Ah, Old Glory. A symbol of hard-won freedom that we honor by printing on $60 short shorts. It seems eternal, but it's actually gone through dozens of revisions over the years. Would your beer kozies and bikinis have looked better if we'd stuck with the Bedford Militia Men's flag of 1775? You be the judge.
This week the masters of encyclopedic graphics, Pop Chart Lab, rounded up 48 different iterations of the American flag spanning 247 years of history. Working backwards, these flags are familiar: The phalanxes, stars, and circles of the 19th century feel fairly similar to our modern-day flag.
But go further back, and things change much more drastically. You can see all of the versions if you expand the graphic here, but check out a few highlights below.
Take the "Rebellious Stripes," from almost a decade before 1776, these nine alternating stripes probably represented the nine colonies that attended the Stamp Act Congress protesting against taxation.
Or the Forster flag, whose 13 stripes represented the colonies as the Minutemen marched to meet the British as they marched on Lexington. Here's what it looked like in real life.
The pine tree was a symbol of New England long before the Revolution, becoming iconic after the British instituted a rule that gave them the right to harvest pine trees wider than a certain width. The phrase? That's borrowed from John Locke.
The Gadsen flag now has a whole new context within contemporary American politics. But back in 1775, it was given to the commander-in-chief of the new Navy by one Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden, of South Carolina.
"Conquer Or Die" reads the script on this 1775 flag, carried by the Bedford Minutemen. The armored arm is animated by a gust of clouds—which is sort of incredible imagery, when you come to think of it.
Imagine what Americans of 2003, the year of the "freedom fry," would have thought of this flag. Emblazoned with a fleur-de-lis, it was created to celebrate the role that France played in winning the Revolution.
You can buy Pop Chart Lab's poster here.