The snake was represented generally with 13 rattles; sometimes it was coiled around the pine tree at its base, and sometimes depicted at length on a field of 13 alternate red and white or red and blue stripes. The official origin of the "grand union" flag is involved in obscurity. At the time of its adoption at Cambridge the colonies still acknowledged the legal rights of the mother country, and there-fore retained the blended crosses of St. George and St. Andrew, changing only the field of the old ensign for the 13 stripes emblematic of their union. The colors of the stripes may have been suggested by the red flag of the army and the white one of the navy, previously in use. These 13 stripes are supposed to have been used first on a banner presented in 1774 or 1775 to the Philadelphia troop of light horse by Capt. Abraham Markoe, and still in the possession of that troop. After the declaration of independence the emblems of British union became inappropriate, but they were retained in the flag until the following year.

Congress resolved on June 14, 1777,that the flag of the 13 United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white, in a blue field, representing a new constellation." This is the first recorded legislative action for the adoption of a national flag. The resolution was not promulgated officially until Sept. 3, although the newspapers published it a month earlier. It is supposed that the flag was unfurled first by Paul Jones on the Ranger, to the command of which he was appointed on the same day that the resolution regarding the flag was passed. It is not known by whom the stars were suggested. By some they have been ascribed to John Adams, and by others it has been urged that the entire flag was borrowed from the coat of arms of the Washington family; but both conjectures are without proof, and the latter is improbable. The 13 stars of the flag of 1777 were arranged in a circle, although no form was prescribed officially. The flag thus adopted remained unchanged till 1794, when, on motion of Senator Bradley of Vermont, which state, with Kentucky, had been admitted into the Union, it was resolved that from and after May 1, 1795,the flag of the United States be 15 stripes alternate red and white, that the union be 15 stars, white in a blue field." This was the flag used in the war of 1812-'14. The act made no provision for future alterations, and none were made till 1818, although several new states had meanwhile been admitted into the union.

In 1816, on the admission of Indiana, a committee was appointed "to inquire into the expediency of altering the flag." A bill was reported, Jan. 2,1817, but was not acted on, which embodied the suggestions of Capt. Samuel C. Reid, distinguished for his defence of the brig General Armstrong against a superior British force in Fayal roads in 1814, who recommended the reduction of the stripes to the original 13, and the adoption of stars equal to the number of the states, formed into one large star, and a new star to be added on the 4th of July next succeeding the admission of each new state. On April 4, 1818, a bill embodying these suggestions, with the exception of that designating the manner of arranging the stars, was approved by the president, and on the 13th of the same month the flag thus established was hoisted on the hall of representatives at Washington, although its legal existence did not begin until the following 4th of July. In 1859, when congress passed a vote of thanks to Capt. Reid, the designer of the flag, it was suggested that the mode of arrangement of the stars should be prescribed by law, but the matter was overlooked.

The stars in the unions of flags used by the war department of the government are generally arranged in one large star; in the navy flags they are invariably set in parallel lines. The blue union, which now contains 37 stars, when used separately is called the union jack. The United States revenue flag, adopted in 1799, consists of 16 perpendicular stripes, alternately red and white, the union white with the national arms in dark blue. The union used separately constitutes the revenue jack. The American yacht flag is like the national flag, with the exception of the union, which displays a white foul anchor in a circle of 13 stars in the blue field.-During the civil war the several seceded states used at first distinctive state flags. In March, 1861, the confederate congress adopted the so-called stars and bars," composed of three horizontal bars of equal width, the middle one white, the others red, with a blue union containing nine white stars arranged in a circle. The resemblance of this to the stars and stripes led to confusion and mistakes in the field; and in September, 18G1, a battle flag was adopted, a red field charged with a blue saltier, with a narrow border of white, on which were displayed 13 white stars.

In 1863 the stars and bars was supplanted by a flag with a white field having the battle flag for a union. The flag of 1863 was found deficient in service, it being liable to be mistaken for a flag of truce; and on Feb. 4, 1865, the outer half of the field beyond the union was covered with a vertical red bar. This was the last flag of the confederacy.-See Origin and Progress of the Flag of the United States of America," by George Henry Preble, U. S. N. (8vo, Albany, 1872).