February 14, Say Hello to the Stars and Stripes
UNITED STATES— On Feb. 14, 1778, the continental ship, The Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones, an American naval hero in the American Revolution, was the first person to officially receive a salute to a U.S. Stars and Stripes flag by a foreign government (the French Quiberon, France.
Although many historians believe Betsy Ross, a seamstress from Philadelphia, was the first to create the American flag, it is unknown who originally designed the first Stars and Stripes flag. The flag is decorated with thirteen stars and thirteen stripes and was adopted by the new United States government in 1777. Congressman Francis Hopkins also claimed to have been the designer of the flag.
John Paul Jones was born Jul. 6, 1747, in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, and came to America as a merchant sailor when the revolution broke out. Jones chose to side with the colonists and joined the Continental Navy. Jones’ most remarkable victory was his against-all-odds defeat over the British warship, Serapis, on Sept. 23, 1779.
Earlier that month, after receiving news of the victory at Saratoga, New York, France recognized the independence of the American colonies and signed a treaty of alliance with the United States. In 1898, American artist Edward Moran painted a depiction of the Continental Navy Ship, The Ranger, with Captain John Paul Jones in command while receiving his salute from the French fleet. The original painting by Moran is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. For reasons unknown, in this lithograph, the other ships of the French fleet have been removed, leaving only a ghost of their image. Ranger is flying an American flag with eleven stripes and a circle of stars.
The USS Ranger was an 18-gun Continental Navy ship sloop, originally to be called Hampshire, and was launched on May 10, 1777, by James K. Hackett, the master shipbuilder.
After fitting out, the USS Ranger sailed towards France on Nov. 1, 1777, carrying dispatches recounting General Burgoyne’s surrender to the Commissioners in Paris. On the voyage over, two British prizes of war were captured. Finally, Ranger arrived at Nantes, France, on Dec. 2, 1777, where Jones sold the prizes and delivered the news of the victory at Saratoga to Dr. Franklin. These events led to the first official salute to the new American flag, the “Stars and Stripes,” given by the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, while Jones sailed upon the USS Ranger.