Rick Stephens, Boy Scout committee chairman, was the guest speaker at the Jan. 28 flag retirement ceremony at the Veterans Monument Memorial in Pawhuska. He was assisted by his wife, Cindy, who displayed flags flown in North American, beginning with the 1497 Saint George Cross flag.

“Flags have held a special place in humanity as far back as recorded history. The Vikings had flags on their ships. Roman generals used flags to signal their troops. Countries used flags to designate themselves.

“For more than 200 years, the American flag has been the symbol of our nation’s strength and unity. It’s been a source of pride and inspiration for millions of citizens. The American flag has been a prominent icon in our national history,” said Stephens. “Here are the highlights of its unique past.”

The Saint George Cross flag was the first flag flown in North America by John Cabot in 1497 under the reign of Henry VII.

When the Mayflower landed, the colonists used King James I flag. King James took the cross of Saint George and superimposed it on the Scottish flag of Saint Andrew, calling it Knight’s Colours.

Queen Ann adopted a new flag for England in 1707. The King’s colors were replaced by a field of red. It’s called the British Red Ensign. Cornwallis was under this flag when he surrendered his troops to George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia. This was final major conflict of the American Revolution.

The Continental flag evolved with the Revolutionary War. A green New England pine tree (which represented the New England way of life) was substituted for the Union flag in the canton. Historians believe this banner was carried through the famous battle of Bunker Hill.

This next flag is one of my favorites. The first rattle snake flag was created in 1775 by Colonial Gadsden of South Carolina. The flag depicts a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. It was used by the first Commander of the Continental fleet, S. Hopkins. Its inscription “Don’t Tread on Me” was intended to be a warning to the British and meant it was dangerous to step on the colonists. This still holds true today.

The Grand Union flag was created when the Continental Army was reorganized on Jan. 1, 1776, in accordance with a Congressional resolution which placed American forces under George Washington’s control.

On that New Year’s Day, the Continental Army was laying siege to Boston, which had been taken over the British Army. Washington ordered the Grand Union flag hoisted above his base at Prospect Hill. It has 13 alternate red and white stripes and the British Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner (the canton).

The original Betsy Ross flag was adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777, with the passage of the first Flag Act. “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” On Aug. 3, 1949, President Harry S. Truman officially declared June 14 as Flag Day.

Between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several acts that changed the shape, design and arrangement of the flag and allowed for additional stars and stripes to be added to reflect the admission of each new state. The Act of Jan. 13, 1794, signed by President Washington, provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795. The Act of April 4, 1818, signed by President Monroe, provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state.

President Taft’s Executive Order of June 24, 1912, established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward. President Eisenhower’s Executive Order of January 3, 1959, provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically. Eisenhower’s EO of August 21, 1959, provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows staggered horizontally and eleven rows staggered vertically.

Today, the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stirpes, seven red alternating with six white. The stirpes represent the original 13 colonies. The stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The flag’s colors are also symbolic. Red is emblematic of Hardiness and Valor. White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.

CUTLINE/KATHRYN SWAN – KNIGHT’S COLOURS: Rick Stephens, Boy Scout Committee Chairman, was the guest speaker for the January 28th Flag Retirement Ceremony which was held at the Veterans Monument Memorial in Pawhuska. His wife, Cindy, is displaying the Knight’s Colors flag. When the Mayflower landed, the colonists used King James I flag. King James I took the cross of Saint George and superimposed it on the Scottish flag of Saint Andrew, calling it Knight’s Colours.