Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Flags of the United States" Program Summary - 27 June 2012

Karl Zingheim presented an excellent program on the history of the United States flag - including the origin of flags, the development of the flags of England and Scotland, colonial America, the United States and the Confederacy.

The study of flags is called "vexillology" - see for background.

The origin of flags for use by England had its origin in the Crusades of the 12th century - England used a red cross on a white background (St. George's Cross).  Scotland used the St. Andrew's Cross - white on a blue background.  When James VI of Scotland became King of England in 1606, the flag incorporated the red cross of England, the white cross of Scotland and a blue background, called the First Union Flag.  The present flag of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) is the Second Union Flag which incorporates the English, Scottish and Irish crosses.  See for more detail.

In colonial English America, a succession of flags featured pine trees, the St. George's Cross, or the First Union Flag in the upper left-hand corner on a red background.  The background enabled writing to be put on the flag.  For example, the Taunton flag of 1774 had the words "Liberty and Union" on the background.  At the start of the Revolutionary War, the flag at Bunker Hill had a pine tree and St. George's Cross in the upper left-hand quarter.  A Grand Union flag was also created with the First Union Flag in the upper left, and six white strips on the red background representing the thirteen colonies (six white, seven red stripes).

George Washington's personal emblem had six white stars on a blue background.  The Betsy Ross flag had 13 white stars on a blue background in the upper left quadrant, and the 13 red and white stripes on the other three quadrants.

As states were added, more stars and stripes were added, so that the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 had 15 stars and 15 stripes.  Subsequently, as more states were added, the U.S. flag had 13 red and white stripes representing the 13 original colonies, and a star for each state in the Union. You can read about the different designs at

When the Confederate states seceded, they initially had a flag with three bars (two red, one white) and seven stars on a blue background in the upper left quadrant.  The official Confederate flag ended up with a red background, a blue X pattern with 13 white stars.  Read about it at

This was an interesting program for the 35 persons in attendance.

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