We don’t know a lot about the US flag. Historians know very little about who designed it, nor really when it was first used unofficially. However, they do know when the flag was first officially used (June 14th, 1777) and they know exactly what each component of the flag is meant to represent. So, what do the red stripes represent on the US flag?
The red stripes on the US flag are meant to symbolize 7 of the 13 colonies. The stripes were likely red because the Founding Fathers copied the colors from the British flag. This meant that the red originally had no meaning. The color was given meaning in 1782 when it was officially stated that the red stood for hardiness and valor.
Let’s give you a bit more information because the selection of the colors has a bit of an interesting story behind it. Well, interesting in terms of vexillology.
What Do The Red Stripes Represent On The US Flag?
On the US flag, there are 7 red stripes and 6 white stripes. Each one of these stripes is meant to represent one of the thirteen founding colonies of the United States. These colonies had slightly different names back then (and they were a whole lot smaller), but we now know them as the states of:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- New York
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
It isn’t known which colony was assigned to which stripe, and it doesn’t matter. It was just a design feature to help symbolize the founding colonies, nothing more.
As we mentioned, the flag was first used officially in 1777. Other than the addition of more stars over the years, the flag back then is pretty much what we have today. The colors were the same. What nobody said in 1777, however, is what these colors stood for. Historians don’t even know whether the colors were meant to stand for something, or whether it was just a way of copying the flag of Great Britain.
The first time the red stripes received any official meaning was in 1782. On the 4th of July 1776, the US gained independence. Among a whole host of other things that the founding fathers did that day, they started to come up with ideas for the seal of the United States. This was a bit of information on the values of the country, etc. All very important stuff. For you, the most important element of that seal would have been the colors.
In 1782, Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress presented this seal to Congress. When he did so, he explained the significance of the red, white, and blue. With regards to the red, he said that it symbolized:
As we said a bit earlier on, many, if not most, flag experts seem to believe that the US flag colors just come from the Union Jack. The Founding Fathers had served under these colors for years, and since they were mostly used to them, they figured that they would just use those colors for their new design. Giving each color symbolism would have likely happened at a far later stage. It certainly wasn’t something that was floating around in their heads, especially since nobody talked about what the colors symbolized until a good 6 years later.
Over the years, people have tried to give a different meaning to the red on the US flag. For example, some people believe that red means sacrifice. They believe that red is meant to represent the color of blood. They claim the red shows that you must bleed for your country. However, since there has been no official statement on this, we just have to live by what was said all those years ago.
What Do The White Stripes Represent on the US Flag?
We can’t talk about the red stripes without telling you the meaning behind the white stripes. You already know that they are meant to represent the 13 colonies.
During the same presentation, Charles Thomson claimed that the white represented:
Just to round off the colors, the blue on the flag is meant to represent:
So, all three colors combined showed what the Founding Fathers wanted the values of the US to be.
Can More Stripes Be Added To The US Flag?
This is a tough legal question.
There will only ever be thirteen founding colonies. There will never be another founding colony. However, technically, there is nothing in the law that bans more stripes being added to the US flag. The law has been written to allow changes to the flag. This is why the flag gets new stars if a new state joins the union.
Of course, while there is nothing in the law that will bar the addition of new stripes on the flag, it is unlikely to ever happen. It would completely change the meaning of the flag and the US has always been one of those nations that are incredibly precious about their flag. It is a symbol of the nation, one of the first symbols, and Americans tend not to want to change it unless they have no other option.
What Is The Name of the Red Color On The US Flag?
The name of the red color used on the US flag is known as ‘Old Glory Red’. Any US flags produced for the United States should use the exact color of red highlighted in the 10th Edition of the Standard Color Reference of America (published in 1981). The US also provides fabric samples so any US flag producer can get the color exactly right.
Originally, the red stripes on the US flag didn’t have a meaning. It was just a color. By 1782, it was decided that the red would stand for hardiness and valor, two principles meant to highlight the American way of doing things. Since then, people have claimed that the red stands for other things too e.g. sacrifice.