History of the American Flag | A Capitol Fourth

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  • Between 1777 and 1960 Congress passed several acts that changed the shape, design and arrangement of the flag and allowed stars and stripes to be added to reflect the admission of each new state.
  • Today the flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the original 13 Colonies and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well; red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
  • The National Museum of American History has undertaken a long-term preservation project of the enormous 1814 garrison flag that survived the 25-hour shelling of Fort McHenry in Baltimore by British troops and inspired Francis Scott Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Often referred to by that name, the flag had become soiled and weakened over time and was removed from the museum in December 1998. This preservation effort began in earnest in June 1999, and continues to this day. The flag is now stored at a 10-degree angle in a special low-oxygen, filtered light chamber and is periodically examined at a microscopic level to detect signs of decay or damage within its individual fibers.
  • There are a few locations where the U.S. flag is flown 24 hours a day, by either presidential proclamation or by law:

               – Fort McHenry, National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore, Maryland

               – Flag House Square, Baltimore, Maryland

               – United States Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington, Virginia

               – On the Green of the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts

               – The White House, Washington, D.C.

               – United States customs ports of entry

               – Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

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