The Flag Act of 1818 established the basic design of the current American flag: 13 stripes and one star for each state in the Union.
Prior to the Flag Act of 1818, the nation’s official flag showed 15 stars and 15 stripes. The expansion of the union to 20 states in 1817 required a flag reconfiguration. Rather than increasing the number of stripes each time a new state joined the union, the Flag Act reduced their number to 13, signifying the original 13 colonies, and increased the number of stars to reflect the current number of states in the union. The act specified that a new star would be added on the Fourth of July following the admission of a new state.
The U.S. flag has had 50 stars since July 4, 1960, when Hawaii became the 50th state.
The Flag Act of 1818 stamp art features a flag with 20 stars, the number of states in the Union when the Flag Act of 1818 went into effect. The flag's crisp folds and layering effect convey a sense of the dynamism of the young nation.