“Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
The thirteen stars and stripes represented the thirteen colonies that declared independence the year before from the Kingdom of Great Britain. These thirteen colonies, including North Carolina, went on to become the first states of our new nation.
North Carolina’s delegates voting that Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia were Thomas Burke (for whom Burke County is named), Cornelius Harnett (for whom Harnett County is named), William Hooper, and John Penn (for whom the USS John Penn was named and the first historical highway marker erected by the State of North Carolina was dedicated). Tradition holds that the nation’s new flag was first hoisted in June 1777 by the Continental Army at the Middlebrook encampment in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War; the event is commemorated each year, and by special order of Congress, a traditional thirteen star flag is flown 24 hours a day at the site.
The Continental Congress’s resolution, which had been initially drafted and referred by the Marine Committee, gave no specific instruction as to how many points the stars should have, nor how the stars should be arranged. This led to varying designs at the time: some flags had stars scattered on the blue field, some had the stars arranged in rows, and some in a circle. Some stars had five or six points, while others had eight.
No federal law or executive order exists which provides an official meaning for the flag’s colors. The closest thing we have is the contemporary account of Charles Thomson (the recording secretary of the Continental Congress) who describes the colors, the same that were being used in the design of the the Great Seal of the United States: “White signifies purity and innocence. Red hardiness and valour and Blue . . . signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.”