The flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The 50 stars represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies. Red stands for courage, white for truth, and blue for justice.
It is commonly called the Stars and Stripes and less commonly "Old Glory". Because the name "Old Glory" is technically the name of the 48-star version used from 1912 to 1959, this usage connotes the history of the flag. It has gone through many changes since the original 13 English colonies created it.
To Americans, their flag is a symbol of many things. It has been held to represent all of the freedoms and rights guaranteed in the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Perhaps most of all it is seen as a symbol of individual and personal liberty.
The original American flag had thirteen stars. As further states have been admitted to the union, extra stars have been added, but the number of stripes has remained at the original thirteen. The exception was the 15-star flag, which also had 15 stripes. It was this 15-star flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner.
When the flag is changed, the change always takes place on July 4 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a consequence of the Flag Act of April 4, 1818. July 4 is the United States Independence Day[?], commemorating the founding of the nation.The most recent change, from forty-nine stars to fifty, occurred in 1960, after Hawaii was granted statehood. Before that, the admission of Alaska earlier the year before prompted the debut of a short-lived 49 star flag.
Old and tattered flags preferably are destroyed through burning in a simple ceremony. Of course, flag burnings have been used to protest actions by the United States government also.
The design and colors of the American "Stars and Stripes" have been the basis for a number of other flags, both past and present, some of which can be seen below:
Alabama - Alaska - Arizona[?] - Arkansas[?] - California[?] - Colorado[?] - Connecticut[?] - Delaware[?] - Florida[?] - Georgia - Hawaii - Idaho[?] - Illinois[?] - Indiana[?] - Iowa[?] - Kansas[?] - Kentucky[?] - Louisiana[?] - Maine[?] - Maryland[?] - Massachusetts[?] - Michigan[?] - Minnesota[?] - Mississippi[?] - Missouri - Montana[?] - Nebraska[?] - Nevada[?] - New Hampshire[?] - New Jersey[?] - New Mexico[?] - New York - North Carolina[?] - North Dakota[?] - Ohio[?] - Oklahoma[?] - Oregon - Pennsylvania[?] - Rhode Island[?] - South Carlolina[?] - South Dakota[?] - Tennessee[?] - Texas[?] - Utah[?] - Vermont[?] - Virginia[?] - Washington[?] - West Virginia[?] - Wisconsin[?] - Wyoming[?]