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I saw a flag walking around my neighborhood similar to an American flag but I don't recognize it. It had nine white stars in a grid on a blue background in the top left corner, the rest of the flag was taken up by thirteen red and white alternating vertical stripes. What is this?

I'd like to know what the history behind this particular rendition of the flag is, I've done some research, but I'm not sure where to start. It's possible this is a one-off that this person saw somewhere and decided to fly outside his house, but if not it'd be nice to know what he's attempting to signify with the flag.

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  • Are you sure it wasn't 13 stars and not 9? There are several variants of the initial US flag beyond the Betsy Ross "circle star" flag – Machavity Jun 7 '20 at 1:25
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    There was a special flag used by the naval division of the US Treasury in the early 19th century that had 16 vertical red and white stripes with a field of 13 stars in the upper left; it was meant to distinguish Treasury cutters (used for customs enforcement) from US military vessels. One of the proposed Confederacy flags had nine stars (for the first 9 states to secede from the union), but it had three broad horizontal stripes. Perhaps this is a variant (19th century or modern) on the confederate proposal? – Ted Wrigley Jun 7 '20 at 1:48
  • Yes, definitely 9 stars, in a grid, three across, three down. – Jon Buys Jun 7 '20 at 12:28
  • Should point out this got asked on H:SE and some answers were given there as well (before closing for thematic accuracy). – gktscrk Jun 7 '20 at 20:51
  • I might just have to knock on his door and ask him. – Jon Buys Jun 9 '20 at 19:59
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The "vertical" strips suggest a variant on the so-called "civilian flag".

Nathaniel Hawthorne, in The Scarlet letter, describes such a flag:

From the loftiest point of its roof, during precisely three and a half hours of each forenoon, floats or droops, in breeze or calm, the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military, post of Uncle Sam's government is here established.

This is from a work of fiction, and no such flag is created in law. The idea of a "Civilian flag" is called an urban legend by Flags of the World.

I can't find any particular meaning to the 9 stars (if that observation is correct, as it is easy for stars to be hidden by a fold in the cloth).

"Civillian flags" are sometimes flown as a protest, or from the mistaken belief that only the military can fly a US flag with horizontal stripes.

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  • The confederacy had 11 states. – eyeballfrog Jun 7 '20 at 18:06
  • the nine states that seceded from the union before the attack on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. But that is just speculation. I still think this is some variation on the "civilian" flag. – James K Jun 7 '20 at 18:10
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As best I can tell, your neighbor is flying a modern-design flag, probably distributed by some pro-confederacy group (though I could not find any online footprint for such a flag). No historical US flag — even those proposed for the Confederacy, or any of the Confederate battle flags — has that form. But the only prominent US historical referent to the number '9' is the nine states that seceded from the union before the attack on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War, and the only referent for a flag with vertical stripes is that used originally by the US Treasury Department Cutter Service in the early 19th century:enter image description here

and currently by the US Coast Guard:enter image description here

The 'cutter service'/'coast guard' flag is often misinterpreted as a civilian flag, since it was originally flown by the US Customs Service and not in any military capacity, so I can imagine some group creating a 'civilian' flag modeled on it that shows support for the Confederacy. But I suppose the only way to know for sure is to ask your neighbor about its meaning and source.

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  • As I mentioned in my comments on James K's post, the 9 stars representing the confederacy is pretty unlikely. 7 states seceded before Sumter and 11 did in total. The 9-star CSA flag did exist for a few weeks, but the 11 and 13 star ones stuck around much longer. – eyeballfrog Jun 7 '20 at 18:19

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