US flag history: A look at rejected designs for America's 50-star flag

When you look up and salute an American flag, do you ever wonder how it came to be?

"It has traveled to the Moon and to Mars," President Biden said in this year’s Flag Day proclamation. "It has sailed on ships and flown on planes. It waves high above the White House, courthouses, post offices, schools, and homes across the Nation, and also above our embassies and military bases overseas — an enduring beacon of democracy."

The U.S. flag has changed 27 times since it was first unveiled in 1777. According to the Eisenhower Library, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration started planning for a 49- and 50-state flag in 1953, several years before Alaska and Hawaii joined the union.

How the 50-state U.S. flag was chosen

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Photo credit: Eisenhower Library

In 1953, Eisenhower appointed a joint committee to craft a plan for the new flag. Five years later, the White House announced that the Secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury, along with the Chairman of the Commission on Fine Arts would submit an informal proposal to the president.

At a Cabinet meeting in 1958, Eisenhower told members he preferred seven staggered rows of seven stars, a design that would easily allow for a 50th star.

Alaska became a state on Jan. 3, 1959. The same day, Eisenhower issued an executive order establishing the 49-state flag.

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Hawaii became the 50th state in the union months later, on Aug. 21, 1959. Eisenhower established the 50-state flag the same day. There were more than 3,000 flag designs submitted to the president.

"The designs came in a wide range of media from simple pencil sketches to professionally constructed flags," the Eisenhower Library said. "This was an especially popular project for elementary school children who expressed their ideas with construction paper, crayons, tempera paint, and tiny stick-on stars."

Here’s a look at some of the Old Glory designs that didn’t make the cut:

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Photo credit: Eisenhower Library