Flag Etiquette


General Display

 

It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.  However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

1.) When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left.  When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

No other flag or pennant should be placed above, or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea…for personnel of the Navy…when the church pennant may be flown above the flag.

No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or possession thereof; Provided, that nothing in this section shall make unlawful the continuance of the practice heretofore followed of displaying the flag of the United Nations in a position of superior prominence or honor, and other national flags in positions of equal prominence or honor, with that of the flag of the United States at the headquarters of the United Nations.

2.) When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak.

3.) When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last.  No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right.

4.) The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, 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.) The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

6.) 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. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

7.) When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker.  When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience.  Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or the right of the audience.

The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position.  The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.  On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.  By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of the State, territory or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory.  In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.

In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory or possession of the United States, the Governor of that State, territory or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff.

--- Excerpts From The Flag Code of the United States – Public Law 94-344
July 7, 1976

Flag Folding Facts - How-To
The precise details for folding the flag are as follows:

Fold the Flag in half lengthwise.  Repeat, fold in half lengthwise again, being careful that the blue field is on the outside.  As one person holds the Flag by the blue field, another makes a triangular fold in the opposite end and continues to make triangular folds until the entire Flag is in a triangle.  Tuck the loose edge of the Flag into the pocket formed by the folds so that only the blue field and white stars are visible.  There is one well-known ceremony for flag folding, often attributed to the Air Force Academy, in which each of the twelve folds of the flag is assigned a symbolic meaning.  A copy of this ceremony may be obtained by calling or emailing National Flag Foundation.

Flag Folding Facts - History

The custom of folding the United States Flag into the shape of a triangle bestows unique honor and respect upon the Flag.  National Flag Foundation, the Naval Library, the Institute of Heraldry and several other sources have searched for documentation on flag folding, but detailed information regarding its origin remains unknown.  NFF and Dr. Harold Langley, former curator at the Smithsonian Institution, theorize that the practice probably developed during World War I when patriotism was high and the United States Flag was universally embraced as a national symbol.

In 1923, as a consequence of this sustained patriotic fervor and the increased use of the Flag, a conference of veterans' organizations and patriotic associations convened in Washington, D.C. in 1923 to create a code of etiquette for the flag.  Their intent was to establish traditions ensuring respectful treatment of the Flag by all Americans, including the many immigrants entering the country at that time.

Subsequent commentaries associated with flag etiquette began to contain references to the code and to the symbolic folding of the Flag. One such commentary, published in 1930, was written by James A. Moss in his definitive book, The Flag of the United States, its History and Symbolism.  Moss wrote: "In the Army when, each day, the Flag is lowered at the last note of retreat, the greatest care is taken that no part shall touch the ground.  The Flag is carefully folded into the shape of a tri-cornered hat, reminiscent of the hats worn by the soldiers who fought the War of the Revolution and won American independence.  In the folding the red and white stripes are finally wrapped into the blue, as the light of day vanishes into the darkness of the night."

In a letter written in 1988 to Jerald A. Merrick, Head of Reference at the Decatur Public Library, George F. Cahill, former President of National Flag Foundation, offers further clarification:

"I ascribe the fold as a salute to the tri-color itself, - the three colors, the tri-sided hat of the colonial soldiers and the colonists in general.  I further use other things of three related to the nation and to heraldry inclusive of: the three branches of the national government; the three
primary documents of our land - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; and the West Point motto (duty, honor, country).  When meeting with scouts, one can relate the fold to the three points of the scout oath and to the tri-points of the fleur de lis.1"


Copyright National Flag Foundation 2001. Displayed with permission.
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By Chad Creech, All Star Flags