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Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Does the Flag Have Stars With Seven Points Instead of Five?

“I noticed the display with books donated in memory of deceased members by the American Legion Post 234. There is a flag on the table with the number 76 and thirteen seven pointed stars. Why do the stars have seven points instead of five?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff wondered about this difference from the more familiar five pointed fifty star flag and asked the owner. He informed us that it is a Bennington Flag and he had purchased it during the Bicentennial

Flag: an American biography by Marc Leepson has a picture of this flag. It is “the Bennington Flag, one of several militia flags with thirteen stars and thirteen stripes . . . thought to have been flown by the Green Mountain boys at the August 16, 1777, Battle of Bennington in Vermont.[color insert pages]” It is also known as the Fillmore flag after the original owner Nathaniel Fillmore who fought in the Battle of Bennington. Leepson also says there are differences of opinion about this flag. Some feel that was actually made in the 1800s and dates either from the war of 1812 or the nation’s jubilee celebration in 1826 [p.26].” In Saga of the American Flag: an illustrated history by Candice M. DeBarr and Jack A. Bonkowske notes that Nathaniel Fillmore was the grandfather of Millard Fillmore, our 13th president [p.20].

We still had not discovered the significance of this flag’s seven pointed stars, so we extended our search online. The Bennington Museum states that the stars may have Masonic significance.  The website Revolutionary War and Beyond says that seven point stars were common on flags in colonial times. The 13 Stars and Stripes: a survey of 18th century images by David Martucci published in NAVA NEWS  Number 167(April-June 2000) says “Considering the number of points on the stars, it is a mixed bag and would appear that any number was used, even different numbers of points on the stars of a single flag. . . After the Revolutionary War, the star arrangements are very mixed.”

We were not able to find definitive historical information for our patron as to the reason the Bennington Flag has seven pointed stars. The description at lists a variety of reasons for selection of seven pointed stars.  “In mythology and some religions it represents integration, the unity of mind, body, and spirit. Seven is a lucky number. This star is also used to represent the seven liberal arts of classic antiquity: geometry, astronomy, mathematics, logic, grammar, rhetoric, and music. In engineering, the seven-pointed star represents the supremacy of reason.”

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