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Flag Day June 14: The creator – and the improver – of the U.S. flag

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Francis Hopkinson was a man of many talents: He ran a store, was accomplished on the harpsicord, wrote music, invented a musical instrument, and negotiated treaties with the Delaware and Iroquois nations.

Plus he designed the United States flag. At least he thought he designed the flag and he asked Congress for a quarter cask of wine for his trouble.

Even though Congress didn’t pay, Hopkinson is recognized as the designer of the flag, although his sketches have been lost.

Hopkinson’s flag differs from the current design in that Hopkinson’s flag featured six-sided stars instead of five-sided stars.

George Washington himself is said to have asked Betsy Ross, an accomplished upholsterer, to sew the first flag. But Betsy argued that a five-sided star would be infinitely easier to manufacture than a six-sided star. When challenged, Betsy took out a swatch of material, folded it, and in one single snip produced a five-sided star. Her idea was adopted.

You can see directions for Betsy’s famous one-snip star at ushistory.org/betsy/flagstar.html.

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