Old Glory Turns 240:
3 Ways the Navy Helped Design the American Flag
The Star Spangled Banner; the Stars and Stripes; the Red, White and Blue; Old Glory - first adopted June 14, 1777, the American flag has been a symbol of freedom ever since those dark days of revolution. This Flag Day, All Hands looks at the Navy's role in the evolution of the national standard.
1. The First Flag
The first national flag of the united colonies, the Grand Union flag, was a naval ensign. Then-Lt. John Paul Jones became the first person to raise it above a Continental warship when he hoisted it on the Navy's first flagship, Alfred, Dec. 3, 1775, while she was anchored in Philadelphia on the Delaware River, according to "Our Flag," by the Government Printing Office. Jones later called it the "flag of Freedom," and said he "attended it, with veneration, ever since on the ocean."
Featuring seven red stripes and six white to recognize the 13 colonies, with a British flag in canton (the upper left corner), the Grand Union flag closely matched the flag of the British East India Company. No one knows who designed the American version or why, although a seamstress in Philadelphia named Margaret Manny sewed flags for the Alfred around this time. It would have been easy to sew white stripes on existing red Royal Navy ensigns, and the Sons of Liberty flag already alternated red and white stripes.