How Much Do You Know About the History of the U.S. Flag?



By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The American flag is one of the most recognizable national symbols on Earth. The Red, White and Blue has a long and storied background. How much do you know about the history of the United States flag?

The American flag currently has ______ horizontal stripes.

The current U.S. flag has 13 horizontal stripes. The red stripes and white stripes are different lengths, but they're are all of equal width.


What do the 13 horizontal stripes represent?

The 13 horizontal stripes, which alternate red and white, represent the 13 British colonies that decided to declare their independence from England. For the British, they were 13 stripes of doom.


The first American flag was introduced during which major event?

The founders of the U.S. adopted the first American flag in 1777, in the middle of the American Revolution. That first flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars.


The flag first became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner" during which conflict?

During the War of 1812, British ships bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, and lawyer Francis Scott Key witnessed the spectacle. He wrote a poem that eventually became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner."


What was one of the most interesting traits of the "Star-Spangled Banner" flag flown as the British attacked Fort McHenry during the War of 1812?

The original Star-Spangled Banner was purposely big -- 42 feet wide and 30 feet tall. Why? Intimidation. It was so big that the British could see it from a long, long way off.


The famous Star-Spangled Banner flag is on display at a Smithsonian museum. Why is it missing big chunks of fabric?

After the War of 1812, many people cut pieces from the famous flag as souvenirs. Its 42-foot length is now around 30 feet.


Why did the famous Star-Spangled Banner disappear from its museum exhibit in 1998?

The iconic flag required a restoration process. Many cleaning experts and scientists spent nearly a decade working on the flag, at a cost of more than $20 million.


True or false, a seamstress named Betsy Ross made the first American Flag?

A long-standing legend has it that a Pennsylvania woman named Betsy Ross designed and made the first American flag. But historians have decided that the Ross legend is simply that -- a story that was made up decades after the Revolution.


After Vermont and Kentucky became states, the flag had 15 stripes. So why did it eventually revert back to 13?

Fifteen stripes seemed OK … but once the U.S. kept adding states, it was clear that there were going to be too many stripes. So flag designers reverted to 13 and it's been that way ever since.


What do the stars on the flag represent?

The stars represent U.S. states. The modern flag features 50 of them.


The current flag has been in use since 1960, after the creation of which U.S. state?

Hawaii is the most recent U.S. territory to achieve statehood. It was introduced into the Union (with what we're sure was a smashing luau) in 1959.


Who designed the current American flag?

In 1958, as part of a high school project, a student named Robert G. Heft designed the current flag. He got a B- grade on the project, but it was eventually adopted by the United States Congress.


Which of the following is NOT a nickname for the American flag?

The flag is often called Old Glory, The Stars and Stripes or just simply Red, White and Blue.


The Flag Protection Act was enacted during which tumultuous era?

In the late 1960s a lot of Vietnam War protesters took to burning and mutilating American flags, so the government passed the Flag Protection Act, a bit of law that would later create a lot of controversy.


A 19th-century American sea captain was the first to name his flag Old Glory. What did he say to Confederate soldiers who tried to take it during the Civil War?

A sea captain named William Driver counted "Old Glory" as his most prized possession. When Rebel soldiers demanded the flag, he wasn't intimidated. He simply said, "Over my dead body," and then hid it, and the Confederates never seized the banner.


The red color of the flag's stripes does NOT symbolize which of the following?

The color red doesn't signify blood in any way. It's meant to represent hardiness and valor. White symbolizes purity and innocence. And the blue stands for vigilance, perseverance and justice.


NASA astronauts often take flags during space missions. How many U.S. flags are there on the moon?

NASA has planted one U.S. flag for each moon landing -- so six in all. Of those six, five of those are still standing tall on the windless lunar surface.


There are six American flags on the moon, and five of them are still standing. There's no wind on the moon, so why is one of them laying in the moon dust?

Apollo 11 was the spacecraft that carried the first men to the moon. Exhaust from the moon lander is probably the reason that the first American flag fell over.


In 1963, the first American flag ever was flown on top of which big mountain?

In 1953, British climber Edmund Hilary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first men to summit Mount Everest. Ten years later, the first American, Barry Bishop, planted the first U.S. flag atop the world's tallest summit.


What does Flag Day celebrate?

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially established Flag Day. Celebrated each June 14, it commemorates the adoption of the first national flag in 1777.


Government rules indicate that flags may be decorated with ______ so long as it doesn't interfere with the flag's appearance.

It's legal for flag makers to dress up American flags with golden fringe, so long as the fringe doesn't drastically alter the flag's overall look. These flags are most often seen in ritzy settings like official government buildings.


True or false, the arrangement of the flag's stars have always been officially standardized?

Believe it or not, the arrangement of the stars was never standardized until the adoption of the 48-star flag. Until then, the stars could essentially be placed willy-nilly all over the blue box.


If an American flag becomes dirty or soiled, what are you supposed to do with the flag?

No patriotic citizen wants to see a dirty flag flapping in the breeze. Tradition holds that it's acceptable to lower a flag and then launder it to bring back the glory of the Red, White and Blue.


From 1837 to 1845, the U.S. flag had 26 stars in a specific pattern. What was that pattern?

The so-called Great Star flag was unique in American flag history. It arranged the 26 stars in a distinctive star pattern that's rarely been used in the flag's design.


The current 50-star flag is the longest-used design in history. The second-longest used flag had how many stars?

The second-longest used design was adopted in 1912, and it featured 48 stars. It survived for 47 years, until Alaska became a state in 1959. Its stars were typically aligned in nice, neat rows and columns.


In 2006, the Flag Desecration Amendment was proposed. What was another name for this amendment?

A lot of people get mad when they see American flags being ruined, one reason the Flag Desecration Amendment (or Flag-burning Amendment) was introduced in 2006. The measure was defeated by a single vote in the Senate.


True or false, is it legal to burn an American flag inside the borders of the U.S.?

There are no laws against burning U.S. flags. So if you're mad at your local representative, you're totally free to desecrate a flag in his or her honor.


When the flag is on display during a parade or review, what are Americans in the vicinity supposed to?

When a flag is displayed for showy purposes, Americans are supposed to stop and put their right hands over their hearts.


Since 1777, there have been _______ versions of the American flag.

Since 1777, the country has transformed itself many times, and with the acquisition of new territory, the flag had to change, too. There have been 27 different American flags.


True or false, the American flag is the oldest continuously used national flag in the world?

Don't get too cocky, Americans, Old Glory isn't even close to being the oldest flag. The flag of Denmark, first flown in the early 1300s, is the oldest national flag on Earth.


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