Creator of first 50 Star American flag dies

Robert G. Heft created flag as a school project.

The designer of the 50-star American flag has died at the age of 67.

Robert G. Heft, the creator of the first 50-star American flag, died Saturday, Dec. 12, at a hospital in Saginaw, Mich. No cause of death was listed.

Heft was born on January 19, 1942, in Saginaw, but moved to Ohio as a young child, where he was raised by his grandparents.


He was a 17-year-old junior at Lancaster High School, Lancaster, Ohio, when his teacher, Stanley Pratt, asked his students to design a flag for the potential admittance of Hawaii and Alaska as states in the United States.  Heft chose to arrange the fifty white stars on a blue background in alternating horizontal rows, using an old 48-star flag and $2.87 worth of blue cloth and white iron-on material.  It took him 12.5 hours to sew the flag together. 

Heft received a B- as the grade for the flag. Pratt supposedly stated that Heft’s design lacked originality, but the teacher did offer to raise the grade if it was accepted as the United States’ national flag. Heft sent his flag to Walter Moeller, his Ohio Congressman. Moeller succeeded in having Heft’s design adopted as the new United States flag on July 4, 1960. Pratt made good on his word and raised Heft’s grade to A.

Heft’s original flag has flown over the White House, every state capital building, and 88 United States embassies. According to one source, it remained in Heft’s possession despite numerous offers for its purchase, including one for $350,000.

Heft retired after 30 years as a high school and college history teacher, the latter at Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio. He also served as mayor of Napoleon, Ohio, for 20 years. When he returned to Saginaw, he worked as Education Manager of the Saginaw County Junior Achievement. He traveled  the world giving speeches about the United States flag and his role in its design. His love for the flag started when he was a Boy Scout. He also developed a 51-star flag in case another state was added.

He is survived by nieces, nephews, half-brothers and half-sisters, and their families.

 

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