The History of the American Flag

By Lauren Wanko

At the Harold Daley VFW Post 1333, the American flag is proudly displayed over the streets of Asbury Park.

“I still get goose pimples every time they play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ I salute it every time I see it,” said past Commander George Reed.

The American flag’s story began nearly 240 years ago, when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution in 1777.

“Basically it outlined what the flag would include so it stipulated that it would have 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 stars indicating the 13 colonies,” said Andy Urban of Rutgers University.

In the late 1800s, Betsy Ross’s grandson claimed she sewed the first flag. But Urban speculates a New Jersey delegate was responsible for the flag’s creation.

“A better bet in terms of the candidate for the designer of the first flag would be Francis Hopkinson, who was a resident of Bordentown. He had a history and background of designing various insignias,” Urban said.

At the time there wasn’t a specific design template for the flag.

“It wasn’t until 1942 that Congress passes a specific code for not only the maintenance and handling of flag, but for all of its dimensions,” Urban said.

It wasn’t popular to display the American flag until the 1860s.

“It’s really not until the Civil War that you see the flag enter into what I would call mass national culture where it’s produced,” said Urban.

Today, American flags line neighborhoods nationwide.

Harold Daley VFW Post 1333 members used to drive through Asbury Park and look for homes displaying the American flag. When they spotted one, they would mail residents a Patriotic Citizen award.

As more states joined the union, more stars were added. But the colors — red, white and blue — remained.

“The white was meant to symbolize virtue and innocence of the new nation. Red was supposed to symbolize vigor, courage, valor, especially of the Army itself. Blue was meant to symbolize justice, preservation and the various principals that the new nation stood for,” Urban said.

At VFW Post 1333, members haven’t lost sight of that symbolism.

“I think today more than anything with the division that separates so many of our people, I think that we can all rally around the flag to unite us. And if we all do that then the pledge that we say, ‘One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’ may not be a slogan but a reality,” said Chaplain Lou Parisi.

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