Robert G. “Bob” Heft (January 19, 1941 – December 12, 2009), born in Saginaw, Michigan, was the designer of the current American 50-star flag as well as a designer of a submitted 51-star flag proposal. He spent his childhood in Lancaster, Ohio, where he created the American flag as a school project.
Flag design and adoption
Heft designed the current U.S. flag in 1958 while living with his grandparents. He was 17 years old at the time and did the flag design as a high school class project. He unstitched the blue field from a family 48-star flag, sewed in a new field, and used iron-on white fabric to add 100 hand-cut stars, 50 on each side of the blue canton.
Heft originally received a B- for the project. After discussing the grade with his high school teacher, Stanley Pratt, it was agreed that if the flag was accepted by the United States Congress, the grade would be reconsidered. Heft’s flag design was chosen and adopted by presidential proclamation after Alaska and before Hawaii were admitted into the union in 1959. According to Heft, his teacher honored their agreement and changed his grade to an A for the project.
Heft has also stated he had copyrighted designs for American flags with 51 to 60 stars.
When Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for statehood, more than 1,500 designs were spontaneously submitted to President Dwight D. Eisenhower by Americans. Although some of them were 49-star versions, the vast majority were 50-star proposals. At least three, and probably more, of these designs were identical to Heft’s adopted design of the 50-star flag. Archived in the Eisenhower Presidential Center in Abilene, Kansas, only a small fraction of the proposed designs have ever been published.
On December 12, 2009, Heft died from a heart attack at Covenant Medical Center in the city of his birth ‒ Saginaw, Michigan. He was 68.