Well, today, the United States is celebrating a magic birthday of a sort. Fifty years ago today, Aug. 21, 1959, Hawaii became the fiftieth state in the union, meaning for the past 50 years there have been 50 stars on our flag. (You can read the NYT story from that day here.) I would hazard a guess, since I don’t feel like actually checking the fact, most Americans alive today have never lived under any flag other than the one currently flying.
This is, I should point out, the longest period of time (and counting) where Old Glory hasn’t had a facelift. The next longest gap, if you’re interested, was the 48-to-49 gap from Feb. 14, 1912, when Arizona became the 48th state, and Jan. 3, 1959, when Alaska signed up.
The shortest? Well, good of you to ask. Not counting the 17-or-so seconds on Nov. 2, 1889, between the time when President Benjamin Harrison signed the proclamations naming North Dakota and South Dakota the 39th and 40th states (he shuffled the documents and never told anyone which one he signed first), you’d think it was the next six days before Montana became the 41st state on Nov. 8. But you’d be wrong. Three days after Montana’s star was added, Washington became the 42nd state on Nov. 11, 1889.
Perhaps it’s because I’m used to it, but the 50-stared flag just seems…right. Everything just lines up perfectly. Nine rows, five of six and four of five. All nice and diagonal. See:
The 49-star flag, though, for some reason, just seems off. Don’t you think? Something about those gaps at the ends of the rows of stars. It zigs and zags back and forth.
But what about the future? What about this flag? A flag with 51 stars?
Is there a 51st state somewhere down the line? Who knows, but I’m willing to bet I won’t live my whole life under a flag with 50 stars. In case you're one of those folks who likes to plan waaay ahead and worries if you're not prepared, according to Wikipedia, the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry has designs for flags up to 56 stars. (I'm guessing, in no particular order: D.C., Puerto Rico...uh, Alberta, British Columbia, Saska...Saskache... Saskatchewan, and some other place that's easier to spell.*)
Happy Birthday Hawaii!!
Happy Birthday Hawaii!!
*To all my Canadian friends, I'm kidding. I very much respect the Great Bear of the North and am mocking you in a "Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more, eh?" kind of way.