On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Flag Day is now observed on June 14 of each year. A false tradition holds that the new flag was first hoisted in June of 1777 by the Continental Army at the Middlebrook encampment.
The Flag Resolution did not specify any particular arrangement for the stars. The pictured flag shows the thirteen stars arranged in a circle, the so-called Betsy Ross flag. Although the Betsy Ross legend is not taken seriously by many historians, the design itself is the oldest version of any US flag to appear on any physical relic: it is historically referenced in contemporary battlefield paintings by John Trumbull and Charles Willson Peale, which depict the circular star arrangement. Popular designs at the time were varied and most were individually crafted rather than mass-produced. Given the scant archeological and written evidence, it is unknown which design was the most popular at that time.
The origin of the stars and stripes design is uncertain. A popular story credits Betsy Ross for sewing the first flag from a pencil sketch by George Washington who personally commissioned her for the job. However, no evidence for this theory exists beyond Ross’ descendants’ much later recollections of what she told her family. Another woman, Rebecca Young, has also been credited as having made the first flag by later generations of her family. Rebecca Young’s daughter was Mary Pickersgill, who made the Star Spangled Banner Flag.
Another popular theory is that the flag was designed by Francis Hopkinson. Hopkinson was the only person to have made such a claim during his own lifetime, when he sent a bill to Congress for his work. He asked for a “Quarter Cask of the Public Wine” as payment initially. The payment was not made, however, because it was determined he had already received a salary as a member of Congress. It should be noted that no one at the time contested his claim to have designed the flag.