During the 1950s, thousands of Americans sent their redesign proposals to the federal government, and these 10 rejected ideas were among the most creative submissions.
America’s national color palette has been set since 1818, when a law was passed requiring the American flag to sport 13 alternating red and white horizontal stripes—one for each of the original colonies—and a white star for each state on a blue field. Every time the United States admitted another state, a new star was added to the flag and a new pattern was needed.
Shortly after President Dwight D. Eisenhower took office in 1953, his administration began to plan for the eventual admission of Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states. One of the smaller details requiring attention was how adding two new white stars might alter the design of the existing United States flag. This challenge evidently captured the public’s imagination.
During the 1950s, more than 3,000 Americans mailed unsolicited designs for a 50-state flag to the White House, Congress and federal agencies. The submissions ranged from crayon sketches by schoolchildren to hand-sewn mock-ups. While they were certainly creative, many of these proposed flags did not follow the rules set by the 1818 law. A commission of military and civilian personnel appointed by Eisenhower reviewed the crowdsourced proposals along with government-developed ideas to find the winning candidate: a flag with five rows of six stars staggered with four rows of five stars.
The current American flag, which is the longest-tenured banner in American history, was officially raised for the first time on the Fourth of July in 1960 at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the “Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812. While the 50-star flag looks very similar to its predecessors, had any of these 10 proposals in the archives of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum been selected, Old Glory would have looked far different.