Flag Star Patterns

In 1777, the Continental Congress passed the First Flag Act, which stated the following: Resolved, That the Flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation. 

The Act specified the number of stripes and the colors of the flag, but it did not specify the dimensions, proportions, or star placements.  Because of this lack of specificity, each flag maker could dimension that flag and place the stars however he wanted.  Such freedom opened the floodgates, and the appearance of our flag was only limited by each maker's imagination.  This freedom extended all the way to 1912, the time at which President Taft issued Executive Order 1556, establishing that the stars of the American flag should be placed in a rectilinear pattern. Below is a sampling of antique flags that predate Executive Order 1556.   

 

Antique Flag with a Rectilinear Star Pattern

Rectlinear Star Pattern  

Shown here is a thirty-six star flag with a rectilinear star pattern. It dates to between 1864 and 1867.


Linear Star Pattern 

Shown here is a forty-five star flag with a linear star pattern. It dates to between 1896 and 1907.

Antique Flag with a Linear Star Pattern

Antique Flag with Linear Star Pattern and Upside Down Stars

Linear Star Pattern with Upside Down Stars

Shown here is a forty-five star flag with a linear star pattern with upside down stars. It dates to between 1896 and 1907.


Zigzagging Linear Star Pattern  

Shown here is a forty-five star flag with a zigzagging linear star pattern. It dates to between 1896 and 1907.

Antique Flag with a Zigzagging Linear Star Pattern

Antique Flag with an Hourglass Star Pattern

Hourglass Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-eight star flag with an hourglass star pattern. It dates to between 1876 and 1889.



Notched Star Pattern 

Shown here is a forty-five star flag with a notched star pattern. It dates to between 1896 and 1907.

Antique Flag with Notched Star Pattern

Antique Flag with a Dancing Star Pattern

Dancing or Tumbling Star Pattern 

Shown here is a forty-five star flag with a dancing or tumbling star pattern. It dates to between 1896 and 1907.


3-2-3-2-3 Star Pattern

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a 3-2-3-2-3 star pattern. It dates to between 1895 and 1926.

Antique Flag with a 3-2-3-2-3 Star Pattern

Antique Flag with Betsy Ross Star Pattern

Betsy Ross Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a Betsy Ross star pattern. It dates to 1910.


4-5-4 Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a 4-5-4 star pattern. It dates to between 1895 and 1926.

Antique Flag with 4-5-4 Star Pattern

Antique Flag with Star of David Pattern

Star of David Pattern 

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a star of david pattern. It dates to between 1848 and 1865.


Cowpens Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a cowpens star pattern. It dates to between 1910 and 1930.

Antique Flag with Cowpens Star Pattern

Antique Flag with a Yacht Ensign Star Pattern

Yacht Ensign Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a yacht ensign star pattern. It dates to between 1895 and 1926.


Medallion Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-five star flag with a medallion star pattern. It dates to between 1863 and 1865.

Antique Flag with a Medallion Star Pattern

Antique Flag with a Medallion Star Pattern and Haloed Center Star

Medallion Star Pattern with Haloed Center Star 

Shown here is a thirty-five star flag with a medallion star pattern with a haloed center star. It dates to between 1863 and 1865.


Offset Medallion Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-eight star flag with an offset medallion star pattern. It dates to between 1876 and 1889.

Antique Flag with an Offset Medallion Star Pattern

Antique Flag with a Summer Sky Medallion Star Pattern

Summer Sky Medallion Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-eight star flag with a summer sky medallion star pattern. It dates to between 1876 and 1889.


Medallion with Large Flanking Stars Pattern  

Shown here is a thirty-eight star flag with a medallion with large flanking stars pattern. It dates to between 1876 and 1889.

Antique Flag with a Medallion with Large Flanking Stars Pattern

Antique Flag with a Double Wreath Star Pattern

Double Wreath Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-five star flag with a double wreath star pattern. It dates to between 1880 and 1913.


Beehive Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-eight star flag with a beehive star pattern. It dates to between 1876 and 1889.

Antique Flag with a Beehive Star Pattern

Antique Flag with Great Star Pattern

Great Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-six star flag with a great star pattern. It dates to between 1864 and 1867.


Great Star in a Medallion Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-six star flag with a great star in a medallion pattern. It dates to between 1864 and 1867.

Antique Flag with Great Star in a Medallion Pattern

Antique Flag with a Whipple Star Pattern

Whipple Star Pattern 

Shown here is a forty-eight star flag with a Whipple star pattern. It dates to between 1909 and 1912.


Bursting Cross Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirty-four star flag with a bursting cross star pattern. It dates to between 1861 and 1863.

Antique Flag with a Bursting Cross Star Pattern

13 Star Antique Flag with a Random Star Pattern

Random Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a random star pattern. It dates to 1863.


Mixed Overprint and Star Pattern 

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a mixed overprint and star pattern. It dates to between 1872 and 1890.

Antique Flag with a Mixed Overprint and Star Pattern

Wreath with Center Stars Pattern

Wreath and Center Stars Pattern

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a wreath and center stars pattern. It dates to between 1890 and 1900.


Snowflake Medallion Pattern

Shown here is a thirteen star flag with a snowflake medallion pattern. It dates to between 1848 and 1865.

Antique Flag with Snowflake Medallion Pattern

Antique Flag with a Starburst with Cross Pattern

Starburst with Cross Star Pattern

Shown here is an eighteen star flag with a starburst with a cross star pattern. It dates to between 1861 and 1890.