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The United States Flag is a symbol of freedom and liberty that is recognized around the world but the truth of its design origin is clouded in many myths that need to be cleared up for the sake of history and to give rightful acknowledgment to the original designers and visionaries who created this iconic symbol.
The Red Ensign of the British Navy
There are many twisting bits of history that evolved the design but it all started with the "Red Ensign" (naval flag) that the Colonies were required to fly which had the Union Jack in the upper corner of a red flag.
This partitioning of the flag into "quartered" sections was the template of our modern flag today and is easily recognizable roots with the upper right section being separate from the rest of the design.
By the end of 1775, during the first year of the American Revolutionary War, the colonies needed a flag to unite their forces under.
The Grand Union Flag
It is not known for certain when or by whom the design of the Grand Union Flag was created, but the flag could easily be produced by sewing white stripes onto the British Red Ensigns.
The 13 stripes represented the 13 colonies and is a design element that still carries over to the contemporary US Flag and featured on the "Stars and Stripes Mighty Wallet".
The "Grand Union Flag" was the first national flag of the United States before the Declaration of Independence!
However the new design was not seen by the British forces as an overtly revolutionary threat and so a more radical design change was proposed to rid the flag of the Union Jack entirely.
The first Stars and Stripes by Francis Hopkinson
It was in 1777 that Francis Hopkinson, a Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, created a flag with stars to replace the British Union Jack that the first iteration of the "Stars & Stripes" concept was created.
Hopkinson also created The Great Seal of the United States and was an original designer of the first US currencies that depicted the iconic symbols of our currency today.
This quintessential design decision to use stars to represent the different colonies over a patch of blue is what gives the United States Flag its unique identity recognized around the world.
History is very clear in the recognition of the flags design by Francis Hopkinson and there are lots of congressional records of his seeking payment for the design with "a Quarter Cask of the public Wine" but he was continually denied payment which lead to such frustration that he left public office.
Evolutions of the first US Flag til today
Since the first US flag by Hopkinson the evolution of the design has taken on many variation of placements and numbers of stars and their patterns yet has never derivated from the Hopkinson design.
Debunking The Betsy Ross Myth
Despite ample evidence crediting Hopkinson for the design there is this persistent myth of Betty Ross as the creator of the flag.
This confusion comes from the use of the word "make" which is confused with "designed". In fact Ross was commissioned to fabricate the First flags as a seamstress but she was not hired to "design the flag". There is no evidence of her involvement with its design.
This is the equivalent of crediting a factory which produces a Mighty Wallets for inventing the original Tyvek Wallet design simply because they produced the first batch of wallets.
Modern scholars have debunked this myth as there is no evidence from the time period to back up the story that was that was told by descendants of the Ross family without any documentation.
A more likely contribution that Ross made to the flag was a brilliant and efficient design of its stars switching them from 6 points to a 5-point star with a special folding pattern of white material that would allow a seamstress to create a star with one cut of the fabric.
Ross was most likely hired as the producer of the flag and probably did make modifications to make the design easier to produce but was not the designer of the first US Flag.
So if anyone ever tells you the Myth of Ross set the record straight with Francis Hopkinson, a founding father as the actual designer of the US Flag.
Some defenders of the Ross myth make a claim that no drawings of Hopkinson's design survived so there is no "proof" that he was behind the first US Flag but consider this;
There is never any argument made by congress that Hopkinson did not create the first flag when he was petitioning payment. His adversaries in congress were seeking to delay payment to him for any variety of reasons* and if there were any question as to his authorship of the first flag it would have been their primary argument.
* because he also included the Great Seal in the list of items he designed whereas there were several designers who contributed to the seal.
The Importance of Crediting Originality and Historical Contributions
Hopkinson is still not widely recognized as the original designer of the first US Flag and we owe it to our own history and national pride as American Citizens to build on the great ideas of our founders by honoring them.
As the designer of the 1st wallet made with origami Tyvek I've had many designers and companies come along and claim that they were "the original Tyvek Wallet" but so many are just uncreative hacks trying to make a buck.
How do customers who buy a knock off even know that theirs is not the original? By giving witness and not letting fakes take credit. So many of you actually go on those posts and speak truth and I greatly appreciate you doing that.
It's vital that we stand up for original creative design because it's a force for innovation and change in our society and culture. There are too many inventors and creators who go uncredited for their contributions and we should lift them up and honor them lest history forget who brought us here.