Surrounding the base of the Washington Monument are 50 flag poles--one for each state in the Union. The birth of the Grand Union flag, as it was first called, came on January 1, 1776, when General George Washington ordered his troops to hoist the colors. That first flag was 13 red and white alternating stripes with a Union Jack in the upper corner.
Over the decades and two centuries of this nation, the flag has changed. In July 1776, Betsy Ross of Philadelphia unfurled her version with 13 stripes and a field of blue with 13 stars. As states were added, so were more stars and stripes. Risking a cumbersome flag--can you imagine a banner of 50 stripes and 50 stars?--the flag was eventually set at the dimensions we are familiar with today: 13 red and white alternating stripes representing the 13 original colonies and 50 stars representing each of the states.
The colors are also symbolic. Red stands for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
According to Eavesdrop DC, this summer a tourist actually asked a local resident how we get those flags to blow in the same direction at the same time. EDC's response: "It's all that hot air coming from Congress."
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 09/07