We hang it. We fly it. We pledge our allegiance to it.
But how, exactly, did it come to be?
Today is June 14—Flag Day—commemorating 238 years since the official adoption of our nation’s flag.
It’s a familiar sight. Thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red and white. A blue rectangle bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars.
But it hasn’t always looked this way.
In fact, the design of the flag has been modified 26 times since 1777. Some, like the “Betsy Ross” flag, are familiar. Others, like the “Fort Sumter” flag, are not.
To help you celebrate, here are five facts you may not know about our stars and stripes.
1: Betsy Ross did not design the first American flag.
The paragraph above is technically incorrect. Historians have found no evidence to prove Betsy Ross’ involvement in designing the flag. Most believe her grandson spread the story 100 years after the fact.
"Betsy Ross" Flag
"Fort Sumpter" Flag
2: It's not illegal to burn the flag—it's recommended.
Despite what you think, it’s your First Amendment right to burn the flag, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1989. Additionally, the U.S. Flag Code encourages flag burning (along with a ceremony) when a flag is damaged beyond the point of display.
3: The first American flag was kind of British.
George Washington and his men didn’t fly Old Glory during the Revolutionary War. The flag used by his forces was the Continental Colors, which had 13 red and white stripes and the Union Jack in upper left corner.
4: The Pledge of Allegiance was meant for Christopher Columbus.
The pledge was written in 1892 (in Boston) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to the New World. Since then, the Pledge’s words have been changed three times.
5: Our current flag was designed by a pimply, teenage boy.
A 17-year-old high school student (Bob Heft of Lancaster, Ohio) created the 50-star-spangled flag we hang and love. Originally made for his 11th grade history class in 1958–Bob’s famous design was initially graded a B-minus.