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48 Star Flag - (1912-1959) (U.S.)

Last modified: 2004-07-10 by rick wyatt
Keywords: forty-eight | united states | dreadnaught | iwo jima |
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[U.S. 48 star flag 1912] by Mark Sensen, 4 December 1997

See also:

Description of the flag

In 1912, two stars were added, representing Arizona and New Mexico, bringing the total number of stars to 48, arranged in 6 rows of 8 stars each. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.
Rick Wyatt, 5 April 1998

There were 48 star flags manufactured with the rows of stars off-set as described here. I am looking at one now which has rows 1, 3 and 5 set more towards the hoist, and rows 2, 4 and 6 offset towards the fly; something like this:
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
I believe that flags of this design were manufactured in or shortly after 1912, but have been unable to pin down the date with certainty. I have seen a postcard with a flag of this design dated as late as 1920.
Devereaux Cannon, 6 July 2001

Iwo Jima

The first flag raised was an ensign from the USS Missoula measuring 28" x 54". The second flag was an ensign from the LST-779 measuring 56"x 96". See also: which is perhaps the definitive website on the flag raising.
Jim Ferrigan, 24 July 2002


I am researching the origin of a 48 star flag I have. This flag appears to be made of linen fabric, hand cut in two pieces stars and sewn. The blue portion is very dark Navy Blue which is almost black. The identification of the edge band has two navy anchors. These anchors do not have indication text such as USN. The name stenciled on the band is "DREADNAUGHT". The size is 5 x 8' with a small prefix of "E" before the 5 x 8 stencil. (note the spelling, "A" not "O").

I have researched the H.M.S. Dreadnaught, in the registries of British ships of war and the U.S. ships of war. There are only 2 commissioned ship with the name Dreadnaught. Both are British, The Battleship commissioned in 1903 and the Nuclear Submarine commissioned in 1960. The Sub would not have carried a 48 star flag and so I am left with only the Battleship.
Dave L., 29 January 2000

HMS *Dreadnought*, commissioned in 1906, gave its name to a new generation of battleships on account of its revolutionary features: an all-big gun armament, centralized director fire control, and turbine propulsion. This ship is generally held to have sparked the Anglo-German naval arms race because it rendered all previous battleships obsolete at a stroke. This presented Germany with an opportunity to negate British naval superiority by building up a dreadnought battle fleet.

It's interesting that the name is spelled "Dreadnaught" on the flag in question. This is clearly incorrect. I might also note in passing that the 1906 battleship was not the first British *Dreadnought*. A turret battleship commissioned in 1879 and discarded in 1908 bore the same name, and I believe that earlier (eighteenth century) there was also a sailing ship of the line named *Dreadnought*.
Tom Gregg, 20 January 2000

The probable answer is in the spelling.
"Dreadnaught; a heavy woollen felted cloth used as a lining for hatchways on board ship."
Entry from the Oxford English Dictionary quoting the 1870 Mechanics Dictionary.

It doesn't sound as though dreadnaught itself would be a suitable fabric for flags, but perhaps the word at one time was generic for any hard-wearing material, or maybe a particular flag manufacturer had adopted it as a trade-name.
David Prothero, 31 January 2000