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The Source of America's Flag Design

Where did we get the colors of our flag? Where did the symbols of our country originate. Read this 1898 excerpt of a book on America's flag.

On Saturday, June 14, 1777, Congress finally officially adopted the flag of our Union and independence, to-wit:

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

There is not the slightest record in any of the mss. journals in the library of Congress, or in the original files or in the drafts in motions made in the continental Congress of any previous legislative action for the establishment of a national flag for the United States of America, whose independence was declared nearly a year previous. Even after the official adoption of the flag it was not thoroughly brought before the people for many months. All of this adds to the proof that Congress was simply adopting and legalizing a flag that was in general use. That there was no recorded discussion in Congress regarding the adoption of our flag, was perfectly natural, because the star spangled banner came in with our independence, and at this time June 14, 1777) was simply being officially acknowledged.

There is some diversity of opinion as to how the red, white and blue arranged in the stars and stripes carne to be thought of as our flag.

The flag of the Netherlands, which is of red, white and blue stripes, had been familiar to the pilgrims while they lived in Holland, and its three stripes of red, white and blue were doubtless not forgotten. But it seems most probable that the coat of arms of the Washington family furnished more than a suggestion. The coat of arms of his ancestors, that had been adopted by him, comprised the red, white and blue and the stars; and was familiar to all who were associated with Washington. He it was who brought the pencil drawing, when, with the others, he called upon Mrs. Ross to hare a suitable flag made, and as we find no mention in history, records or diaries as to who made the drawing, it seems conclusive that be himself designed and drew the plan from his own coat of arms, which was entirely different from England’s colors which had become necessarily distasteful.

It seems fitting in this place to write a little history in regard to the Washington coat of arms, the earliest mention of which was by Lawrence Washington, worshipful mayor of Northampton, England, in 1532. In 1510 he placed it upon the porch of his manor house, and on the tomb of Ann, his wife, in 1564. At the old church at Brighton, England, the tombs of Washington’s ancestors are marked by memorial plates of brass bearing the arms of the family, which consisted of a shield that bore the stars and stripes. The Archeological Society of England, the highest authority on ancient churches and heraldic matters, states that from the red and white bars, and stars of this shield, and the raven issuant from its crest (borne later by General Washington), the framers of the constitution took their idea of the flag. When General Washington’s great-grandfather, Sir John Washington, came to this country in 1657, the family shield was brought with him. Sir John settled in Virginia, and established the American line of Washingtons. George Washington afterwards had it emblazoned upon the panels of his carriages, on his watch seals, book marks, and his dishes also bore the same emblem.


The accompanying plate shows the form and colors of the Coat of Arms of the Washington family, back as early as 1300.
The name first appeared as De Wessynton; then Weshyngton, and, finally, Washington.
How appropriately our own beautiful shield of the United States comes in here, and why not? was he not the “Father of Our Country”? and what more natural than that he should have left the imprint of his life and characteristics in symbol?
The central figure is a fac-simile of his book plate.

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