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16 Star Flag -unofficial- (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by rick wyatt
Keywords: sixteen | united states | unofficial |
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[U.S. 16 star flag 1796] image by Devereaux Cannon and Dave Martucci, 3 July 1998

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Q: What is the 16 stripe and 16 star flag?

In 1795 the U.S. flag law changed to have the flag go from 13 stars and stripes to 15 stars and stripes. However, no provision was made for recognizing the entry of new States into the union.

In 1796 Tennessee entered as the 16th State. Despite the lack of a change in the flag law, some people added additional stars and stripes to the flag. This is what eventually lead to the flag act of 1818. In 1817, during a debate in Congress on changing the flag law, Congressman Peter Wendover of New York discussed the lack of uniformity among U.S. flags, and the lack of compliance with the law in their use. As illustrations, he pointed to the flag over the U.S. Navy Yard, which had 9 stripes, and the flag flying over the capitol building, which had 18.

In 1995 I had two replicas made of a flag with 16 stars and stripes. The larger of the two, measuring 5 x 9.5 feet, flew over the Tennessee capitol on 6 February 1996 (the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the first Tennessee constitution) and on 1 June 1996 (the 200th anniversary of the admission of Tennessee to the union). It is the flag which I will fly on my main flag pole on the 4th.
Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 2 July 1998

For a time, the 16 star flag was officially used by the US Navy. This was, however, when there are more than 16 states. In the 1850, and until about 1862, US Navy boat flags had only 16 stars arrange in a 4 star by 4 star square. (These flags had the usual 13 stripes of the period.) It is unknown exactly when this practice began, or why 16 stars. In about 1862 the went to a 13 star boat flag (usually arranged 4/5/4 until about 1870 when the 3/2/3/2/3 pattern began to be used).
Devereaux Cannon, 9 December 2003