Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day - June 14, 2011

Today is Flag Day 2011!

A common question we get as vexillologists is who responsible for designing the American Flag? The simple answer is Betsy Ross. No matter your view on Betsy Ross - she sewed US Flags for the government with plenty of records. She was one of many common men and women to create flags for the revolution.

Some people say it was all Francis Hopkinson's doing. Really? Can you believe that one man alone had total input for the nation's flag? Can you imagine there being no debate and all the congressional leaders listening to one man alone - congress gives a wink and nod to one man?

Francis Hopkinson

If this were the case Hopkinson would have written the whole process down in detail. Maybe he did, and its hidden and locked away by some super secret patriotic group? But how come nobody in his family continued the telling of Hopkinson's Bold design as a key player in our nation's flag? If you had a family member that was responsible for making something great wouldn't you want to know?

Anyhow, the design of the American Flag is certainly a continuum - and certain congresses can claim legal credit for having their hand in its design. But there are a few individuals who played essential roles as proverbial 'Heir's of Betsy Ross.'

Uncle Sam Reid (1783-1861)
Chief Architect of the US Flag

But the core architect who can be legally called an authentic designer of the American American Flag is Samuel Chester Reid. Mr. Reid set the base code of the US Flag.

Good old Chuck's idea was that the flag should return to the original design of 13 stripes instead of 15 - and that a star should be added for each new state. It may seem like a simple, logical and obvious choice. But really was a revolutionary and paradoxical design.

Thus the US flag is permanently retro while at the same time being perpetually modern. Thank You very much Uncle Sam of Connecticut.

Samuel Reid lived in the Cherry Blossom Era - the period after the Revolution and before the War Between the States. Captain Reid was born just after the American Revolution ended in 1783 and died just before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.

Battle in the Azores - War of 1812

And during the War of 1812 Reid was captain of the General Armstrong and engaged the enemy at the Azores. It was during his service that the Star Spangled Banner was created. It had 15 stripes and 15 stars. But the Union had 18 states.

In 1812 there were flags with 18 stripes and 18 stars but they were unofficial. Also, the US Flag during the War of 1812 was made official on May Day 1795. Thus May 1 should be a Flag Day for the Star Spangled Banner.

Bottom line is that a Navy Man from the Nutmegger State is the paramount designer of our American Flag. But Captain Samuel Reid can not claim total credit. Several persons from distant generations have had small and big parts to play.

Link to an earlier post about Reid
with modern adaptations of his flag designs

Reid's sketches of the US flag with other designs that were rejected

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