Politics and Military

Old Glory Gets A Little More Glorious

On Jan. 14, 1795, President George Washington approved adding two stars and two stripes to Old Glory, which was still pretty new.

Old Glory, on display at the Smithsonian

Old Glory, on display at the Smithsonian

The new stars and stripes represented the two states that joined the union: Vermont and Kentucky.

Residents of Virginia’s westernmost county, Kentucky County, had been granted their petition for separation from Virginia. Kentucky became the 15th state on June 1, 1792.

Vermont’s history was a little more feisty and a little more interesting. New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire had all claimed Vermont – originally called New Connecticut, to make it even more confusing — in the run-up to the American Revolution.

As war approached, New York refused to recognize land titles sold by New Hampshire Gov. Benning Wentworth. Colonists, led by Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, rose in opposition.  On Jan. 15, 1777, representatives of settlers who held titles sold by Wentworth declared themselves independent.

Vermont was an independent republic for 14 years, with its own constitution that banned slavery, a capital in Windsor, its own coinage and its own postal service.

On March 4, 1791, Vermont became the first state to join after the original 13 colonies.

The flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes is the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Francis Scott Key saw by the dawn’s early light after the British bombed Ft. McHenry in the Chesapeake Bay. That flag has been restored and is now exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.

By 1818, concerns had grown about clutter on the flag. Congress changed the flag design to have 20 stars, with a new star to be added when each new state was admitted. However the stripes would be 13 to honor the original colonies. New flag designs would become official on the first July 4 following admission of one or more new states.

 

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