Recently, I was reading about the District of Columbia attempting to become a US State instead of a Federal District and all of the various things that could arise from that situation. An interesting thing they brought up was how the US flag will change after Washington DC becomes the next US state. This got me thinking, “Who designed the US flag?”
I’ve heard about Betsy Ross and how she’s the original creator of the American flag but I also heard that was just a myth. From my “research”, there appears to be no historical basis for Betsy Ross being the first person to design the American flag. Betsy Ross is an actual person but the only possible contribution to the American flag was the decision that the stars should have five points and not six. This story only began to circulate after 1871 when her grandson began publicizing their family’s account of Betsy Ross’ creation of the American flag.
The first American flag was actually designed by Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Unlike the story of Betsy Ross, Hopkinson did not design the flag out of patriotic duty but specifically requested payment for his design in spite of being a public servant. This request was ultimately denied by Congress.
In 1795, with the addition of Vermont and Kentucky, the number of stars and stripes was increased from 13 to 15. This particular version of the flag, which was designed by Mary Pickersgill, is what inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem of the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner” . No further changes to the flag were done until 1818 when Congress declared that on the first July 4 following the addition of a new state, the flag’s design would change with the additional star added. Also, to honor the original 13 colonies, the stripes were reduced from 15 to 13.
The designer of the current American flag is Robert G Heft. As part of a high school project in 1958, Heft designed the current flag that has been used for the past 56 years, the longest duration of any design for the American flag.