The Stars and Stripes

Week 18 Dataset and Historical Background

Posted by David Velleca on July 2, 2018

Historical Background

This is a pretty simple dataset this week. As we get ready to celebrate our Independence Day this Wednesday, we wanted to look at the history of one of the icons of this great nation - our flag. The first official flag adopted by the 13 Colonies as they began the fight for independence, employed the Union Jack of Great Britain and 13 alternating red and white stripes representing the 13 colonies. While the first 'American Flag' this was far from the first flag used by the Patriots. While there were many famous flags that represented the cause of the Patriots - from the Gadsden Flag with it's well-known "DONT TREAD ON ME" admonishment to the Flag of New England and the Flag of the Son's of Liberty - the one thing they all lacked was a unified look and feel.

The Grand Union Flag got things rolling until the Flag Act of 1777 was passed on June 14. Legislation passed that day, now celebrated annually as Flag Day, defined in very loose terms the design of the basis for the American Flag we know today:

"Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

With legislation setting very loose bounds for what the flag should look like, several interpretations were put forth on the "constellation," with many of them being used across the nation. Both rectangular and round configurations of stars were popular throughout the 1800's, the Army and Navy favored standardized rectangular patterns, setting the stage for the Flag Act of 1912 to define the star patterns going forward.

Our dataset this week looks at the major flags in the history of the United States. We've made the decision to exclude Confederate flags from the dataset, including only the United States flag from that period. Additionally, we've excluded some of the one off centennial and bicentennial designs where the stars were replaced with 1776 and other imagery.

We hope you have a great Fourth of July. If you'd like to get patriotic with your own viz, download the dataset and publish your work to Tableau Public, and Twitter with the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday, tagging @TThrowbackThurs. We'd really love to see what you can come up with!

Data Source

The dataset this week was sourced from Wikipedia. Please be sure to cite the source on your viz.