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The Stars and Stripes are Born with the Passing of the Flag Act on June 14, 1777

The Stars & Stripes are born! The Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

The Colors of Liberty

As symbolized in the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Val Brinkerhoff & Tom Cryer

Christ was born that he might die for us as the lamb of God. His sacrifice involved three colors tied to our ultimate liberty from sin, death, and hell. These three colors are reflected in the American flag, the design of which was given to a special committee put together to create the various emblems of this new nation in the 18th century. On September 13 of 1775 the Colonial Congress appointed this committee to design a new flag for the emerging free nation of America, then under the rule of Britain. The committee was made up of five men at the time. Eventually it would include a unique elderly gentleman called “the Professor”, and one woman by his request, making a total of seven members. They included:

  1. Benjamin Franklin, Chairman
  2. General George Washington
  3. Benjamin Harrison
  4. Thomas Lynch
  5. An unnamed additional male participant
  6. The Professor (Was this Francis Hopkinson?)
  7. And an unnamed female participant, the seventh

Betsy Ross was not the designer of the American flag, nor was Benjamin Franklin or George Washington, though the two men were on the original committee which approved it, the design of which was given the committee by “the Professor”. This mysterious stranger seemingly “came out of the blue” for the purpose of helping the American flag design come forth in an appropriate way for this new nation founded upon the principle of liberty. The Professor disappeared just as quickly.

The Professor: The flag committee met in Cambridge at an unspecified home on Dec. 13 of 1775. According to Robert Allen Campbell, there happened to be visiting there, “a very peculiar old gentleman who was a sojourner with the family”. Campbell states, “He was evidently far beyond his three score and ten years; and he often referred to historical events of more than a century previous just as if he had been a living witness of their occurrence; still he was erect, vigorous, and active – hale, hearty, and clear-minded – as strong and energetic in every way as in the mature prime of his life. He was tall, of fine figure, perfectly easy, and very dignified in his manners; being at once courteous, gracious and commanding. He was, for those times and considering the customs of the Colonists, very peculiar in his method of living; for he ate no flesh, fowl, or fish; he never used as food any “green thing,” any roots or anything unripe; and he drank no liquor, wine or ale; but confined his diet to cereals and their products, fruits that were ripened on the stem in the sun, nuts, mild tea and the sweets of honey, sugar or molasses. He was well educated, highly cultivated, of extensive as well as varied information, and very studious. He spent considerable of his time in the patient and persistent conning of a number of very rare old books, and ancient manuscripts, which he seemed to be deciphering, translating or rewriting. These books and manuscripts, together with his own writing, he never showed to any one; and he did not even mention them in his conversations with the family, except in the most casual way; and he always locked them up carefully in a large, old fashioned, cubically shaped, iron bound, heavy, oaken chest, whenever he left his room, even for his meals. He took long and frequent walks alone, sat on the brows of the neighboring hills, or mused in the midst of the green and flower-gemmed meadows. He was fairly liberal – but in no way lavish in spending his money, with which he was well supplied. He was a quiet, though a very genial and very interesting, member of the family; and he was seemingly at home upon any and every topic coming up in conversation. He was, in short, one whom everyone would notice and respect, whom few would feel well acquainted with, and whom no one would presume to question concerning himself – as to whence he came, why he tarried, or wither he journeyed”1

When the committee met with the host of the home, Benjamin Franklin recognized the nameless “Professor” and with the approval of all, made him a sixth member of the committee. The Professor’s first recommendation as a committee member was to suggest that a seventh member be added. He stated that, “by the introduction of an element that is usually objected to – in all national and political affairs. I refer to woman – the purifying and intuitional element of humanity”. This was an usual recommendation to a group of Freemasons who were used to excluding women from their meetings. Yet the committee, seeing that the female counterpart was a missing key, unanimously endorsed the suggestion and invited the hostess of the home to act as secretary in the committee. They then adjourned until the afternoon for a more formal session.

Previous to the afternoon meeting, Benjamin Franklin and the Professor met privately. As Franklin took the floor, he turned time over to the Professor, who subsequently presented his own design to the committee, giving reasons for its adoption. The Professor spoke with authority on the principles of allegiance and the determination of the colonists to secure justice and liberty from their mother country. He predicted that the rights the people hoped for could not be secured as British colonists, but only as united citizens of a free and independent American nation. He prophesied of the birth of this nation, and that it would rise above subordination to any other nation. He further prophesied that General Washington, in the months to come, would lead this new nation of liberty.3

The First Flag Design The Professor had a flag design ready to present to the committee. It contained both familiar and unique new elements in order to reflect the colonist’s allegiance to their mother country, and at the same time, a regard for the inevitable change of allegiance that was to come, apart from England. The familiar element was the Cross of St. George Union, adopted from the Cross of Christ used by the Christian armies of the crusades. The new feature of the flag was its field of 13 alternating red and white stripes, not seen in the American colonies. The stripes were common among the ancient Native Americans, however. The Professor was somehow a “living witness” to their use of this ancient symbol of blood and sacrifice on this land. The alternating red and white stripe design has been used by the Hopi in their ceremonial kilts. It is also found in pre-Columbian codices, as applied to the bodies of sacrificial victims, intended to be surrogates of “god himself”. The red stripes have clear ties to this land, a land redeemed by the shedding of blood.

The Professor provided a drawing with his suggested design, adding that the design mixing the Union Jack with new Native American stripes would be a temporary one, a way to transition from allegiance to England to complete independence. He then revealed, “There are other weightier and eternal reasons for a flag having the field [of stripes] I suggest”. He reserved further elaboration for a future point in time when the final design would be established. The Professor’s design featured thirteen alternating red and white stripes (7 red, 6 white) leading away from the Union Jack and its Cross of Christ. The committee enthusiastically endorsed it, especially General George Washington and committee chairman Benjamin Franklin. Following the meeting, a full-sized flag was made in strict accordance with the Professor’s drawing.

On January 2nd of 1776, at Cambridge, General Washington personally hoisted this new flag upon a “towering and specially raised pine tree liberty pole.” British officers, seeing if from afar, saluted it with thirteen hearty cheers and an official thirteen gun salute. This act became “one of the most singular, most mysterious and most prophetic procedures of Revolutionary days”. It would foreshadow the importance of the number 13 in the Great Seal of this nation (one dollar bill).

us-flag-01

New Independent Design: After the original Cambridge committee meeting, the Professor then privately presented to Washington and Franklin a new modified flag design to be used once the New American Nation took its place among the recognized governments of the world. The Professor then completely disappeared, never to be seen again. (See footnote 1 links for more information on the Professor.) This second design featured the removal of the Union Jack, replacing it with a square field of blue, upon which were thirteen white, five-pointed stars; one surrounded by twelve. The blood stripes no longer proceeded from a cross but from a field of stars representing heaven, with ties to the twelve stones of the twelve tribes of Israel, those Joshua set up at Gilgal (Josh. 4:20- 24). The Gilgal circle of stones was a reunion center, the place where all Israel gathered to renew the kingdom, receive a new leader, and review the history of the people (1 Sam. 11:14-15). This circular arrangement was secretly revealed by Jesus as He stood in the center while the twelve Apostles surrounded Him in a linked prayer circle. A similar order of prayer is utilized by Native Americans who dance in a circle around an altar of light – the sacred fire. It also mirrors the heavens above us, with thirteen signs of the zodiac revolving around the sun, our source of light. The divine design reflected both ancient Egyptian and Hebrew thinking. A pole with cloth streamers attached was a sign for God in ancient Egypt. The Hebrews utilized holy banners at the head of their armies and had inscriptions upon them denoting particular tribal symbols. The second flag design with the circle of twelve stars around one became the first official American flag, heralding the beginning of the nation’s independent existence – its liberty.

Betsy Ross was later asked to make this first official flag from a rough drawing given her by General Washington. Originally its stars were six-pointed, later changed to five-pointed stars more closely resembling the human body. One of the central themes of this flag (and the millennial 13-part kingdom symbols on the back of the one dollar bill) is the message, “IN GOD WE TRUST”. God created the Constitution of this land, utilizing wise men like Washington and4 Franklin whom He raised up for the purpose of establishing a new nation founded on the principle of liberty, liberty He provided all in the Atonement. This was the whole purpose of our Lord’s mission, to release the willing and repentant from sin, death, and hell with His own blood. The ties to God in the first American flag are now mostly forgotten and certainly politically incorrect in an increasingly secular world. They are no longer understood or taught.

The Three Colors of Liberty

The 5-pointed star at the center of 12 stars around it points to Christ in his role as Savior and King, possessing all knowledge, truth, and power; our Creator and Redeemer, the ruler over the whole earth. “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious…And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:10, 12, italics added). “And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the [12] stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land” (Zech 9:16, italics added). The blue and white colors of this Ensign to the Nations may symbolize the purity (white color) of those who rule with authority, authorized by the God of heaven (blue color, see chap. 9). The ensign represents a united people under God seeking truth and liberty (freedom to choose). The red represents the blood penalty portion of covenants.

christ-centered-flag-designs

cowpens-flag1First Official American Flag: As presented earlier, the first official American flag also featured 12 stars surrounding a 13th at center (above, center), but with the added red color in the cross design at left. It points to liberty obtained by blood, and the liberty of mankind obtained by the blood of Christ. Titled the Cowpens Flag, it was first used at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina in 1781. Accepted on June 3, 1877 in(5) Philadelphia, this flag design was approved by Congress and featured the now familiar 13 red and white colored stripes emerging from a heavenly blue field of 12 white stars, all surrounding a single 13th at center. Each of them are upright and 5-pointed. Because many of the early founding fathers were devout Christians, and many of them Freemasons (an organization traditionally supportive of faith in God until infiltrated by the Illuminati), it may be possible to connect this circular star pattern to the Twelve in Jerusalem surrounding Christ in a more divine form of government. The earlier Colonial flag used by George Washington features 2 intersecting crosses (like British flag-shown above), an early symbol for Christ. (The Cross of Christ used by crusaders made use of the single, 4-part red-cross. The 8-part ‘Union Jack’ motif resembles 8-part motifs in ancient Babylon and the 8-part star of the Sacramento California Temple. Both have relationship to 2 sets of 4 year Venus cycles (a common motif in Mesoamerica for example.) As discussed earlier, the origin of the two earliest American flags has ties to the mysterious “Professor”.

Color as a Symbol: for Life Sir Isaac Newton proved that light makes color possible. It serves as a flag for life, enlivening our planet and renewing life each spring. We see this as colors burst forth in the spring and then fade as winter approaches. In representing life, color points us towards Christ, who is not only the light of the world, but also, “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He demonstrated this literally when he brought Lazarus back to life in Bethany. He promises life after death to all through the resurrection, and eternal life to those who are obedient. He stated, “In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally” (Ether 3:14). Color is life.

Red, White & Blue

2 Sets of 3 Witnesses: Hungering after light and knowledge leads to searching and finding. Thirsting after righteousness was taught in the Bible in Mathew 5:6, where it reads, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Filled with the living water of Christ! Water reflects the blue sky and relieves thirst, but does not provide nutrition. Red wine provides some nutrients, yet is not complete. White milk, on the other hand can sustain life indefinitely. There are increasing levels of seeking and finding that lead to greater light – to Jesus Christ.

star-symbolism

Three Witnesses: From heaven these 3 witnesses are God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost: “there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). There are also 3 complimentary witnesses on the earth; “there are three that bear witness in the earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John 5:8).

In ancient Israel red (scarlet), white, and blue served to separate the covenant people from the outside world. Blue, for example, consistently pointed to God’s priesthood power and its purifying effects in separating the righteous Israelites from the gentiles. White was associated with purity and cleanliness, of becoming justified through his spirit. Red symbolized the sanctifying blood of the future Christ via the substitute animal sacrifices at the temple. Each pointed to the Savior’s last, great sacrifice in the winepress of Gethsemane—the red blood covering His body there (and our sins), and shed at the later scourging, and upon the cross. All 3 colors came together in the High Priest’s clothing as well as the ancient temple veil. In his daily service, the High Priest wore blue priesthood robes over white undergarments (Exodus 39:22). On the Day of Atonement, however, he replaced the blue robe with all white clothing for his entrance into the Holy of Holies.6 (He also wore only white during the rare red heifer sacrifice.) He then sprinkled the scarlet blood of the sacrifice upon the Ark, for himself, his family, and all Israel.7 Upon completing this service, his white robes were covered in red blood, mirroring the bloodstained clothing of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His return at the Second coming dressed in the red robes of judgment.8

Birth, baptism (re-birth), and the ancient covenants of the temple involve the 3 elements of water, spirit and blood coming together; apparent symbols for each member of the Godhead as a witness, in conjunction with purification, justification, and finally sanctification. The names of all 3 members of the Godhead are invoked in 3 of the gospel’s most important priesthood ordinances. The first, baptism, is performed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). These 3 names—as witnesses— also appears to be found in the word Ahmen ending these prayers.10

The 12 stars surrounding a thirteenth star resembles a temple baptismal font atop 12 oxen (examples: Molten Sea, the Baptismal Font at St. Bartholmew’s Church, and the LDS Salt Lake Temple. The 3 colors of the flag appear to signal our journey towards perfection through Christ, pointing out the need for

  1. The blue waters of purification used in baptism (administered by the priesthood of God the Father);
  2. The white purity of justification, granted by sealing the promised blessings upon the righteous (originally promised in the anointing), through the Holy Spirit of Promise, and
  3. The red blood of sanctification (provided in the Savior’s mediating Atonement).

As we perfect ourselves through His grace and mercy, we may then receive Him as the Second Comforter. Exaltation is only possible with this last step of sanctification. Some who have witnessed our Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane claim they saw the Master in clothing with these three colors. They state He wore robes of blue and white color, stained in red color of His own blood.

End Notes

  1. Robert Allen Campbell, Our Flag or The Evolution of the Stars and Stripes, Chicago, 1890, p. 37 (see also pages 50, 51 & 61), cited in Tom Cryer, Visual Testament, self-published, p. 78. Who is the Professor? Some believe he may be the translated being John the Beloved. More on Campbell here and here.
    • 13 Stripes Of the 13 stripes on the American flag, the 6 white stripes and the 7 red stripes may both have reference to purity, as supplied in the Atonement by Christ’s blood. Isaiah stated that “with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5. See also 1 Peter 2:24). His body was also scourged with stripes (perhaps 39 of them) before he was placed on the cross (John 19:1). The Hopi connect red stripes with blood from heaven in association with the Son of God, and revelation (rain from clouds) with white stripes. The stripes are seen in both the Hopi ceremonial kilt and pre-Columbian codices. In the codices these stripes were applied to the bodies of sacrificial victims intended to be surrogates for “God himself.” (Krickeberg, 50:51, in Tom Cryer, Visual Testament, pps. 78, 82.) Scourging, a type of whipping in ancient Israel, often involved the use of a cord with 3 separate ends that laid down 3 stripes on the skin simultaneously. The Apostle Paul stated, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one” (2 Corinthians 11:24.
      Hence to get 40 stripes “minus one”, one has only to strike the condemned 13 times. A total of 39 stripes was the norm as part of the maximum penalty for various crimes for they were never to exceed 40, the number for “purification.” (See Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Hendrickson Publishers, p. 43. See also Frankel and Teutsch, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, Jason Aaronson Inc., p. 175.)
    • 13 Stars The Early US Flag (first official flag), LDS Kingdom of God Flag, and the U.S. Medal of Honor (for the Navy, Army and Air Force) all feature 13 Stars on them – normally one larger star surrounded by 12 smaller stars. The flags also feature 13 alternating stripes (red and white or blue and white).
    • 13 Lights: 12 Lights around 1 The 12 Signs of the Zodiac circle around the Sun over the course of “the Great Year” (the Precession of the Equinoxes – 25,920 years). All things testify of Christ, the Great Creator God who sits enthroned in the midst of it all. Like the sun, He is the light and the life of the world.
    • Christ Surrounded by the 12 Apostles Christ often stood in the middle of the 12 Apostles, the number 13 associated with divine governance (the number 12 throughout scripture and the human body is tied to governance – we have 12 systems governing our bodies, including the respiratory, endocrine and nervous systems, etc.)
    • The Temple Surrounded by the 12 Tribes The ancient Tabernacle (13th object) was set up in the middle of the 12 Tribes of Israel each time it was moved (3 each in the north, south, east and west).
    • 13 Tribes There are 8 Sets of 13 objects found on the back of the U.S. one dollar bill. These are tied to ancient Israel and specifically to the 13th Tribe of Israel (or Jacob) – Manasseh, those mostly in the New World (America). This is seen in the symbolism on the back of the One Dollar bill. Many believe this is Masonic, when in reality, much of it is Biblical. Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh received the Patriarchal blessing of Joseph’s father Jacob, along with Joseph’s 11 brothers. Ephraim takes the place of Joseph as the 11th son (Benjamin was the 12th), and Manasseh then becomes the 13th Tribe. The symbols for Manasseh included the olive branch and the arrow, 13 of which are held in each of the two feet of the eagle on the Great Seal. Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh of the New World) will eventually be united with the Judah of the Old World in the last days (see Ezekiel 37). They will lead out as the two primary tribes, Judah with rights of Kingship and Joseph with rights to the Priesthood. America is the land of Manasseh, the 13th tribe, that of Lehi and his posterity who were promised this land.
    • 13 Gifts: There are 13 Gifts of the Spirit listed in D&C 46 (the 13th is the gift of Eternal Life).
    • 13 Petals: Most red [blood] roses have 13 petals (5 larger outer petals [life] and 8 smaller inner petals [rebirth]), The rose and its red color are both closely tied to Christ as the loving God who shed his blood for us.
    • 13 Orbits: Venus orbits the sun 13 times in 8 years. (The numbers 3, 5, 8 and 13 are sequential in the Fibonacci Sequence of “creation” numbers found throughout nature.)
    • 13 Moons: There are 13 New Moons in the Year (12 months of 28 days each)
      13 Articles: The 13 Articles of Faith mirror in content the 13 Steps of progression into the Divine Presence of Messiah (13th letter).
    • 13 Places: There are 13 Places of blessing upon the body (anointing), for the purpose of reversing the “blows of death.” The human body is the temple of our Spirit or Soul.
    • 13th Letter: Messiah is the 13th Letter of the Hebrew Alphabet (it is a timeline of the earth – with God as #1 and judgment at the end as #22); Messiah came in the meridian or “middle” of this alphabet of time – #13. Note the beginning, middle, and end below in red.gematria
  2. B.H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:275-78
  3. See Journal of Mormon History, vol. 9, pp. 85-111, David L. Bigler, Forgotten Kingdom, p. 48, John D. Lee Journal, January 13, 1846, Church Historical Department, and Wilford Woodruff Journal, May 29, 1847, Church Historical Department.
  4. Parley P. Pratt, Spirituality: Key to the Science of Theology, Cedar Fort, p. 71, italics added.
  5. Dallin H. Oaks, “Jesus Christ is the Light, Life, and Hope of the World“, Ensign, Dec. 2008, p. 59.
  6. He was to bathe his whole body before putting these all white clothes on, not just cleansing his hands and feet as normal.
  7. See Hebrews 9:3-7; Leviticus 16:23, 26-32; Numbers 29:11.
  8. The work of Israel’s high priests (Exodus 25:4; 28:33) represented Christ, the great High Priest (Hebrews 3:1).
  9. This last ordinance is that granting the Fullness of the priesthood, often called “the Second Anointing.” Water, blood and spirit are all connected to cleansing. The earth was cleansed in the watery flood of Noah. Christ’s atoning blood was absorbed into the earth at Gethsemane, the scourging, and the cross, helping to purge it. The earth will be cleansed by fire at the Lord’s second coming.
  10. The word Amen, or rather Ahmen provides another witness of the Godhead. Sampson believes that AH (or Ah) is symbolic of the great bull or sire, the first being holding supreme power, that ME (or M) is symbolic of the owl (Messiah), who will come in the meridian of time, and that N (or eN) is symbolic of the hawk, a speedy, winged messenger, angels or the Holy Ghost.

 

Elizabeth Griscom (Betsy) Ross (1752-1836), was a Philadelphia seamstress, married to John Ross, an upholsterer who was killed in a munitions explosion in 1776. She kept the upholstery shop going and lived on Arch Street, not too far from the State House on Chestnut, where history was being made almost every day. According to most historians, she has been incorrectly credited with designing the first Stars and Stripes. The story has enormous popularity, yet the facts do not substantiate it. Lets begin with the legend itself.

George Washington was a frequent visitor to the home of Mrs. Ross before receiving command of the army. She embroidered his shirt ruffles and did many other things for him. He knew her skill with a needle. Now the General of the Continental Army, George Washington appeared on Mrs. Ross’s dooorstep around the first of June, 1776, with two representatives of Congress, Colonel Ross and Robert Morris. They asked that she make a flag according to a rough drawing they carried with them. At Mrs. Ross’s suggestion, Washington redrew the flag design in pencil in her back parlor to employ stars of five points instead of six. (“Her version” of the flag for the new republic was not used until six years later.)

This account of the creation of our first flag was first brought to light in 1870 by one of her grandsons, William J. Canby, at a meeting of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. This took place 94 years after the event supposedly took place! Mr. Canby was a boy of eleven years when Mrs. Ross died in his home.

In the many years since the story was told, numerous historians have conducted vigorous searches into extant government records, personal diaries, and writings of Washington and his contemporaries and none of them have been able to verify the claims of Canby. One verifiable fact is this; the minutes of the State Navy Board of Pennsylvania for May 29, 1777, say in part “An order on William Webb to Elizabeth Ross for fourteen pounds twelve shillings, and two pence, for making ship’s colors, & put into Richards store”. The minutes show that Elizabeth Ross made ship’s colors for Pennsylvania state ships. Some of the facts, among others, that have been discovered by this research that cast doubt on Canby’s claim are these; He asserted that the stars and stripes were in common if not general use soon after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, nearly a year before the resolution of Congress proclaiming the flag. There is no record of the flag being discussed or of a committee being appointed for the design of the flag in either the Journals of the Continental Congress or the diaries and writings of Washington around this time. Meetings with Colonel Ross and Robert Morris cannot be documented. Further, it is illogical to assume that Washington was present at the alleged meeting with Betsy Ross on the design of the flag when it is known that he wanted a national standard made for the use of the army in 1779.

birth-of-our-nations-flagBut I think that the question that begs to be asked is; Why have so many generations of Americans come to accept this legend as fact? After Canby’s death, a book written by his brother George Canby and nephew Lloyd Balderson was published in 1909. The book, The Evolution of the American Flag, presented in more detail the claims for Betsy Ross made by William Canby in 1870. Among other things, the authors describe the formation of the Betsy Ross Memorial Association, and reproduced a painting by Charles H. Weisgerber depicting the alleged meeting of the committee of Congress with Betsy Ross. The picture, entitled Birth of Our Nations Flag (left), is actually a composite portrait made up of from pictures of her granddaughters and other descendants. The artist took liberties with history by painting the stars in the flag in a circle. This painting, incidentally, stirred a great deal of public interest in the subject when it was first exhibited, at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Following this, money to purchase the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia was raised by selling ten-cent subscriptions to the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association, incorporated in 1898. Each contributor received a certificate of membership that included a picture of the house, her grave in Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia, and a color reproduction of the Weisberger painting. This campaign gave the legend wide publicity and the Weisberger painting was reproduced in school history textbooks throughout the United States!

In the days of Betsy Ross we did not have the benefit of a frenetic press corps to witness, probe, and record the events of the day. Careful historians do not accept the legend and neither should we. At the same time, there often seems to be a wistful regret, best expressed, perhaps, by President Woodrow Wilson when asked his opinion of the story. He replied, “Would that it were true!

Perhaps the real designer of the first US flag

If the story of the professor and Betsy Ross are myths, then perhaps the real designer of the first US flag is Francis Hopkinson. Francis Hopkinson was a popular patriot, a lawyer, a Congressman from New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, poet, artist, and distinguished civil servant. He almost certainly was the person who designed the first Stars and Stripes. In a letter to the Board of Admiralty in 1780 Hopkinson asserted that he had designed “the flag of the United States of America” as well as several ornaments, devices, and checks appearing on bills of exchange, ship papers, the seals of the boards of Admiralty and Treasury, and the Great Seal of the United States. Hopkinson had received nothing for this work, and now he submitted a bill and asked “whether a Quarter Cask of the public wine” would not be a reasonable and proper reward for his labors.

The Board forwarded the letter to Congress, which referred it to the Board of Treasury. Apparently acting on a request from Congress, Hopkinson sent a detailed bill on June 6th, and it was sent to the auditor general, James Milligan. He sent it to the commissioners of the Chamber of Accounts, who replied six days later on June 12th that they were of the opinion that the charges were reasonable and ought to be paid. Milligan gave the report a favorable endorsement and passed it on to the Board of Treasury. The board now raised objections and returned the bill to the auditor general on the grounds that no vouchers were included with the bill. Hopkinson now submitted a new copy of his bill and itemized each charge and it was rejected once again, and the auditor asked once more for its favorable consideration. After another round of referral through the departments, the board filed the correspondence and did nothing for two and half months.

Fed up with the delay, Hopkinson wrote to Charles Lee, the secretary of the Board of Treasury, accusing him of lying about having received the amended bill and delaying the settlement of his claim. Lee failed to satisfy Hopkinson, and the latter sent to Congress a list of charges against the board.

Just as in our modern times, Congress appointed a committee to investigate the matter. The various government officers concerned with the claim appeared before the committee at its request. Only the men of the Board of Treasury ignored the summons. In its report to Congress, the committee recommended that the present board be dismissed.

Congress sent the report back to the committee for further consideration and another investigation and another report followed. In its second report the committee noted that this time the members of the Board of Treasury answered the summons, but frequently tried to dictate the way in which the investigation should be made. The committee felt that the Treasury should be directed by a single individual responsible to Congress, but made no recommendation in regard to Hopkinson’s claim. The matter remained unsettled until August 23rd,1781, when Congress passed a resolution asking that the claim be acted on. Meanwhile, Hopkinson had grown weary of the controversy and on July 23rd, 1781, he resigned his office as Treasurer of Loans. One of Hopkinsons chief opponents on the board of Treasury resigned the same day.

Between the first and second report of the committee the Board of Treasury gave its own report to Congress on the history of the Hopkinson claim. Aside from the lack of vouchers, the members of the board knew that “Hopkinson was not the only person consulted” on the matter of designs and therefore could not rightly claim the whole amount, and in addition, the board felt that the public was entitled to these extra services from men who drew high salaries.

Though Hopkinson’s political adversaries blocked all attempts to have him paid for his services, they never denied that he made the designs. The journals of the Continental Congress clearly show that he designed the flag. The design of the first Stars and Stripes by Hopkinson had the thirteen stars arranged in a “staggered” pattern technically known as quincuncial because it is based on the repetition of a motif of five units. This arrangement inevitably results in a strongly diagonal effect. In a flag of thirteen stars, this placement produced the unmistakable outline of the crosses of St. George and of St. Andrew, as used together on the British flag. Whether this similarity was intentional or accidental, it may explain why the plainer fashion of placing the stars in three parallel rows was preferred by many Americans over the quincuncial style.

 

Sources: USFlag.org; 7witnesses.com

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