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13 Star Flags - (1777-1795) (U.S.)

Last modified: 2013-07-06 by rick wyatt
Keywords: thirteen | united states | hulbert | abel buell | buell | arthur lee | alliance | yorktown | fort independence | sprengel |
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[U.S. 13 star flag 1777 ] image by Mark Sensen, 4 December 1997




See also:


The thirteen stars and thirteen stripes represented the thirteen original colonies:
Connecticut - Delaware - Georgia - Maryland - Massachusetts - New Hampshire - New Jersey
New York - North Carolina - Pennsylvania - Rhode Island - South Carolina - Virginia


Flag Resolution

[Continental Congress's June 14, 1777 flag resolution]
Continental Congress's June 14, 1777 Flag Resolution
image by Joe McMillan, 14 June 2000


Description of the flag

During the Revolutionary War, numerous flags were used. After the Declaration of Independence was signed on 4 July 1776, the people realized they needed one flag to replace all the assortment of flags used previously. On 14 June 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the following resolution:

"RESOLVED, that the flag of the 13 United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: That the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
Because the resolution was not specific there were a number of variations of the 13 star flag.

Although legend has it that Betsy Ross sewed the first flag from a design by George Washington, this has not been substantiated. The first documented U.S. flag was the staggered star pattern shown above. A strong case for the designer of the first flag is Francis Hopkinson. A delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He submitted a bill to Congress for "currency designs, design for the great seal of the U.S., a treasury seal, a design for the flag ..."

[U.S. 13 star flag 1777 ] image by Dave Martucci, 6 December 1997

This flag is a "typical" 13 star flag of the early period. Although there were countless variations, this one shows some of the common traits. Specifically, note that the stars point every which way. This was common prior to the last quarter of the 19th century.
Dave Martucci, 6 December 1997


17 Stripe Flag On Bank Note

[U.S. 13 star flag image on bank note] image by Devereaux Cannon, 22 February 2000

I have an interest in early forms of the U.S. flag. Yesterday I came across one that is not an actual cloth flag, but is depicted in a vignette on an 1854 banknote of a Tennessee bank. The flag in question has 13 stars, arranged in three rows of 5/3/5. It has a total of 17 stripes, 9 white and 8 red. Also of interest is the extreme length of the flag, which is proportioned approximately 3:1.
Devereaux Cannon, 22 February 2000


9 Stripe Flag

[U.S. 13 star/9 stripe flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 10 August 2001

The closest thing I could find is a flag with 13 stars and 9 stripes in "The Stars and The Stripes" by Mastai [m2o73]. The flag is in the Mastai Collection, and the book identifies it as a sea captain's flag from the time of the revolution.
Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 19 February 2001


Some 13 Star Designs

Some of the 13 star flags used are shown below. A link indicates a page about that particular flag in more detail.

[U.S. 13 star Bennington flag 1777 ]
Bennington
image by
Rick Wyatt
14 November 1997

[U.S. 13 star Betsy Ross flag 1777 ]
Betsy Ross
image by
Edward Mooney, Jr.
19 January 2008

[U.S. 13 star Cowpens flag 1777 ]
Cowpens
image by
Rick Wyatt
9 July 2001

[13 Star Flag]
Six Pointed Star Design
image by
Steven M. Schroeder
18 November 2000

[U.S. 13 star Shaw flag]
John Shaw(white first stripe)
image by
Rick Wyatt
3 April 2002

[U.S. 13 star Shaw flag]
John Shaw(red first stripe)
image by
Rick Wyatt
3 April 2002


Hulbert

[U.S. 13 star Hulbert flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 10 August 2001

Hulbert Flag (1775-1776?) is said to have been made in 1775 by Captain John Hulbert. While this flag was found in a home once owned by Captain Hulbert, there is no reference to this flag in his otherwise rather detailed diaries. The dates are contested by recent scientific studies of the flag's cloth.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 28 July 2001


13 Blue Stars

[U.S. 13 blue star flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001

13 Blue Stars & 12 Stripes Flag. The use of blue stars in this flag of the Revolutionary period suggests militia use. The omission of the thirteenth stripe probably indicates the loss of a state to the British during the conflict. The band at the bottom was added in 1880 during the presidential campaign of that year, when Winfield Scott English (a former Civil War general) and William Hayden English ran on the Democratic ticket.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001


Arthur Lee

[Arthur Lee flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001

Design proposed by Arthur Lee, a Commissioner to France, September 20, 1778.
Source: Sons of the Revolution of California website
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001


Alliance

[Frigate Alliance flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001

This flag was flown on the Continental Frigate "The Alliance", October, 1779. John Paul Jones had taken refuge in the harbor of The Texel, Holland, after the engagement between the Richard and Serapis.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001


Bauman's Yorktown Flag 1781

[Bauman's Yorktown Flag 1781] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001

Maj. Sebastian Bauman, 2d (NY) Regiment of Artillery, depicted this flag on a map of the siege of Yorktown.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001


Abel Buell 1783

[Abel Buell Flag 1783] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001

In 1783 Abel Buell published A New And Correct Map Of The United States Of North America, in which this image was reproduced. Abel Buell, 1742-1822, was an American silversmith, engraver, and type founder, born in Killingworth, Conn. He engraved a number of maps, including maps of the Florida coast and a large wall map of the United States, the first produced in America after the Treaty of Paris in 1783. He experimented in type founding, cast the first font of native-made American type (1769), and later supplied type to Connecticut printers. He invented machinery for cutting and polishing precious stones, for coining money, and for a period produced copper coins for the state. He also established in 1795, at New Haven, one of the first cotton mills in the country (which soon failed), and was involved in many other projects.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001


Fort Independence 1781

[Fort Independence flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 28 July 2001

This version of the "Stars and Stripes" flag was said to have been the flag at Fort Independence, in Boston during 1781.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 28 July 2001


Cross Pattern

[13 Star Cross Pattern flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 28 July 2001

This flag has the stars making a St. Andrew Cross in such a way that when the flag is hung as a banner, it looks like an hourglass.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 28 July 2001


Vertical Star Pattern

[13 Star Vertical Pattern flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 28 July 2001

This flag was one of many different takes on the 'stars without a field' idea. The designer is unknown and its use is as well. The only record of it is from a French paper published in 1796.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 28 July 2001


Sprengel's Almanac Flag

[Sprengel's Almanac flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001

Matthias Sprengel's British Almanac depicted this flag in 1784.
Source: Sons of the Revolution of California website
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001


Trumbull Flag

[13 star Trumbull flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 29 August 2001

This design is one of the 'square' canton flags as recorded by the painter John Trumbull in his historic canvases, "The Surrender at Saratoga", 1778, and "The Surrender at Yorktown", 1781.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 27 July 2001


Later Use As A Boat Ensign

The Revolutionary War era flags with stars arranged in rows 3-2-3-2-3 were used in the late 19th/early 20th centuries--this is the "boat flag" used by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard during that period. Ensigns flown on boats were too small for the 45, 46, or 48 stars to be clearly visible (or maybe they were just too hard to make with the technology of the time), so boats flew a 13-star ensign instead of the standard one.
Joe McMillan, 5 July 2000