Do's and Don'ts of Flying the Flag

Aside from the basics of the American flag -- 50 stars for 50 states, 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies, how much do you really know about its history and tradition?

For example, did you know the blue rectangular portion of the flag with the stars is called the Union, or that the colors are symbolic? White signifies purity and innocence; red, valor and hardiness; blue represents perseverance and justice. And although it's a nice story, there's little to substantiate that Betsy Ross sewed the first flag.

One of the most interesting facts about our flag involves the origin of its current design, which began as a school project when Hawaii and Alaska were under consideration for statehood. Although Robert Heft, of Ohio, was unskilled with a needle and thread and unsuccessful at soliciting help from his mother who thought he would dishonor the flag, he persevered and spent nearly 13 hours one weekend meticulously arranging and sewing a new combination of stars.  For his efforts, he received a B minus because it lacked creativity, but his teacher would reconsider his grade if the design was adopted by Congress. He sent it off and the rest is history.

Flag Etiquette
During the last 200 years, our flag has been modified 26 times and until the Flag Code was passed on June 14, 1923, there was no federal regulation on how to display it. Here are the dos and don'ts of flying our flag.


  • It is customary to display the flag between sunrise and sunset. If flown at night it should be illuminated.
  • Fold the flag correctly: 1. Fold the flag in half width-wise twice. 2. Fold up a triangle, starting at the all-striped end and repeat until only the end of the union is exposed. 3. Fold the remaining square into the triangle and tuck inside the folds. A triangle of just the blue field of stars should be visible.
  • When displayed on the same flagpole with another flag such as a state or society flag, the United States flag should always be on top.
  • When displaying the flag on a stage at an indoor event, place it to the right of the speaker; other flags to the left.
  • The United States flag is always the first to be raised and the last to be lowered. It should be raised briskly, but lowered slowly and solemnly.
  • Salute the flag by placing your right hand over your heart.
  • Face the flag when the national anthem is played or sung.
  • For disposal take the flag to an American Legion Post, VFW or local Scout troup for a dignified flag burning ceremony. Contact them for details.

According to the Flag Code these days are particularly appropriate to display the flag:

  • New Year's Day, January 1 
  • Inauguration Day, January 20
  • Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, third Monday in January
  • Lincoln's Birthday, February 12
  • Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February
  • Easter Sunday 
  • Mother's Day, second Sunday in May
  • Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May
  • Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May
  • Flag Day, June 14
  • Independence Day, July 4
  • Labor Day, first Monday in September
  • Constitution Day, September 17
  • Columbus Day, second Monday in October
  • Navy Day, October 27
  • Remembrance Day, September 11
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day, December 25
  • and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States, dates of state's admission into the U.S. and certain state holidays


  • Don't use the flag as drapery or a decoration. Use red, white and blue bunting for draping with the blue stripe on top.
  • Don't draw on the flag with any mark, letter or word of any kind.
  • Don't allow any part of the flag to touch the ground.
  • Don't use the flag as clothing except for a flag patch worn by the military personnel or public servants such as policemen and firemen.
  • Don't use the flag to transport other items.

Whether it's made of spun polyester or plain cotton, the flag is more than fabric and thread; its stitching represents our history, values and ideals. Now that summer is here with many of our patriotic holidays, use these guidelines fly Old Glory with respect and pride.



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