Betsy Ross is the name most often associated with the creation of the American flag-the stripes were representative of the original 13 colonies that broke from British rule. She sewed a ring of 13 stars in the blue corner, again representing the 13 colonies. The flags we were waving looked a little different-there are now 50 stars in the blue corner, called the canton. Robert G. Heft, a name most folks have never heard, designed the 50-star flag as a high school project. He was 17-he spent $2.87 on blue cloth, removed the white stars from a flag in his grandparent’s home, and with a little iron-on white fabric he created 100 stars (one for each side of the flag) on the field of blue. He received a B- for his project.
During the time that Hawaii and Alaska were being considered for statehood, 1,500 unsolicited designs-all on paper-were sent by citizens to President Eisenhower. With the help of his Congressman, Robert submitted his B- effort-his was the only submission that was an actual stitched together flag-and made this deal with his teacher: if his design were selected by the United States Congress, the grade would be changed. A phone call from President Eisenhower gave him the news: his 50 star design was to be declared by presidential proclamation to be the flag to be used after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union. His grade was changed to an A! In a moment of great optimism Robert also copyrighted his design for flags with 51-60 stars.
Robert passed away in 2009, after a life devoted to public speaking, teaching and public service. Don’t you know there were flags everywhere at his funeral? I sure hope so, it would be fitting for the Betsy Ross of our generation.
When you see the American flag, what does it mean to you? Would you share with us anyone you know who has died serving our country? We honor them for giving the ultimate sacrifice.