just wondering

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Flag Discussion' started by jjo1985, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. jjo1985

    jjo1985 New Member

    ive heard there are 2 american flags,the one we see daily,is the battle flag.the other is a peace flag.if this is true,what does it look like?
  2. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    The United States has one national flag and ensign, the Stars and Stripes. You may be referring to the misconception that we have a military flag and a civil flag where the stripes on the military flag are horizontal and those on the civil flag are vertical. This B.S. comes from anti-government groups who take a statement by Nathanial Hawthorne in one of his novels. Hawthorne worked for a time in the U.S. Customs House in Salem, Massachusetts (just a few blocks from the House of Seven Gables he made so famous.) Hawthorne was referring to the United States Revnue Ensign (now known as the Customs Flag) when he wrote in his introduction to The Scarlet Letter: "the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military, post of Uncle Sam's government is here established."

    Hawthorne correctly noted that the vertical stripes were intended to differentiate the Revenue Service flag from the National Flag and Ensign, but his implication that the flag with horizontal stripes is exclusively a military flag, is pure baloney. Remember, Hawthorne was a writer of fiction, not a vexillologist.

    As for the flag with vertical stripes being solely a civil flag, look at the vertically striped flag of the United States Coast Guard - during time of war they become part of the Department of Defense. Their flag does not change when they go from a mercantile to a naval force.

  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    It's interesting that Hawthorne made a mistake about the number of stripes. The Customs Service flag has always had 16 stripes, because there were 16 states when it was created. He probably never bothered to count them.

    The Salem Customs House where Hawthorne worked still exists, and is now managed by the National Park Service as a musuem. I visited it a few years ago. Unfortuately, they weren't flying the flag that day.

    Peter Ansoff
  4. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Fortunately, the flags were out when I visited last. They were furled around the mast, but in the close up you can clearly see that the second flag ends in a white vertical stripe - The Customs Flag!!

    Here's a close up of the flags:

  5. armoryhistorian

    armoryhistorian New Member

    I can't find my reference just now (too early in the morning), but I believe when the original flag was made with the original 13 colonies, it was decided to add a star AND A STRIPE for each joining state, and that it actually got up to 15 before it was realized this was not practical, and that just a star added for additional states was more workable. Or am I wrong?
  6. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    You are correct regarding our national flag. In 1795 it was decided to honor VT and KY by adding two stars and two stripes. Officially nothing else was done when OH, IN, LA and MS were added, but some flagmakers did add stars and stripes to their flags, even though the law still said 15/15. Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore knew better when she sewed the Star Spangled Banner for Fort McHenry in 1814 as it had 15 stars and 15 stripes. In 1817 the debate came to a head and Congress finally decided to revert to 13 stripes (lest the field of the flag appear "pink" from a distance) and honor new states with stars. So on July 4, 1818, the 20 star flag was first raised (officially).

    With respect to the Revenue Ensign, it was established with the coat of arms of the US in the canton, and 16 vertical stripes as Tennessee had already been admitted when the ensign was adopted in 1799, and they never bothered to change the number of stripes.
  7. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Many people don't realize that the automatic addition of a star for a new state didn't become law until 1818. Neither the 1777 flag resolution nor the 1794 law said anything about adding additional stars; they just said that the numbers were 13 and 15, respectively. As Nick pointed out, the Fort McHenry flag had 15 stars even though there were 18 states at the time.

    Peter Ansoff

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