Rearranging the Stars on our Flag: Gen. Spinner's Plan

Rearranging the Stars on our Flag: Gen. Spinner's Plan


[image of star]
The New Union as Proposed.

(From the New York Daily Graphic, June 24, 1889.)

Rearranging the Stars on our Flag.
Gen. Spinner's Plan

To the Editor of the Graphic:
My attention has been called to a recent article in The Graphic in which the arrange-
ment of the stars on the National flag is discussed, and the form into which the new
arrangement of the stars will have to be made on the entrance of four new States into the
Union is illustrated by a diagram. It is truly stated in the article that there is no provision
of law for the arrangement of the stars on the flag and a diagram is introduced to
show that forty-two stars can be arranged in six rows of seven stars in each row. This
would make square work on the square field of the flag, but how will it be when additional
States shall come into the Union, that will require more stars to be added to the constellation?
Many years ago I conceived the idea of arranging the stars, on the Union of the flag,
in such manner as to represent a large white star on the blue field. I suggested this plan
to former Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Navy, and also to other Cabinet officers
and to General Grant, all of whom expressed themselves pleased with the plan.
I then wrote to General B.F. Butler, who was then, and probably is now, a large
manufacturer, not only of bunting, but of national flags as well. He had succeeded in
having flags made with the stars and stripes all woven in, thus saving the labor of sewing
in each star separately.
There never was a reply to that letter. On looking for the cause it occurred to me
that, perhaps, the stars could only be woven in when placed in parallel lines.
In the arrangement of the stars three objects should be borne in mind - utility, aesth-
etics and ideality or significance.
I well recollect that soon after Congress passed the law that stars should be added so
as to represent every State in the Union, and that an additional star should be placed on
the flag on the admission of a new State, what universal complaint there was by persons
employed in the merchant marine and by others, too, that the flag could not be distin-
guished from other flags at a distance at sea. That the field of the old flag with its
thirteen large stars was very conspicuous, while the field of the new flag, with small stars,
more than double in numbers, made the field of the flag obscure and very difficult to
discern at a distance. The one great star arrangement would make the flag very conspic-
uous and easily made out when seen far off at sea. This is the utilitarian branch of the subject.
In an aesthetic point of view, the great star arrangement would certainly be preferable
to any arrangement of stiff parallel lines whether placed in squares or in quincunx lines
as proposed and shown in the diagram that illustrates your article. That arrangement
would appear more like a bandanna handkerchief than a star spangled banner. This new
arrangement would admit the addition of new stars, to represent new States, to be placed
in the centre of the great star, without destroying the harmony and beauty of the whole.
Then there is the ideal view of the subject. Our National motto, "E Pluribus Unum,"
brings to mind in an obscure way the idea of many in one, or perhaps the more
advanced thought, that many States form this Nation.
By placing the forty-two stars in such manner as to form one great star, as is shown
in the diagram that accompanies this letter, the National flag would be the symbol of the
idea, and would address its meaning, through the eye, to the most common understanding
that the States constitute the nation.
Jacksonville, Fla., June 20. F.E. Spinner

[Picture of new flag] [Picture of Spinner]
The Flag with the New Arrangement of Stars. Very truly yours,
F.E. Spinner [signature]


State Library of Florida: Florida Collection, BR0046


Gen. Spinner advocates arranging the stars of the nation flag in the shape of a large star against a blue background. Two drawings illustrate his proposed design. At the bottom of the editorial.