The national flag of the United States of America known to most people today contains 50 stars arranged on a blue canton, one representing each of the constituent states; and thirteen alternating red and white stripes, representing the original 13 states of the union. To anyone under the age of 48, this is the only flag to have officially represented the nation during their lifetime. This is also true for most of my own 55 years on the planet. However, I vividly recall the two occasions when the flag was changed during my life.
The current 50-star flag of The United States of America
This is the flag that was planted on the moon during the Apollo missions, and the flag that survived the sneak attacks on America on September 11, 2001.
Buzz Aldrin and the US flag at Tranquility Base, The Moon, July 1969
New York firefighters with flag at Ground Zero, September 2001
The flag under which I was born, served as the offical ensign of the U.S. for 47 years, one less than the current flag. This was the 48 star flag which came into existence in 1912 following the admission of Arizona and New Mexico to the national constellation. This is the banner under which our soldiers fought in both World Wars and the Korean War. It is the flag that was raised at Iwo Jima. It replaced the flag of 1908, the 46-star flag that represented the admission of my home state of Oklahoma to the USA in 1907.
With the stars arranged in even rows, one under the other, the 48-star flag is easy to spot in pictures and movies. An anachronistic mistake sometimes made by filmmakers is the use of the current flag in period movies when there should be the 48-star banner used.
The 48-star flag, 1912-1959
The raising of the 48-star flag at Iwo Jima during WWII
When I was six years old, Congress admitted the territory of Alaska as the 49th state, and a the flag was changed to add the star for our new state. I lived in Houston, Texas at the time, and remember that at that time, Texas dropped from being the largest state in land area to second place. This was a short-lived design, as a year later, Hawaii would be admitted to bring the total number of states to the current 50.
The 49-star flag, 1959 - 1960
During the Bicentennial year of 1976, many of the Revolutionary War period flags were being used, particularly in the historic area of Maryland where I lived at the time. Some of these are below.
Grand Union flag
Original 13-star flag of the United States
Betsy Ross flag
Bennington Flag - Note the red and white are reversed and the 7-pointed stars
Should there be a 51st state admitted, the flag will probably be the design below.
Possible 51-star USA flag