Fun United States Flag Facts

September 16, 2014

800px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svg_The red, white, and blue, of the American flag is a common sight, but how much do you really know about the flag?

We all remember that the fifty stars of the American flag represent all fifty states, and the thirteen stripes represent the thirteen original colonies.  We learned that in grade school (if you were awake for that lesson).But why the colors red, white, and blue? Why not green, purple, and gold? For one, that would make one ugly flag, and two, it just wouldn’t make much sense. There are a few theories on why the flag is the colors of red, white, and blue. One theory is that red came from the British colors (the redcoats), white to represent secession from Great Britain, and blue with stars to represent the sky. The most likely explanation is the flag’s colors were borrowed from the Union Jack flag of England and they looked good together. But what of their meaning? Back in 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress set what the flag should look like. They didn’t, however, give the colors any meaning.

It wasn’t until 1782, when Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, presented the seal of the United States to Congress. He said the red of the seal signified hardiness and valor, blue signified vigilance, perseverance, and justice, and white signified innocence and purity. This was accepted not only for the seal, but also the flag. Over the years others have slightly changed the meaning behind the colors (red for blood spilled in defending the nation and/or gaining independence, for example).

800px US Flag Backlit
Jnn13/Wikimedia Commons

There are so many interesting facts about the flag; how it should be flown, where it should be flown, how it should be folded and stored, rules about its use, and so on. There are complete books on just these items. What I wondered was where is the flag displayed twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. There aren’t many, and all of those places had either a presidential proclamation or a public law giving them permission to do so. Of course there are probably some other places that do fly the flag all the time, but these places don’t have a specific law or presidential proclamation to do so. Here’s the list of those places with a proclamation or law attached to flying the flag all the time:       

-The White House
            -The Washington Monument
            -The United States Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima)
            -Flag House Square (Baltimore, Maryland)
            -Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Baltimore, Maryland)
            -On the Green of the town of Lexington (Massachusetts)
            -United States Customs Ports of Entry
            -Grounds of the National Memorial Arch (Valley Forge State Park, Pennsylvania)

Apollo15flagroverLMIrwinNow, where is one more place that the flag flies 24/7?  Give up?  The Moon.  There are six flags on the moon, and all but one is still standing.  The first one set, by Armstrong and Aldrin, is no longer upright.  Buzz Aldrin confirmed they had placed the flag to close to the lunar module and blew it away as they lifted from the lunar surface.  Bummer, huh?  Another bummer is that the flags still on the moon no longer look like American flags.  They have become plain, old, white flags after being blasted over the years by intense UV rays and changes between hot and cold on the moon’s surface.  What do expect from flags that were made from nylon in New Jersey in 1969 for a mere $5.50 a piece?  Five continue to not wave in the vacuum of space but are still standing.  Even though you can’t tell they’re American flags it seems to be not such a bad return on the investment, don’t you think?

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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