirteen stripes to represent the colonies, but the field where today's stars sit still played homage to Great Britain and the Union Jack.

    By 1777, the Continental Congress thought a new flag should be officially designed and adopted. The following resolution was passed on June 4, 1777.

    "Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

    Now here's where Betsy Ross may or may not have entered the story. It has been reported through an 1870 account by Betsy's grandson, William J. Canby, that his grandmother made the first flag, with five pointed stars, in June 1876. That recollection, of course, is one year prior to the 1777 Flag Act. It's possible that the recollection was correct, that his grandmother did sew the first flag, but that the date was incorrect. It is possible that another flag maker in Philadelphis technically sewed the first official flag, but no-one knows for certain. In either case, a man named Francis Hopkinson is credited with the overall design. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from New Jersey and also designed official Continental currency and coins. The initial official flag design would fly for eighteen years.

    Since 1795, there have been twenty-four flag designs between the first official and the 49 Star Flag, with additional stars added each time a new state entered the union of the United States. That's a total of twenty-seven official flags, plus that first Grand Union Flag.

    Photo above: United States fifty star flag being taken down during ceremony at Fort McHenry. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Lithograph, Birth of Our Nation's Flag, depicting Betsy Ross, George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, 1893, E.S. Weisgerber and H.A. Thomas and Wylie Lithograph Company. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info sources: USflag.org; Wikipedia Commons; Library of Congress; National Park Service; "A Half-Century Ago, new 50-star American flag debuted in Baltimore," 2010, Frederick N. Rasmussen, Baltimore Sun; Eisenhower Presidential Library; USflagdepot.com.

    Betsy Ross Flag

    History Photo Bomb