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The Bedford Flag: An Introduction to the United States’ Oldest Flag

The American flag isn’t the United States’ oldest flag. While the first version of the American flag emerged in 1777, there was another flag that came before it. Known as the Bedford flag, it’s believed to be the oldest flag in the United States.

What Is the Bedford Flag?

The Bedford flag is a square-shaped flag that was designed for use with the Bedford Minutemen at the beginning of the American Revolution. Unlike other flags — including the American flag — it’s not rectangular. Rather, it measures 27 inches long and 29 inches wide, resulting in an almost uniform square shape.

Some of the first battles of the American Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord in 1775.  During these battles, the Bedford Minutemen proudly carried the Bedford flag. With that said, the Bedford flag was constructed many years before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its exact origins remain unknown, but many historians believe the Bedford flag was produced during the early 18th century, meaning it was probably about a half-century old before it was actually carried by the Bedford Minutemen.

About the Design

When viewing the Bedford flag, you’ll notice that it depicts the arm of an armored knight or soldier. The arm essentially emerges from a cloud on the left side of the Bedford flag. It’s wielding a sword with the words “Vince Aut Morire.” When translated to English, this Latin phrase means “Conquer or Die.”

The Bedford flag is two-sided. Both sides feature this same design. They depict the arm of a knight or soldier with the aforementioned Latin phrase.

Perhaps one of the most unique features of the Bedford flag is the way in which the design was created. It wasn’t made by using colored fabric. Rather, the design was painted onto the front and back of the Bedford flag. The Bedford flag is unique in the sense that it features a painted-on design, whereas most other flags use colored fabric for the design.

Where Is the Bedford Flag Now?

You can now find the Bedford flag on display at the Bedford Free Public Library in Massachusetts. If you find yourself traveling through Massachusetts, you may want to stop by the Bedford Free Public Library to check out the Bedford flag. With origins dating back to the early 18th century, it’s considered to be the oldest flag in the United States. That alone makes it worth checking out.

 

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