FDR and the Presidential Flag

Original Presidential Flag

The Presidential flag or standard as it is sometimes known has changed several times since its humble beginnings with the creation of this nation and the office it represents over two centuries ago. In 1817 the flag had not only the eagle, stars, and stripes but it also included the Goddess of Liberty. During the course of the 19th century both the Army and Navy had their own flags to signal all presidential visits. This would prove to be a bit of a confusion to future Presidents.

The Flag that FDR designed in 1916

By the time of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency he had decided that there should be one official flag. He choose the Navy’s flag since it was older and closer to the look of the presidential seal. It was President Taft who in 1912 issued executive order 1637 to have one official flag, yet the army still continued to show its presidential colors from time to time. President Wilson noticed this fact in 1916 and put together a flag committee to design a flag that would work for both Army and Navy. On the committee was a man who loved to design and also loved flags, the young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt helped design the flag with four stars on each corner, which represented the highest ranking generals in the army at the time, along with the continued use of the Navy blue background. Some would have you believe that the four stars represented his four terms as President, but his time in the White House was years away.

The four star flag remained the official flag until 1945 when FDR set out to create a new one. An aide who worked for Roosevelt during the War named George Elsey said that he changed the number of stars from four to 48 to match the number of states in the nation at the time. He also changed the direction the eagle was facing as experts at the time claimed that the eagle looking to the left was “sinister.” However, FDR died before his new flag could be flown and when Truman took over in April of 1945, the flag was used for the first time ironically on the U.S.S Franklin D. Roosevelt. The flag has remained unchanged since 1960 when the last two stars were added for Alaska and Hawaii.

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  • Blog Author

    Shannon Butler

    Shannon Butler is a Park Ranger of Interpretation and Education at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park New York. She has also interpreted the Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston New York. Read Full
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