13 Bars on the Union Flag

“Delaware * Pennsylvania * New Jersey * Georgia * Connecticut * Massachusetts * Maryland *South Carolina * New Hampshire * Virginia * New York * North Carolina * Rhode Island

These thirteen states rebelled against the British Crown in the eighteenth century and are represented by the thirteen parallel bars of the Union Flag. Curiously, the Founding Fathers adapted their design from a flag used by the East India Company, which had created its own version of the mercantile Red Ensign with thirteen red and white bars instead of a plain red field. On an early version, thirteen stars complemented the bars, then more and more stars were added as the American state expanded into Indian lands to their west.

Another curiosity is that, just as thirteen states rebelled against their royal motherland, it would be thirteen states that would later rebel against the republican union:

South Carolina * Mississippi * Florida * Alabama * Georgia * Louisiana * Texas * Virginia * Arkansas * Tennessee * North Carolina * Missouri * Kentucky

It is not always remembered that all thirteen of the Confederate states seceded from the Union between December 1860 and December 1861, after the process of a democratic vote, either a popular referendum or a vote from their House of Representatives. They had imagined the Union was a free compact, which they were entitled to leave, just as they had joined it. After four years of war, the northern armies of the Union had either destroyed or occupied all the territories of those who had attempted to secede.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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