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United States of America

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[U.S. flag] 10:19 image by Joe McMillan, 6 May 2003
Flag adopted 4 July 1960, coat of arms adopted 20 June 1782.
Flag Color Shades

The U.S. flag consists of 13 stripes, alternate red and white, representing the 13 original colonies/states. The canton consists of a blue field containing a white star for every state in the union.


Other Flags:

See also:


In 1960, a star was added, representing Hawaii, bringing the total number of stars to 50. There are thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.

According to President Dwight Eisenhower's Executive Order (#10834, published 25 August, 1959) the 50-Star flag would become the "official flag of the United States on July 4, 1960."
Nick Artimovich, 21 February 1996


What Shade of Red/White/Blue

The official specification for federal procurements of U.S. flags is set by the General Services Administration. At the Defense Technology Information Center website www.dtic.mil is GSA "Federal Specification, Flag, National, United States of America and Flag, Union Jack," DD-F-416F, dated March 31, 2005. It specifies the colors by reference to "Standard Color Cards of America" maintained by the Color Association of the United States, Inc. This is a color system designed for textile use - appropriate, since flags are made of cloth! The specifications are:
      Cable No. 70180    Old Glory Red
      Cable No. 70001    White
      Cable No. 70075    Old Glory Blue

Various sources give different Pantone equivalencies for these colors. The most plausibly authoritative are those provided on miscellaneous American Embassy websites, including American Embassy London. It gives the red as PMS 193 and the blue as PMS 282. On the other hand, Texas state law says the Texas state flag has the same colors as the U.S. flag, and that they are red PMS193 and blue PMS281.

It should be noted that flags produced other than for the executive branch of the government are not bound by any of this.
Joe McMillan, 25 September 2001

In the mid or late 1950s, (if I'm not mistaken), the US government intentionally "darkened" the shade of red used in American flags. Before this, the color of red used in US flags was sometimes referred to as "Chinese" red. Well, with anti-communist sentiment being rather high at the time, it simply wouldn't do to have Chinese red stripes on the American flag and thus the change. To most folks who even pay attention it's a very subtle thing.
Clay Moss, 31 January 2007

It's hard to know what the colors of actual old flags originally were, because there were no specifications in many cases and the examples we have will have faded. There was a change in the color specification at some point in the mid-20th century, at least with regard to the blue. It was changed from "national flag blue" to "Old Glory blue." There are still some official US flags that use "national flag blue"--the color of infantry regiments, I think, and the flag of the Secretary of State. "Old Glory blue" is just a little darker. But within the standard palette used on FOTW, both of them would be B+++ (RGB 0:0:102); there's not enough of a difference between them to justify using a lighter shade for NF blue.

Don't recall what the former shade of red was called (Clay says Chinese red, but I think that's more of a characterization than an official name), but I would guess that the present "Old Glory red" came into use at the same time as "Old Glory blue."
Joe McMillan, 31 January 2007


US Ensign

The ensign of the United States is the same as the national flag - the Stars and Stripes.

As far as I have ever been able to determine, there are no laws, regulations, orders, etc., regulating the methods of displaying the ensign on US merchant ships, other than those prescribed by the same Flag Code that pertain on land--which has the standing of a recommended code of best practices without any penal provisions. Merchant vessels' display of the US flag is governed largely by custom, not by regulation or law.
Joe McMillan, 3 July 2005