The Grand Union Flag
The first flag of the colonists to have any resemblance to the present Stars and Stripes was the Grand Union Flag, sometimes referred to as the Congress Colors, the First Navy Ensign, and the Cambridge Flag. Its design consisted of 13 stripes, alternately red and white, representing the Thirteen Colonies, with a blue field in the upper left-hand corner bearing the red cross of St. George of England with the white cross of St. Andrew of Scotland.
As the flag of the Revolution it was used on many occasions. It was first flown by the ships of the Colonial Fleet on the Delaware River. On December 3, 1775, it was raised aboard Captain Esek Hopkin's flagship Alfred by John Paul Jones, then a Navy lieutenant. Later the flag was raised on the liberty pole at Prospect Hill, which was near George Washington's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
It was our unofficial national flag on July 4, 1776, Independence Day; and it remained the unofficial national flag and ensign of the Navy until June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress authorized the Stars and Stripes.
Interestingly, the Grand Union Flag also was the standard of the British East India Company. It was only by degrees that the Union Flag of Great Britain was discarded. The final breach between the Colonies and Great Britain brought about the removal of the British Union from the canton of our striped flag and the substitution of stars on a blue field.
Note: Our information on the history and traditions of the American flag is based on primary source materials from the Federal Consumer Information Center.