The 13 stripes on an American flag represent the original 13 states. The white color of the stripes represents purity and innocence, while the red stands for hardiness and valor. The stripes are a symbol of the light rays from the sun, which are shining down on the country.
On Jan. 1, 1776, George Washington ordered his troops to fly the Grand Union flag over his base on Prospect Hill. This flag had 13 alternating red and white stripes for each of the 13 states. In May of that same year, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
It wasn't until June 14, 1777, that the U.S. Congress passed the first official Flag Act, which stated that its flag would feature 13 stripes and 13 stars.
Since 1777, the American flag has had several significant changes to its design. In 1794, it was changed to have 15 stripes and stars, both which represented the number of states. In 1818, Congress again changed the Flag Act, stating the flag would have 13 stripes, representative of the original 13 states, and a star for each state.
The last time the American flag was modified was on July 4, 1960, when the 50th star was added for Hawaii.