President Truman was the first President to establish by Executive Order a legal definition of the President’s Coat of Arms and Seal. Up to 1945 there was a no known basis in law for the coat of arms which had been used by Presidents since 1880 and which were reproduced on the flag. The seal had been originated during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration and was an erroneous rendering of the Great Seal of the United States.
The first President to have a Presidential Flag was Woodrow Wilson. Prior to that time the Army and the Navy had separate flags for the Commander in Chief. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary to the Navy, and Commander Bryon McCandless USN, designed a presidential flag which would be suitable for use by both the Army and the Navy. The flag consisted of a presidential coat of arms on a blue field with a white star in each corner. The eagle facing left toward the arrows gripped in one talon.
In December, 1944 Fleet Admirals of the Navy and Generals of the Army were given a new grade with five stars. President Roosevelt requested a new design for the Presidential Flag.
President Roosevelt died before a new design could be approved. President Harry Truman’s Executive Order made several changes to the Coat of Arms. The circle of 48 stars represented the President not only as Commander in Chief, but as representative of all the people. The eagle’s head was turned to the right as the place of honor, but more importantly facing the olive branch symbolizing America as a nation of peace.