One From Many
We honor the Star-Spangled Banner in our National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance as a symbol of the great strength to be found in diversity. Its bright constellation of stars lights every American battleground, marking each step forward in a heroic striving toward the ideal of self-government and equality under the law. Those who carry this banner of Liberty represent diverse ethnic origins, political and religious persuasions. Our history and shared values unite us in a common cause.
The First Stars and Stripes
For six months prior to the Declaration of Independence, Americans rallying to the cause of Independence raised the Continental Colors, a banner with thirteen red-and-white stripes and the British Union flag for its canton. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress resolved, "that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." Francis Hopkinson, of Bordentown, New Jersey, is credited with designing the first United States flag, taking the short but significant step from the Continental Colors to the first Stars and Stripes. No original version survives, but John Trumbull’s painting, The Death Of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, includes a representation showing the blue canton with stars arranged in five columns, creating a pattern that echoes St. George’s Cross and St. Andrew’s Cross on the British Union. As one of New Jersey’s delegates to the Second Continental Congress, Francis Hopkinson signed the Declaration of Independence.
No original Stars and Stripes survives from the period of the American Revolution and there is no documentary evidence to verify its exact appearance. A lack of specificity in the 1777 Congressional resolution gave opportunity for countless interpretations and variations. Since Francis Hopkinson depicted six-pointed stars on his family shield and on his 1780 sketch of the Great Seal of the United States, some argue the earliest Stars and Stripes used six-pointed stars. If so, this was soon abandoned as many early American flags use the more easily cut five-pointed star. There simply is no consensus and little evidence one way or another. Polish vexillologist, Alfred Znamierowski, author of The World Encyclopedia of Flags, The definitive guide to international flags, banners, standards and ensigns, claims Francis Hopkinson used five-pointed as well as six-pointed stars.
Follow The Flag
Believing the American Revolution represents an advance in the cause of human rights of international significance, the Bergen County Historical Society wishes not only to promote recognition of Historic New Bridge Landing in Bergen County, New Jersey, as an important battleground of the American Revolution, but also to weave a narrative from the contributions of every person and place associated with this historic struggle for self-government. In so doing, we honor all who strive and the many who have fallen to defend the dignity and rights of all humankind as so nobly expressed in the American Creed of Equality before the Law and in the eyes of our Maker.
The American Revolution continues—its great Propositional Creed, that all men and women are created equal, resounds from every turning point in the course of human affairs from the halls of the Continental Congress, to Seneca Falls, to the Battlefield at Gettysburg, to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. and beyond. And so we ask you to Follow the Flag as it moves through our history, a common thread and rallying point, linking past and present generations to our highest national ideals as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.
To physically link the stories of our Revolutionary heritage, Margaret Haggerty and Helen Clark, of River Edge, have authentically hand sewn two four-by-six-foot Hopkinson Flags from wool bunting, representative of the eighteenth century, appliquéing thirteen stars in a quincuncial pattern. The first flag to be completed was raised over the Revolutionary War Monument at Fort Lee in November 2010. In the coming years, we hope to have these beautiful reproductions flown over every Historic Site associated with the American Revolution, keeping record of their journey from place to place.
Margaret Haggerty is an accomplished fabric artist who designs and constructs quilts of all kinds. She and friend Helen Clark started St. Peter's Quilters in 2004, using donated fabrics to make twin-size quilts for Covenant House in Newark for distribution to young adults who are ready to move into their own apartments. To date, they have sewn and donated more than 200 quilts.
We invite you to discover historic Bergen County: Where America Begins.
Ask yourself—Just how valuable are the lessons of history? If you enjoyed this article, then please consider joining the Bergen County Historical Society, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) volunteer organization, founded in 1902. We are dedicated to preserving important evidence of the past and promoting historical literacy through interesting programs and publications.
We don't receive public operating support or grants the way other groups do, but rely entirely upon private donations, membership dues and volunteer contributions of time and talent. We are presently trying to raise $350,000 to construct a first-rate historical museum building and library for Bergen County on the Society’s property at Historic New Bridge Landing, 1201 Main Street, River Edge, NJ 07661. For further information or membership application, visit: http://www.bergencountyhistory.org