247 Years Of American Flags, Visualized

During more than 200 years of American history, the United States flag has undergone near-constant transformation. The prolific infographic designers at Pop Chart Lab condensed 247 years of the American flag’s design evolution into one poster–from the Sons of Liberty’s rebellious stripes in 1767 to the pattern we know today. In total, the chart surveys 48 flags (no confederate flags included), noting underneath each row the number of states in the country at the time of the flag’s inception.

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Though the design of the poster itself is not particularly groundbreaking, it documents the great design challenge the stars and stripes (in conjunction with a national obsession with Manifest Destiny) have posed over the past few centuries: How do you represent an ever-growing number of states? In 1861, for instance, when America consisted of 34 states, there were four variations on the flag. One, the “Great Flower,” arranged the 34 stars in a starfish-shaped pattern. Another clustered them together like five dots on the side of a die. Still another used a diamond pattern that kind of looks like a crab. With every new batch of states added, the stars had to be rearranged. The 50-star flag we use today wasn’t created until 1960, after Hawaii joined the Union.

It’s not a closed issue, either. People have already prepped designs for a 51-star flag, in the event that Puerto Rico becomes a state. For a country with a substantial taste for expansionist policy, you’d think we’d have picked a more flexible design.

Get the poster from Pop Chart Lab.SF