Historian presents history of the American/US Flag


BELLVILLE — Richland County historian Jeff Mandeville presented an interesting and informative multi-media presentation on the history of the flags of the United States at the Bellville Jefferson Township Historical Society’s first 2022 meeting.

Beginning with the first American settlement at Jamestown in 1605, the flag has had many variations and changes.

The first colonists carried the St. Georges Cross flag to the New World, but soon began flying the British Union flag.

In the 1700s, Massachusetts added a green Pine Tree (a symbol of money) on a white background to their flag, which has remained the official Massachusetts Naval Flag.

In the mid-1700s, during the American Revolution, the coiled rattlesnake on a yellow background was adopted. The snake stood for vigilance, courage, and decisiveness. The thirteen rattles on the end of the snake’s tail stood for the thirteen original colonies, and the words Don’t Tread on Me appeared under the snake. This flag is known as the Gadsden Flag.

In 1776, George Washington raised the first Continental Army Flag, a red and white striped flag with the Union Jack where we now have a field of stars. Betsy Ross suggested using a 5-point star in place of the proposed 6-point star.

Congress established the first official design on July 14, 1776, which is now Flag Day. The design had thirteen alternating red and white stripes and thirteen white stars on a blue background.

In 1814, Frances Scott Key aided in negotiating the release of Dr. Beanes who had been captured by the British during the Battle of the Baltimore. Fearing that the

two men had heard too much, the British put the two men in a rowboat tied to the battleship. It was from this “vantage point” that Key penned “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” which became “The Star-Spangled Banner” and later the national anthem in 1931.

Although Betsy Ross is sometimes credited with sewing the first flag for George Washington, in fact it was actually Mary Young Pickersgill. Mary, who was commissioned by Maj. George Armistead, along with two nieces, used 400 yards of fabric to create a flag that measured 30’ by 42’, cost was an astounding $405 and was completed in just SIX weeks! The flag flew over Fort McHenry during the British bombardment of 1884.

In 1887, George Balch wrote the first “Pledge of Allegiance”, which read ‘We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag.’ His intention was to teach immigrant children to respect their country. The Pledge as we know it now is an adaptation of the Pledge written by Francis Bellamy in 1892.

Following his verbal history of the Flag, Jeff handed out papers listing Do’s and Don’ts concerning Flag etiquette. In a power point presentation, Jeff shared the many ways in which we actually disrespect the flag, which Jeff feels very strongly about.


By Rinda Sansom

Historical Society secretary

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