Our “Star-Spangled Banner” has been in the news quite a lot lately, thanks to the actions (or inactions) of a certain out-of-work NFL quarterback. The symbol of our nation has been reviled - but also continues to be revered, even by those who are not American citizens. As we reported here, Iranians took great pains to not trample our American flag during protests against their government for the downing of the civilian jet.
At Nine Line, as you know (or should by now), we revere our flag for a host of reasons, chiefly among them that it’s uniquely American, with all that entails. We are unabashedly patriotic and proud to be uniquely American as well. We endeavor where possible to produce and offer products made in America. And we are constantly creating new designs to honor our flag.
But enough about us.
Herewith are 8 things we’re guessing you didn’t know about the American flag.
1. The story about Betsy Ross designing the first flag has never been proven.
This may be kind of a “there is no Santa Claus” moment, but it was nearly 100 years after the debut of the first flag that Betsy Ross was even mentioned. Most of what we know about the Betsy Ross legend came from her grandson, William Canby. There’s nothing to say it DIDN’T happen the way he described it, but equally there’s nothing to say it did.
2. No one knows exactly why red, white and blue were chosen, but their significance was explained retroactively.
In 1782, Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson explained the significance explained the colors during the design of the official seal of the U.S.:
“The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valour, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice."
3. Yes, the flag has 13 stripes, but for 23 years it actually had 15.
The flag started out with one stripe and one star for each of the 13 states. Then Vermont and Kentucky were added to the union and the flag needed its first major redesign. Two stars were added to the blue field to represent the new states but designers also added two stripes. The 15-star, 15-stripe flag existed from 1795 until 1818, when five more states were added. The designers at the time realized adding more stripes would quickly become a problem, so they dropped the number of stripes back to 13, where they are today.
4. The Flag Code is an actual law, but there’s no penalty for breaking it.
President Roosevelt signed The U.S. Flag Code into law on June 22, 1942. It’s filed under Title 18 of the U.S. Code ("Crimes and Criminal Procedure"), but the Flag Code is really more of an etiquette guide than anything else.
5. The flag has its own specific Pantone Colors.
The Pantone Matching System is a st andardized system that allows designers and manufacturers to "color match" specific colors based on their numeric designation. The official Pantone swatches for the red and blue of the American flag are Blue 282 and Red 193.
6. The world’s largest American flag weighs 3,000 pounds.
The “Superflag” measures 255 by 505 feet needs 600 people to unfurl it. You may have seen the Superflag at the Super Bowl and World Series, but it’s also displayed at military events and parades.
7. “Old Glory” was the name given to an actual flag by its owner during the Civil War.
William Driver, a sea captain from Massachusetts gave the name to his 10-by-17 foot flag. Supposedly, Driver’s flag survived multiple attempts to destroy it during the Civil War. Once the war ended, Driver was able to fly his flag over the Tennessee Statehouse. Driver’s flag still exists. It is the primary artifact at the National Museum of American History and was last displayed in Tennessee in 2006.
8. Flag sales rise and fall depending on current events.
When opposition to the Vietnam War was at an all-time high, demand for American flags plummeted. But by 1976, flag demand was booming, thanks to America's bicentennial. Flag sales rose again after 9/11, and jumped again in 2016. Typical election years don’t give the flag industry a significant bump in sales, but 2016 was far from typical.
Around 64 percent of Americans own an American flag.
We’re working on getting 64 percent of Americans to own a Nine Line garment with the flag on it. Want to help us…?