Flag Facts

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The national flag of the United States of America (or the American flag) consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the "union") bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The fifty stars on the flag represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen colonies that rebelled against the British monarchy and became the first states in the Union. Nicknames for the flag include the "Stars and Stripes", "Old Glory", and "The Star-Spangled Banner" (also the name of the national anthem).​​​​​​​

 Flag Links

Flag of the United States of America - History and facts about the flag, a selection of patriotic writings, and opinions on the proposed constitutional amendment.

A Guide to Amer​​ican Flags - The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) presents this site charting the history of the U.S. flag.

Star-Spangled Manners​ - Naval based instructions on the display of the US flag.

Educational World® - Lesson Plan: A Salute to Flag Day - Educational World® Search Engine- Where educators go to learn.

 How to Display the Flag Properly

It is the universal custom to display the flag on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag may be displayed at night on special occasions when one wishes to produce a patriotic effect.

  1. ​When carried in a procession with another flag or flags, the U.S. flag should be either on the marching right (the flag's own right) or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.
  2. If the flag is to appear on a float or in a parade, it should be flown from a staff. When the flag is displayed other than from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out, or suspended so that its folds fall as though the flag were staffed.
  3. The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff should be firmly fixed to the chassis.
  4. When displayed against a wall with crossed staffs with another flag, the flag of the United States should be on the right (the flag's own right) and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
  5. When a number of state flags, flags of localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs, the flag of the U.S. should be at the center and at the highest point of the group.
  6. When other flags are flown from the same halyard, the U.S. flag should always be at the peak.
  7. When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. In times of peace, international usage dictates displaying one nation's flag equally to that of another.
  8. When displaying the flag from a staff projecting from a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.
  9. When suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.
  10. When displayed over a street, the flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.
  11. When displayed flat against the wall on a speaker's platform, the flag should be placed above and behind the speaker with the union in the upper left corner as the audience faces the flag.
  12. When displayed from a staff in a church chancel or on the speaker's platform in a public auditorium, the flag should occupy the position of honor and be placed at the clergyman's or speaker's right as they face the congregation or audience. When the flag is displayed other than in the chancel or on the platform, it should be placed in the position of honor at the right of the congregation or audience as they face the chancel or platform. Any other flags so displayed should be placed on the left of the congregation or audience as they face the chancel or platform.
  13. When unveiling a statue or monument, the flag should be a distinctive feature of the ceremony, but it should never be used as the covering of the statue or monument.
  14. When flown at half-staff, the flag should be raised to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered at the end of the day.
  15. When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed so the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or be allowed to touch the ground.
  16. When the flag passes in a procession and during a raising and lowering ceremony, all persons present should face the flag, stand at attention, and salute. Those present in uniform should give the military salute. Men not in uniform should removed their hats with their right hand and then hold the hat at their left shoulder with their hand over their heart. Men without hats and all women should salute by placing their right hands over their hearts. The salute to the flag in a moving column should be given at the moment the flag passes.

 Respect for the Flag

The flag should always be carried upright, aloft and free.

The flag should be displayed high above and free of anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

The flag should always be allowed to fall freely. Use bunting -- not the U.S. flag -- to drape, festoon, draw back, or hang in folds as decoration. Bunting of blue, white and red -- always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below --
should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of a platform, and so on.

The flag should be treated with respect. Protect it from being easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way when fastening, displaying, using, or storing it.

All parts of the flag should be kept completely free of any markings, insignias, letters, words, figures, designs, pictures, or drawings of any nature not inherent in its creation.

The flag should not be used as receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

The flag should be displayed with the union down only as a sign of dire distress. It should not be dipped to any person or thing.

When the U.S. flag is no longer in such a condition that it is a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner.

​From "The American Flag," ? 1989 Brown & Bigelow, Inc. And the Voter Registrar's Association of Virginia Website

 When to Display the Flag

​The flag should be displayed on all days when the weather permits and especially on the following holidays:

  • New Year's Day - January 1
  • Martin Luther King Holiday - third Monday in January (birthday date January 16)
  • Inauguration Day - January 20
  • President's Day - third Monday in February (Lincoln's birthday February 12, Washington's birthday February 22)
  • Easter Sunday
  • Armed Forces Day - third Saturday in May
  • Memorial Day - last Monday in May, at half mast until noon (traditional date May 30)
  • Flag Day - June 14
  • Independence Day - July 4
  • Labor Day - first Monday in September
  • Constitution/Citizenship Day - September 17
  • Columbus Day Holiday - third Monday in October (traditional date October 12)
  • Navy Day - October 27
  • Veteran's Day - November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day - fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day - December 25

The flag should also be displayed on those days so proclaimed by the President of the United States as well as on state holidays.

The flag should be displayed daily, weather permitting, on or near the main administration building of every public institution.

The flag should be displayed in or near every public polling place on Election Days.

The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every school building.

Prior to the 1920s, it was tradition that dictated an informal set of procedures for the proper display of the flag. Our Armed Forces had their own set of rules, but no uniform code had ever been developed for civilian use. In 1905, Congress passed a law forbidding the use of the flag as a trademark. And subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court had upheld penalties for the desecration of the flag. But there was no broad set of rules for the display of the flag. Finally, in 1923, a National Flag Conference was held in Washington, D.C., and second such meeting took place the following year. These two conferences produced a national code setting forth the correct manner of displaying and respecting the flag of the United States. In 1942, this code was adopted by a joint resolution of Congress and, with minor amendments, is in effect today.​​

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