Why 7 Red, but only 6 White?

Discussion in 'American Flag History' started by Cmn104, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. Cmn104

    Cmn104 New Member

    I am in my high school's JROTC program and my 1SG said anyone who can answer this question gets a promotion.

    "Why are there 7 red stripes, and only 6 white stripes?"

    Thanks.
     
  2. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hello, Cmn, welcome to the forum.

    "Why are there 7 red stripes, and only 6 white stripes?"

    Well, let's start at the beginning. There are 13 stripes because there were 13 states when the USA was created. The stripes actually pre-dated the creation of the American flag in 1777; they appeared on the "Continental Colors" and also on some regimental flags. During the early part of the Revolutionary War, the stripes were not always red and white; there were examples of blue-and-white, red-and-green, and red-white-and blue stripes. The Congressional flag resolution of 1777 specified that the stripes were red and white, and this was repeated in the flag resolutions of 1794 and 1818. The current law (4 USC Chapter 1) says "The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white . . ."

    Since there are 13 stripes, and the colors have to alternate, there are only two options: 7 red and 6 white, or 7 white and 6 red. The 1777 resolution didn't say which way it should be, and there were flags made both ways during the Revolution.

    I don't think anyone knows exactly why we finally settled on 7 red and 6 white, but it's not too hard to guess. The key is that the top and bottom stripes will always be the "7" color. The flag was created primarily for use by ships at sea, to identify themselves as American vessels. This meant that the flag had to be easily recognizable at a distance, even when visibility was poor. If the top and bottom stripes were white, the edges of the flag would tend to blend into the light background of the sky, while red stripes would give good contrast with the background. If the top and bottom stripes are red, then the flag must have 7 red and 6 white stripes -- there's no other way to do it.

    Do I get a promotion now? (-;

    Peter Ansoff
     
  3. lizrob19464@aol.com

    lizrob19464@aol.com New Member

    Red was the color of the blood we shed.
    The white was for our purity.
    ?????????????:D
     
  4. lizrob19464@aol.com

    lizrob19464@aol.com New Member

    Very nice to know the real facts.:)
     
  5. Captgio

    Captgio New Member

    Have some new information!
     
  6. JTK525

    JTK525 New Member

    Eminently logical.
     
  7. Captgio

    Captgio New Member

    To Jtk525:

    Peter knows his flag history well and he is very correct on the what he told you. Know one really knows why 7 was picked for the red stripes and 6 for the white stripes.

    Recently, I have found some of the finest evidence from two existing Stars and Stripes. The descendants were English Lords who were Puritans in the mid to late 1500's. One of the Lords was named Sir Robert Sydney who was LT. Governor of the Flushing Low Countries, Flushings was made up of all of Holland, Germany and parts of France. Gov. Sydney's seat of office was in Vlissingen Holland, happens to be the same port where the Dutch East India Company originated and had its headquarters while Sydney was in office.

    The Dutch had seven Provinces that were the origins of their Puritian history that is part of the origins of the English Puritian Churches as well. Sydney was also Governor over those seven provinces, during the war with the Spanish.

    So, it may be very true that the seven Puritan Provinces of Holland are origin in representation for the reason why there are seven red stripes on the 13 Stars and Stripes.

    Sir Robert Sydney and the Lt. Governor who took his place in 1588 until 1610 were investors in both the British East India and Dutch East India Companies. Both the Governors senior Lord was Sir Dudley, who sons helped find Hartford Connecticut with Rev. Hooker.

    Just pay close attention to this aspect, the church ministers had more powerful influence over everything, in Holland the senior minister had to attend the council for the armies and Navy. The flag was influenced by Puritan Church for both Holland and England, no question. The white stripes in regards to the BEI company could represent the British Counties, where the Puritans originated.

    As far as what Peter wrote, based on documented evidence, he is correct.

    Best Regards
    Gio
     
  8. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Gio's history is a bit mixed up. Without going into too much detail: Sir Robert Sidney was never Lt. Governor of the "Flushing Low Countries" -- there was no such entity. "Flushing" is the English name for the Dutch town of Vlissingen, a sea port on at the mouth of the Schelde River that was transferred to English control in 1585 by the Treaty of Nonsuch. Robert Sidney served as Governor of Flushing from 1589 until it was returned to the Dutch in 1616. Gio is probably confusing Sidney with his uncle, Sir Robert Dudley, who was briefly made Governor-General by the Dutch States General (he quickly proved himself incompetent and was removed).

    So, it may be very true that the seven Puritan Provinces of Holland are origin in representation for the reason why there are seven red stripes on the 13 Stars and Stripes. . . . The flag was influenced by Puritan Church for both Holland and England, no question. The white stripes in regards to the BEI company could represent the British Counties, where the Puritans originated.

    And why is there "no question" about all this? It appears to be a lot of vague speculation, and ignores the most obvious explanation for the numbers of the stripes. If you have 13 alternating stripes, there have to be 7 of one color and 6 of the other color.

    Having said all that, it's not impossible that the idea of the American stripes was influenced by the Dutch flag, which had (and still has) 3 horizontal stripes of red, white and blue. The Netherlands had fought a war of independence against a colonial master (Spain), and it would have been reasonable for the Americans to see them as a role model. For what it's worth, we know that the first ship of the Continental Navy, the Alfred, had a Dutch flag in her flag locker during her initial cruise to the Bahamas. Several of Commodore Hopkins' signals made use of a Dutch flag, and the log of HMS Glasgow states that "the [American] Adml hoisted Dutch colors and the other Strip'd" during their battle off Newport.

    Peter Ansoff
     
  9. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Furthermore, if you look at the existing illustrations of 13 star flags (and we only have illustrations to look as since there are no documented examples made before 1795 to my knowledge) you will see that the very few illustrations that show the flag with 6 red and 7 white stripes are generally European in origin. That may very well have been influenced by heraldry where the "argent" (silver, or the white) is more honorable than the rouge (red.)

    The Americans, however, used a more practical approach - when the top and bottom stripes are white they effectively dissapear - there is no contrast between the white and the bright background of the sky. When the top and bottom stripes are red the flag appears much larger and is more conspicuous, thus easier to identify. And that is the whole point of a flag, after all.:p

    Nick
     
  10. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    .
    Hmmmm.....


    You don't suppose it could be in the way that the "Flag Resolution" was actually worded, do you?

    I mean, in this case there really isn't that much difference (if any at all) between 18th Century and 21st Century American English, is there?

    Sure, there is an economy of words, a certain "terseness", if you will. Think of it along the lines of, "They wrote what they meant and they meant what they wrote".

    So "why" was/is RED the color of the first and last of the "alternate red and white" 13 stripes?

    Read for yourself :

    “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.â€￾


    SEE ???


    For those who might not yet "get it" due to my poor, inadequate, attempt at explaining the meaning of the previous quotation as it was written by well-educated 18th century wordsmith and voted on by a bunch of other well-educated 18th century wordsmiths who all understood the concept behind the saying, "first things, first", I'll "re-write" the passage by swapping TWO words, "RED" and "WHITE".


    “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate WHITE and RED; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.â€￾


    There. Now do you see?


    IF the Flag Resolution that was passed in 1777 had been written THAT way, "alternate white and red", instead of "alternate red and white", how do you think our Flag would look?


    That's right: seven white stripes and six red ones, starting with a white one first!


    The funny thing is, if I'd have used the same "economy of words" in this entry as they did back in 1777, I'd simply stated my case by pointing out :

    "there are seven red stripes and only six white stripes because the Flag Resolution passed in 1777 specifically mentioned the color red FIRST !!!"


    :D :D :D :D


    Robin Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
    .
     
  11. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    I like the quote attributed to Mark Twain "I apologize for the extreme length of this letter. If I had more time I would have written a shorter one."

    It does, indeed, take time to compose an accurate and concise letter.

    Nick
     
  12. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    "there are seven red stripes and only six white stripes because the Flag Resolution passed in 1777 specifically mentioned the color red FIRST !!!"

    Well, yes and no. It seems likely that the preferred stripe arrangement was established before the 1777 resolution was written. There are at least two contemporary illustrations of the "Continental Colours," and both show red stripes on the top and bottom. If Mr. Hopkinson (who probably drafted the language) really did mention red first for that reason, he was just confirming what already existed.

    I think Nick is right that the top and bottom stripes ended up being red because that arrangement allowed better recognition at a distance. Another reason could have been that the first Continental Colours were made by adding stripes (usually white, but not always) to existing British red ensigns. It would have required less time and material to add six stripes rather than seven.

    Peter Ansoff
     
  13. Captgio

    Captgio New Member

    Hello Peter and Nick,

    The reason why I mentioned the Governors of Flushing is because a period signed and dated 13 Stars and Stripes is going to be presented very soon to the nation. The signer of the flag is a direct descendant of one of the Governors of Flushing.

    The flags original owner had many family members who were famous from the 1550's into the 1860's who influence changed world history many times over. The ancestor who was Governor of Flushing was part of the group of Lords who founded Virginia, Maryland and New England, they owned the ships and who had the Company Rights over the New World exploits.

    Which also takes me back to the Hopkins families who were a part of this history, right back to Commodore Hopkins line, do any of you know that British East India money paid for Harvard and Yale, origins of Education in the new world? Read up on the history of Gov. Edward Hopkins and his uncle Sir Henry Lello, one of the early powerful Company Men of the British East India Company, follow up on Elihu Yale in New England, then as Governor in India being a BEI Comapnay man himself and his family connections to Edward Hopkins.

    Hopkins were Lords on the British board of Admiralty, Keepers of the Kings Palace, Wardens of the Fleet Prison in London. Hopkins are very much a part of the British East India Company origins, so the Stripes and British East India flag origins are more connected to the Commodore than flag experts ever Knew or paid attention too.

    The history helps you make the early family connections from the early mid-Atlantic Colonies and New England. Who were using these BEI and BWI striped flags way before the American Revolution and why Hopkins used the Stripes on the Alfred, connects Dudley Saltonstalls family of Lords at Westminster Palace in the 1600's and MA BAy Colony origins, lords of the council who identified themselves with Scarlet Robes who controled all Colonial migration. Kind of helps you understand why the colonies used scarlet colors on their uniforms and why Putnams Connecticut flag was Scarlet, sort of like the Brandywine flag that is origins to the Highlands Division under Putnam, 4-5-4 represents what families?

    So, many people keep pressing that Hopkinson was the founder of our Stars and Stripes? Why has no one ever addressed that he was a member of the Navy Marine Committee for the mid-atlantic states, did you ever think that his flag design was specifically used to identify Navy ships of the mid-atlantic states under his supervision as a Navy board member for that region?

    The reason why I say this is because I know what 13 Stars and Stripes pattern is that represents the Eastern Navy Board and New England. In order to understand this history you need to learn who created the old New England Confederation or United Colonies, go back to Gov. Edward Hopkins and who he associated himself with in New England and at the Westminster Palace and read up on the councils at Westminster and migration control under the King or Queen.

    If you really care about flag history, to learn why no 18th century 13 Stars and stripes flags can really be identified in the textile labs. You need to learn who screwed up the textile history, take a wild guess who she was and who was associated then and now to her, think how much flag identification history they destroyed. Why would they want to do that when it comes to history symbolic control of our nations identity and control over history origins? You know many Communists were Americans in the 1910's-1950's involved in history education who still are today.

    I know who is caused these problems and who continues to cause the problems today. There are much better textile experts working out these problems today. One of the dumbest poppy cock stories I ever heard in my life was that no 13 Stars and Stripes were never on the battlefield. Why create a National flag in 1777 if it was never going to be used on the field of glory, regardless. Why would any Patriots not want to have even a personal flag on hand on a field in a seven year period, becuase they we just for forts, lighthouse and ship identification, OK. Never happend, American women never home spun textile, the never owned sheep of imported cotton, bunting, never grew hemp or had linen. These women never had silk dresses either. The privateers had to capture the textile shipments, they must never had enough textile, just enough for regimental flags. You should see the major shipments loads of textil bolts of cotton, linen, bunting, silk taken by the ship loads at the start of the war Connecticut archives, these colonial women must have knew nothing about threads and twists, they were stupid, uneducated farm folk. Families never repaired their heirloom flags, changing the hoists with gromets either or mixed later textile patches or used later 19th century threads to repair their families prized flag of the American Revolution. I see textile experts debunk 18th century constructed flags all the time, becuase they can not tell the difference of the repairs that used 19th century threads and patch work. The only reason why many of the top textile professors will not correct the the problem is becuase their organization they represent will be responisble for mistakes made in the past.

    Think about the facts, not one 13 Stars and Stripes or said to be period flag has ever been identified as as 18th Century textile from the period, think of the odds of this textile identification history being WRONG, one of the biggest scams ever pulled off by educators who like to control. Imagine the people today associated to those educators that have to anwser to every flag debunked by this screw up, I feel sorry for them, when the group of textile professors produce the new information about this textile screw up in the near future.
    Imagine how many organizations are going to go after the people or organization that debunked their historic flags, I cant wait to see this when it happens.

    The Nation is very fortunate that one signed and dated 13 Stars and Stripes flag exists, having a family bloodline connected to several Lords and prominent Ministers who were some of the most influential people in Puritian society, the Puritian church, military origins, Naval origins, government origins and associated with the creation of Industries that helped create this nation.

    By the way you are both close to the Winterthur Museum, check out the Betsy Ross exhibition starting Oct, 2nd check out the oldest 13 Stars and stripes flag's pictured, documented on a powder horn two weeks after the flag act. Looks like the PA navy just got back their 13 Stars and Stripes identity back, looks like Betsy and ladies of Philadelphia had to rush out those flags for the PA Navy for the 1777, 4th of July celebration in Philadelphia.
     
  14. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hi, Captgio,

    I won't try to distange all of this, but a few comments are in order:

    . . . a period signed and dated 13 Stars and Stripes is going to be presented very soon to the nation.

    We're all looking forward to hearing about it!

    You need to learn who screwed up the textile history, take a wild guess who she was and who was associated then and now to her, think how much flag identification history they destroyed. Why would they want to do that when it comes to history symbolic control of our nations identity and control over history origins? You know many Communists were Americans in the 1910's-1950's involved in history education who still are today.

    I assume that you are referring to the late Grace Rogers Cooper, author of the book "Thirteen-Star Flag: Keys to Identification." Ms. Cooper was the curator of textiles at the Smithsonian Museum of History and Techonology (now the National Museum of American History). Like Nick and myself, she also served a president of NAVA. She was a highly respected scholar, researcher, and technical expert. Her conclusions (that many flags formerly thought to be from the Revolutionary War were in fact of later date) was based on her analysis of the evidence. The idea that she was trying to falsify history is offensive and ridiculous.

    One of the dumbest poppy cock stories I ever heard in my life was that no 13 Stars and Stripes were never on the battlefield.

    I'm guessing that you are basing this statement on Robert Morris's book "The Truth About the Betsy Ross Story" (1982). Morris wrote "Incredibly, some flag historians have built a story that the U.S. Army did not carry American national flags during the entire Revolutionary war . . . How presumptious!" (pp 96-97) Actually, what historians believe is that the Army did not carry the national flag as a regimental color during the war. They believe this for several reasons, including 1) it was not general practice to use national flags as regimental colors -- the British and French didn't do it either, 2) several examples of American regimental colors still exist, and none of them are stars and stripes flags. The standard pattern for US colors was a canton with stars and a plain colored field containing a unit badge. Again, this followed the British pattern.

    Morris did a lot of research and was very passionate about his subject, but his conclusions were faulty and biased. Just to name two examples: 1) He insists that the Leutze painting of Washington crossing the Delaware accurately shows his flag and boats; all reputable scholars agree that it doesn't, 2) He affirms that the so-called "Bennington Flag" dates from the Revolution; even the museum that owns the flag does not believe this.

    Speaking about Morris and his 1982 book, I can't resist pointing out his disucssion on page 40 of an "enigma" concerning the 1754 Heap and Scull engraving of Philadelphia, which shows a ship flying the Continental Colors (Morris incorrectly dates it 1752). As he points out, "that banner has been assumed to have been invented some time during the latter half of 1775." I believe that I have solved Morris's "enigma." For details, see my article "A Striped Ensign in Philadelphia in 1754?," in Raven #15 (2008).

    Why create a National flag in 1777 if it was never going to be used on the field of glory, regardless.

    Because, again, that's not what national flags were used for in the 18th century. They were used to identify the nationality of ships and forts, and also as headquarters flags and artillery "gun flags." That's what other nations (especially Britain) did, and it made sense that the new United States would follow existing practice. All the evidence points to the fact that they did so.

    By the way you are both close to the Winterthur Museum, check out the Betsy Ross exhibition starting Oct, 2nd

    We definitely plan to do so. In fact, our local Chesapeake Bay Flag Association my try to organize a tour of the exhibit in December.

    Peter Ansoff
     
  15. Matty O

    Matty O New Member

    Has anyone heard the story that some early flags were white striped on top and bottom but that was discontinued because during battle, blood soaked the white stripes and blended with the red ones??? I remember hearing that back in grammar school in the sixties.
     
  16. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Has anyone heard the story that some early flags were white striped on top and bottom but that was discontinued because during battle, blood soaked the white stripes and blended with the red ones??? I remember hearing that back in grammar school in the sixties.

    Hello Matty -- welcome! I've never heard that story, and it sounds more like a folk tale. There were Revolutionary War era flags that had white at the top and bottom, but I think the most logical explanation for the 7 red/6 white is the visibility issue that's discussed earlier in this thread.

    There's at least one other legend I know of that relates to a flag originating from blood in battle. Supposedly, Duke Leopold V of Austria wore white surcoat during the crusades. After a battle, his coat was covered with blood except for the area beneath his sword belt, which was still white. He adopted the red-white-red pattern as his banner, and it eventually became the flag of Austria. It's only a legend, but it's very colorful (literally!).
     
  17. Matty O

    Matty O New Member

    Thanks for the welcome... I thought it might not be true but it made for good folklore!!! I look forward to more of the interesting history of our flag and country... it's ashame to see history being ignored these days.
     

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