July 5, 2011

Teen Robert Heft Designed the American Flag

I found out something really fun yesterday as we were celebrating the holiday.  Did you know that our current flag was designed by a kid?  I didn't know that either!  Let me tell you the story.
In 1958, the states of Alaska and Hawaii were about to be admitted into the United States.  That meant the flag would be changed again, adding two more stars. A teacher in Lancaster, Ohio made it a class assignment to design a new flag, incorporating 50 stars and 13 stripes.  One student, a shy 17 year old named Robert G. Heft spent a weekend working on it.  He got out his grandparent's current 48 star flag, cut off the stars and patched the holes.  He then used iron-on white fabric and cut out 100 stars, ironing them on both sides of the blue in his design—five rows of six stars alternating with four rows of five stars. 
When he turned it in, his teacher gave him a B minus on his project.  He marked it down from an A because he said it 'lacked originality' but said if Congress accepted it as the National Flag, he'd give him a higher grade.  Robert was disappointed… his design had to WIN to get an A?  Really?
Robert took up the challenge and he sent his flag to his Ohio Congressman, who liked it and sent it to the committee that was considering new designs in Washington.  About 1500 designs were submitted to this committee.
It took time, but Robert Heft's design was chosen, and it became the new American flag.  On July 4th, 1960 Robert Heft stood next to President Dwight Eisenhower as his handmade flag was raised over the Capitol's dome in Washington DC. The new American Flag was unfurled! Roberts little homemade ironed-on flag was the National flag of America!
Robert's teacher got out his old grade book and gave Robert an A.  I'm glad that Robert didn't quit, had faith in his work and submitted it, even after his teacher discouraged him.  I think the flag is beautiful in its simplicity and clean in its design.  And now it symbolizes all that makes America great.  When I see the flag flying high, and sing the 'Star Spangled Banner' I can hardly contain my emotions.  It moves me to tears.   I'm sure I'm not alone in that reaction.

For more, search Wikipedia under Robert Heft, or see Blyth, Myrna. How to Raise an American 2007, Crowne Publishing, p. 170.  Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip art

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