Throwback Thursday: When Kentucky had its own stripe on the American flag

Our country celebrates Flag Day every June 14th . Though it’s not an official holiday,
it’s been celebrated since at least 1888, and Britannica sources argue it may have
been celebrated as early as 1861. Nonetheless, June 14, 1777 was the date the
Second Continental Congress accepted our flag through adopting a resolution. For a
brief moment in history, there were 15 stripes on the flag instead of the 13 we have
now. One of those extra two represented Kentucky. We visit the memory of
Kentucky’s stripe on the American flag in this week’s Throwback Thursday.

It’s common knowledge that the American flag’s stars represent each state, and its
13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies. But with help from Kentucky historian
Sam Terry, we learned about the time Kentucky had its own stripe.

It was January 13, 1794, 11 years since the Treaty of Paris had been signed, ending
the American Revolution with Great Britain and establishing the United States as its
own nation. President George Washington adopted the Flag Act, adding two more
stripes to the American flag, one for Kentucky and one for Vermont. For the next 23
years, the American flag would have 15 stripes.

When was “The Star Spangled Banner” written? Francis Scott Key penned it during
the War of 1812. He wrote it as that 15-stripe flag was flying over Fort McHenry,
being bombarded in 1814. Think of it this way. With the “rockets’ red glare, bombs
bursting in air,” giving proof thru the night that our flag was still there, that
particular flag had 15 stripes, one for our Kentucky home.

That version of the flag changed in 1818, when Congress declared a new star would
be added to the flag every July 4th when a new state was added to the union. The flag
stripe count was reduced back to 13 that year. Measuring 30’ by 42’, the “Star
Spangled Banner” flag with its 15 stripes is preserved at the Smithsonian Institution.