GRAND UNION FLAG
The first flag of the colonists to have any resemblance to the present Stars and Stripes. It was first flown by ships of the Colonial Fleet on the Delaware River. On December 3, 1775 it was raised aboard Capt. Esek Hopkin's flagship Alfred by John Paul Jones, then a navy lieutenant. Later the flag was raised on the liberty pole at Prospect Hill, which was near George Washington's headquarters in Cambridge, MA. It was the unofficial national flag on July 4, 1776, Independence Day; and it remained the unofficial national flag and ensign of the Navy until June 14, 1777 when the Continental Congress authorized the Stars and Stripes.
As explained by Adm. George Henry Preble, in his classic work "Origin and History of the American Flag" (Nicholas L. Brown, Philadelphia, 1908), Esek Hopkins was commander-in-chief of the naval forces of the embryonic republic and his pay was set at $125 per month. Captains were commissioned for each of his ships: the Alfred, Columbus, Andrea Doria, Cabot and Providence. John Adams, a member of the Marine Committee, explained that the choice of these names with the follow words: Alfred, named in honor of the founder of the greatest navy that ever existed; Columbus, after the discoverer of this quarter of the globe; Cabot, for the discoverer of the northern part of this continent; Andrea Doria, in honor of the great Genovese admiral; and Providence, the name of the town where she was purchased.
The necessity of a common national flag had not been thought of until the appointment of a committee composed of Benjamin Franklin, Messrs. Lynch and Harrison which assembled at camp at Cambridge. The result of their conference was the rendition of the King's colors (union jack), representing the still-recognized sovereignty of England, but coupled with to thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, emblematic of the union of the thirteen colonies against its tyranny and oppression, in place of the loyal red ensign.
Interestingly, the Grand Union flag was also the standard of the British East India Company. It was only by degrees that the Union Flag of Great Britain was discarded. The final breach between the Colonies and Great Britain brought about the removal of the Britisn Union from the canton of our striped flag and the substitution of the stars on a blue field.