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097 Why does the flag have 50 stars?

97. Why does the flag have 50 stars?
• Because there is one star for each state
• Because each star represents a state
• Because there are 50 states

The design (or plan) for the flag of the United States has changed 26 times in the country’s short history. When the Declaration of Independence was written, the United States didn’t have a flag. The first flag was adopted (or chosen to be used) on June 14, 1777. Now we commemorate (or remember) that day by celebrating June 14 as Flag Day every year.

Most Americans are taught and believe that a woman named Betsy Ross designed and sewed (or made from fabric) the first U.S. flag. Most historians think that she actually didn’t do this, but it has become a popular story among Americans. The story is so commonplace (or popular and easy to find) that the first U.S. flag is usually called “the Betsy Ross flag.”

The Betsy Ross flag had the same 13 red and white horizontal stripes (or lines that run from left to right) as the U.S. flag does today. But it had fewer stars. In 1777, when the flag was made, there were only 13 states, so the flag had only 13 stars, with one for each state. The stars were in a circle on top of the blue part of the flag.

As the United States grew and more pieces of land became states, the U.S. flag had to be redesigned (or designed again) to have more stars, keeping the tradition (or the way things have always been done) of having one star for each state. The first design change was made in 1795, when two stars were added for the two new states of Kentucky and Vermont. That flag also had 15 stripes.

But as the country continued to grow and there were more states, Congress (or the lawmaking part of the U.S. government) decided that the number of stars should increase with the number of states, but that there should always be only 13 stripes. These stripes represented the 13 original colonies, or areas of land controlled by Great Britain that later became states.

The current 50-star flag has been the official design, or the one approved by the U.S. government, since 1960. However, some people are already looking to the future, or making plans for what might happen in the future. They have designed 51- star flags that could be used if and when another state is incorporated (or becomes part of the United States).


design – a plan for what something will look like or how something will be made
* Do you like the design for the new building?

to commemorate – to do something to remember and honor an important person or event in history
* Every year, the company commemorates its anniversary by organizing a fun event for all of its employees.

to sew – to make something out of fabric or cloth; to use needle and thread or a machine to make something out of cloth
* My aunt says that sewing her own clothes is cheaper than buying them at the store.

commonplace – popular and easy to find; not rare
* Gas stations are commonplace throughout the United States.

tradition – the way things have always been done; something that is done the same way every time
* Their family has a tradition of opening one gift on the night before Christmas, and then opening the rest of the gifts on Christmas Day.

official – approved by the government or another organization or person with power
* The school's official colors are orange and black.

to look to the future – to make plans for what might happen in the future
* Looking to the future, we need to find new sources of energy.

to be incorporated – to officially become part of a city, country, or business
* The area known as Gresham was incorporated into the city in 1972.