The STARS AND STRIPES sustained our young nation through its five-year battle for independence. From 1781 to the ratification of our Constitution in 1788, this same flag was the one symbol of unity that bound together political leaders of persuasions so different that their philosophies threatened to be more dangerous to the survival of the Republic than the British armies. The flag embodied both prevailing thoughts on the design of the new country. The distinct representation of individual States by their own star in the field of blue attested to the the individuality of each. The Federalists approach was represented in the fact that these 13 individual states had representation in a single flag, uniting them all.
A New Star in the Constellation
Tucked into the area of the New England states was a small, independent republic called Vermont. The territorial rights of the republic were somewhat in dispute. In 1749 New Hampshire governor Benning Wentworth had granted an area for establishment of the town of Bennington. The surrounding area became known in 1763 as VERD-MONT, a word meaning "green mountain". The name was unofficial however. Colonial leaders were still in disagreement over Governor Wentworth's right of grant, with New York claiming ownership to much of the area. A year later by royal order, the area west of the Connecticut River and from the north boundary of Massachusetts was annexed to New York.
Vermont's Green Mountain Boys established a reputation as fierce defenders of independence during the Revolutionary War. You have seen the Bennington flag that was reportedly flown during the Battle of Bennington, Vermont. But the republic of Vermont was not represented by a star on that flag or the opportunity to ratify the United States Constitution years later. Though many of Vermont's 80,000 residents desired union with the 13 United States they had courageously defended during the Revolution, their defiance of New York's claims to ownership left them ostracized. By 1783 the dispute had reached such magnitude that George Washington reported to Congress that Vermont might have to be subdued by armed invasion. The stalemate was finally broken by Vermont's payment of $30,000 dollars to New York for the lands in question, and on March 4, 1791 Vermont became our 14th state.
In January of 1794 the United States Congress adopted a resolution to alter the flag to represent the Nation's two new states. At first glance the flag that would become our official standard for a quarter-century differed little from the first Navy Stars and Stripes. It is only on closer examination that one realizes that not only was the number of stars increased, but the number of red and white stripes was increased as well. Indeed, from 1794 until 1818, the flag of the United States consisted of FIFTEEN stripes (8 red and 7 white), with fifteen white stars in the union of blue.
Baltimore's Mary Pickersgill, who had made flags of the 13-star variety during the Revolutionary War, completed one such flag and delivered it to Fort McHenry on August 19, 1813. The flag itself measured 42 feet long and was 30 feet high, each stripe a full 24" in width. The fifteen stars each measured two feet from point to point. Years later Mary's daughter wrote that the flag "contained four hundred yards of bunting, and my mother worked many nights until twelve o'clock to complete it in a given time." For her services Mrs. Pickersgill was paid $405.90.