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This past month, the creator of the 50 stars American flag, Robert G. Haft, passed away at 67 years old. Haft created the flag as a school project in 1958 and his design was chosen by President Eisenhower. Alaska and Hawaii were going to be added in 1959 and, as in the tradition of American flags prior, the amount of stars changed every time a new state was added. As a school project, the 50 stars and 13 stripes flag made by Haft took 12 hours to sew on a sewing machine.

But while this flag has been standard since 1959, it changed several times before then during the 19th and 20th centuries. In most cases, the aspect of the flag that changed was the stars which, on a blue field, represented all of the states in the Union. As the United States went westward according to Manifest Destiny and created territories, these territories eventually became states with enough population. Once a territory became a state, a star was added to the flag and, in several cases, a few stars were added at a time, changing the formation on the flag in a 150-year period.

One exception to this rule was early in the flag’s history. While many think of the changing American flag in stars alone, early designs for the flag included both stars and stripes changing. The earliest design of the flag included thirteen stripes and stars to represent the thirteen colonies and, soon after, thirteen states of the Union. By the time Vermont and Kentucky were added to the Union in 1795, both stars and stripes increased to 15. By 1818, the design went back to 13 stripes to represent the original colonies and the stars, which numbered 20 at the time, to represent the current states in the union.

Although the US currently has various outlying territories in the Pacific Ocean, none of these are anticipated to become states and, thus, change the current formation of the US flags. Regardless of where you see American flags displayed and for what occasion, all now display Haft’s design, unless the flag is an older formation used in a historical context.

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