There are many flags (often with several versions of each) that may have been used in American history. It was not until 1912 that the U.S. flag's design was standardized by an act of Congress. Before the first flag act of June 14, 1777 Americans fought under a variety of banners, none of which had "official" status. Flags that were used were hand made and each could be expected to vary somewhat according to the flag maker's ideas and those of whoever commissioned the making of the flag.
Several early flags are variations of the British "Meteor" flag, which was in common usage throughout the colonies. This flag had a red field with the two crosses of the Union Jack in the canton. The Continental Colors was made by adding white stripes to this British flag. The New England Flag took the crosses out of the canton and replaced them with a pine tree or Liberty Tree symbol. Other flags were variations on popular themes or symbols of the day.
The Historic Flags listed below are on display and available for loan to the Public. Fill out the application to reserve the flags for your special event.
New England Flag
The New England Flag, also known as the Continental or Bunkerhill flag is an adaptation of the flag used by England in the colonies. This flag has a red field with a white canton bearing a pine tree, which is a symbol for the famous Liberty Tree that the "Sons of Liberty" met under.
It is also known as the Bunkerhill flag, because it is portrayed in a famous painting as being flown by the Colonists at the battle of Bunkerhill.
The Fort Moultrie Flag was named after Colonel William Moultrie who repelled a British invasion on Sullivan Island in South Carolina on June 28, 1776. The fort on Sullivan Island was then renamed after its valiant commander. Today, South Carolina has a state flag very similar to this one.
It is named after General Washington, who in the fall of 1775 outfitted six schooners for war, at his own expense. The motto "AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN" shows that the Colonists were relying on a higher power to save them from a very strong military power. Washington's Cruisers is another flag that uses the Liberty tree symbol. This flag has a white background with a large green liberty tree in the center. It also has a caption "AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN."
The Bennington flag, also known as the Vermont flag, according to an oral family tradition, was used at a battle in Bennington, Vermont on August 16, 1777, by Nathaniel Fillmore, grandfather of U.S. President Millard Fillmore. Its arrangement of Stars in the canton would have been acceptable under the first flag law.
Betsy Ross Flag
The Betsy Ross flag, also known as the First Stars and Stripes: In 1870 Betsy Ross' grandson presented a paper to the Philadelphia Historical Society, which was the first public presentation of the story of Betsy Ross and the first official flag. On June 14, 1777, Congress adopted an official national flag. Since the law was not specific on the arrangement of the stars, there were many different star arrangements on U.S. flags until the law was mended in 1912
First Navy Jack
The First Navy Jack also known as the "Continental Navy Jack" bears the rattlesnake symbol made popular by Benjamin Franklin. It has seven white and six red stripes. It is reported to have been used as early as 1775. The motto "DON'T TREAD ON ME" is a warning to the British.
Grand Union or Continental Colors
The Grand Union or Continental Colors flag is considered to be the first flag of the United States, and began flying at General Washington's headquarters just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, on January 1, 1776. This flag was made by placing white stripes on the red field of the British Meteor flag used in the colonies.
The Gadsden Flag: Commodore Esek Hopkins used this flag as Commander of the New Continental Fleet early in 1776. The Gadsden flag was named after Colonel Christopher Gadsden, who made a copy of Hopkins' flag, which he then presented to Congress.
Star Spangled Banner
The Star Spangled Banner received its name because a 30 by 42 foot version of this flag was flying over Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814 when the British attacked. The awe-inspiring site of this huge flag and the tremendous bombardment that it and the fort survived inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner, which later became our national anthem. This flag with fifteen stripes was used between 1795 and 1818. This was the only time that our flag had more than thirteen stripes.