Monday will be Flag Day, an event marking the day in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress approved a design for the first United States flag. Thirteen stars, white on blue. Thirteen stripes, alternating red and white. Sound familiar?

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson called the U.S. flag “the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation.” He asked that June 14 be celebrated each year as Flag Day, a day to think about the country’s ideals and principles.

Although Congress made Flag Day a national event in 1949, it is not an official federal holiday. Sandwiched between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, which are federal holidays, it often gets overlooked.

But not at Peter Ansoff’s house. He’ll be hoisting some of the more than 100 flags he owns up the three flagpoles in his Annandale, Virginia, front yard.

Ansoff is a vexillologist (pronounced vex-ill-LOLL-oh-gist). That’s a big word for someone who studies the history and meaning of flags. As president of the 700-member North American Vexillological Association, he enjoys sharing his knowledge and love of flags.

While some people see flags as just colorful pieces of cloth, Ansoff says there are other people who are excited about what they represent. His own excitement started when he was a kid and came across colorful pictures of flags in an encyclopedia.

“Our neighbors had a flagpole, and I told my dad I wanted one, too,” he recalled. His mother bought him his first flag and sewed others for him.

Ansoff doesn’t call himself a collector. He does have a few rare flags, but mostly “I buy them to fly them,” he said.

Some are copies of the 27 official flags the United States has had since 1777. Ansoff also has several unofficial U.S. flags, ensigns (EN-sins) flown by American and British merchant ships, and flags of other countries. On July 1, a national holiday in Canada, he hoists its red-and-white maple-leaf banner. And if it’s a cold winter day in Northern Virginia, he’ll warm things up by flying the flag of a toasty South Pacific island.

Ansoff can’t (or won’t) pick one flag as his favorite. For a photo for KidsPost, he chose a replica of the Serapis (sir-APE-us) ensign, named for the British warship that American naval hero John Paul Jones captured off the coast of England in 1779.

Take a close look at it. How does it differ from the U.S. 50-star flag?

The original Serapis banner is lost to history. But vexillologists such as Ansoff keep its memory aloft.

Name that state

States have their own flags. Can you match these states with their flags? Answers below.

State flag description States

1. Gulf Coast pelican feeding three chicks


2. Only state flag that includes a foreign country’s flag


3. Two colorful coats of arms (one of four flags without blue on it)


4. Only one with a portrait of a U.S. president


5. Newest: Magnolia blossom replaced Confederate banner in 2021


6. Two-sided, with state seal and a beaver on opposite sides


7. Triangular, swallowtail design (other 49 flags are rectangles)

New Mexico

8. Large grizzly bear, this state’s official animal


9. Eight gold stars for the Big Dipper and North Star


10. Ancient sun symbol sacred to native Zia people


Five fun flag facts

●The story that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag was first told by her family nearly 100 years later. Ross is known to have sewn flags, but there is no proof she made the historic one.

●The huge “Star-Spangled Banner” that in 1814 inspired our national anthem has 15 stars and 15 stripes. Over the years, pieces of the flag were given away as souvenirs, and one of its stars was cut out. What happened to it remains a mystery. You can see this flag — the only official American flag with 15 stripes — at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

●The first flag planted on the moon, during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, traveled there in a case attached to one leg of the lunar module to save space. In all, six U.S. flags have been left on the moon. In 2012, the U.S. space agency reported that at least three were still standing, though all six have probably been bleached white by sunlight.

● Flags don’t have an expiration date. It doesn’t matter how many stars or stripes it has: Once a U.S. flag, always a U.S. flag. You can fly any version you like.

●The 50-star flag has been in use since 1960, the longest of any official U.S. flag. Credit for its design went to Ohio high school student Bob Heft. He got a B-minus grade for his American history class project; his teacher changed it to an A when the government adopted the design. Heft also designed a 51-star flag, which is standing by if and when it’s needed.

Quiz answers

1. Louisiana; 2. Hawaii; 3. Maryland; 4. Washington; 5. Mississippi; 6. Oregon; 7. Ohio; 8. California; 9. Alaska; 10. New Mexico