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The United States of America

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52

USA has had 50 states since 1959.

1. Alabama
2. Alaska
3. Arizona
4. Arkansas
5. California
6. Colorado
7. Connecticut
8. Delaware
9. Florida
10. Georgia

11. Idaho
12. Hawaii
13. Illinois
14. Indiana
15. Iowa
16. Kansas
17. Kentucky
18. Louisiana
19. Maine
20. Maryland

21. Massachusetts
22. Michigan
23. Minnesota
24. Mississippi
25. Missouri
26. Montana
27. Nebraska
28. Nevada
29. New Hampshire
30. New Jersey

31. New Mexico
32. New York
33. North Carolina
34. North Dakota
35. Ohio
36. Oklahoma
37. Oregon
38. Pennsylvania
39. Rhode Island
40. South Carolina

41. South Dakota
42. Tennessee
43. Texas
44. Utah
45. Vermont
46. Virginia
47. Washington
48. West Virginia
49. Wisconsin
50. Wyoming

The District of Columbia is a federal district, not a state. Many lists include DC and Puerto Rico, which makes for 52 "states and other jurisdictions". Maybe that's the root of the myth? Or do people think of a deck of cards, the weeks in a year, or the country code of Mexico? Does the number 50 appear to be too rounded to be accurate?

The flag has 50 stars, one for each state. It is updated as needed.

USA - 50 states

USA - 50 states

A common explanation is that the flag doesn't include Alaska and Hawaii, thus 50 + 2 = 52. But Alaska became the 49th state on the 3rd of January 1959, and the flag got its 49th star on the 4th of July the same year. Hawaii became the 50th state on the 21st of August the same year, and the flag got its 50th star on the 4th of July 1960. Here's some older glories:

USA - 46 stater
1908-1912
46 states

USA - 48 stater
1912-1959
48 states
+ Arizona, New Mexico

USA - 49 stater
1959-1960
49 states
+ Alaska

Historical flags from FOTW - Rick Wyatt + 2 x Mark Sensen

Flag-spotting

Counting stars might sound like a pastime for really bored nerds, but since the stars are arranged in certain patterns, some of which are quite distinctive, a small piece is often enough to identify the version of the flag.

Iwo Jima = 48 stjärnor
Joe Rosenthal: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

The straight column of stars tells us that this has to be the 48-star flag. (On a genuine photo.)

Teddy Roosevelt = 45 stjärnor
Mort Kunstler: The Great White Fleet Sails

In this flag there are six rows of stars, with the 3rd and 5th being longer than the 2nd and 4th - this doesn't match any of the flags above. That is what one would expect from a historically accurate painting, since Teddy's fleet sailed in 1907. See the links below for this version of the flag, and many more.

I presume, however, that anachronistic flags are very common indeed. The next time I see a World War movie, I'll keep an eye on the american flags - they should feature the same simple 6 x 8-pattern as the one on Iwo Jima. (Not that I would mind if they don't; I'm not that bored.)

Sources:
Wikipedia: Political divisions of the United States; Flag of the United States
Flags Of The World (FOTW): History of the Stars and Stripes (U.S.)
The Evolution of Old Glory - flags for sale
Related:
Can you pass the third grade? - nice game featuring the 48 continental states

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Thanks to Christer who came up with this factoid
and Freya Buchanan for proof-reading

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