By whatever name it is called—the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, the Star-Spangled Banner—the American flag is the ultimate symbol of American freedom. But why stars, why stripes? What is the significance of the elements of the flag? The American flag went through several incarnations before the design we recognize today was established. From a banner based on a British flag and a colonial rattlesnake flag that read, "Don't Tread on Me" to the enormous 15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem, this symbol of America has inspired music and joy in the hearts of people around the world. It is a beacon to those who long for liberty, as well as a representation of the unity of our great nation.