What the U.S. Flag Could Have Looked Like

In 1958, President Eisenhower asked the general public for help designing a new American flag.

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Design for American Flag with 50 Stars by Donald Edwards, 1959 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, National Archives and Records Administration
Design for American Flag with 50 Stars by Donald Edwards, 1959 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, National Archives and Records Administration)

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the American flag in 1777, but it's worth noting the object of our celebration hasn't always looked the same way.

For example, in 1958 when Hawaii was on the cusp of becoming America's 50th state, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed a committee to help choose a new design, as federal law required a new star be added to represent any new state. The president also did something surprising: he asked for the help of the American public.

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In response, the White House received thousands of "creative and fanciful submissions," a number of them from school children, according to the National Archives.

Two designs, made by a Donald Edwards, were done in the form of construction paper collage and today are on display at the archives. In the first design, Edwards arranged the stars in a shape of a bigger star; in another, he placed them in a circular cluster. But when Hawaii became a state in 1959, the committee stuck with a design similar to what was already on the flag. Today there are nine rows total, five rows of four stars, and six rows of five.

Design for American Flag with 50 Stars by Donald Edwards, 1959 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, National Archives and Records Administration)

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