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The Continental Colors

Mullets and Pirates – the Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner.

So it turns out that Betsy Ross wasn’t the only person to stitch together an American Flag, and over the years since 1776, a whole industry has been born out of making new flags as states have been added. Betsy added 13 five-pointed stars to the blue bit (canton) and the 13 stripes, and made a flag. But before she got into that, there was the Continental Colors.

Now, the Union Flag (Union Jack is only if it’s on a ship in modern terms) is the flag of Great Britain. In the days of the founding of the nation of the United States of America, the Irish part of the flag that you see in the modern Union Flag (a red X) was missing. And in 1775-1777, the Grand Union Flag (shown below) was used as the flag of the US. They added the term “Grand” and put 13 stripes for the states on the side. This looks remarkably like the flag adopted in 1707 by the East India Trading Company. Remarkably like it. Really. Really similar. If I saw the two from a telescope flying on two different ships, I would be hard-pressed to discern them. Freaky huh? The EIC is the company in Pirates of the Caribbean, but it really was a huge empire, and the flag really was as near as dammit the same as that of the juvenile US.

The flag before there was a flag – courtesy wikiCommons, author:Haddah

It wasn’t until 1777 that the US adopted a flag, and it has been modified 26 times since then – on average of once every decade or thereabouts. The stars were straight sided, which makes them mullets. I could not make this stuff up. Apparently, the tale of a pencil sketch given by George Washington to Betsy Ross to sew her circular mullet design were by-and-large made up in the 1800s. Yegads, this stuff is priceless. The flag resolution passed on June 14th 1777 was bereft of star orientation, just saying that they were pointy and on the left, while the stripes were on the right.

The Star Spangled Banner – the octave-abusing ditty that new citizens sing at the Oath Ceremony was penned by Francis Scott Key. To be fair, he just stole the tune from a men’s social club in London, and he was an amateur poet seeing the 15 starred, 15 striped flag flying after some British folk had bombed Fort McHenry. That one looks like this:

Star Spangled Banner
Star Spangled Banner

Luckily, the six flags on the moon were all put there after 1960 when the 50th star was added. So there’s no need to go back and fix them up.