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About The Flag

  • Have you ever wondered?
  • Fly Your Flag Regularly
  • Important Don'ts
  • Pledge of Allegiance

Have You Ever Wondered?

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Red, white, and blue make a striking color combination, but have you ever wondered if there is any special meaning associated with those colors or with the five pointed white stars on our "star spangled banner?"

On June 14, 1777, Congress adopted a resolution calling for a flag with thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, and with a blue canton or "union", with thirteen white stars. The resolution defined the significance of the colors: "White signifies Purity and Innocence; Red, Hardiness and Valor; Blue, Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice." 

The thirteen stripes and thirteen stars, of course, represented the original thirteen colonies. The five pointed stars used as a symbol in flag design was relatively rare until its incorporation into the American flag. It has since been used in many state flags and in foreign flags, including Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and the once sovereign nations of the Republic of Texas and the Kingdom of Hawaii. Based on the American usage, the star has come to be associated in flag design with unity, independence, or to represent the constituent parts of a nation.

Until 1818, an additional star and stripe was added as each new state was admitted to the Union. By 1816 it had become evident that the practice was not practical, and on April 4, 1816, a new scheme was made official. The Flag of the United States would have thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, and a blue canton on which a white star would be added for each state. Each star would be added to the flag on the July 4th following the admission of the new state to the Union.

Although the scheme of the flag was official, the law was vague about the exact layout of the flag. Thus, throughout the nineteenth century, a variety of star arrangements was in existence. The flag was very popular, and since it created a sense of unity among the states, the variations in its appearance were deemed unimportant.

In 1912, however, the government specified official patterns, proportions and colors, giving us the Flag we know today.

Fly Your Flag Regularly, Respect It, Display It Correctly, Treat It With Care

It is the universal custom to display the national flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open on all days that weather permits, but especially on national and state holidays and other days that may be proclaimed by the President of the United States. On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be half-staffed until noon.

The U.S. flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness. The U.S. flag should be displayed DAILY on or near the main building of every public institution, during school days in or near every schoolhouse, and in or near polling places on election days. Always hoist the U.S. flag briskly. Lower it ceremoniously.

The U.S. flag always leads in a procession.

The U.S. flag, when carried in a procession with another or other flags, 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. Never display the U.S. flag from a float except from a staff, or so suspended that its folds fall free as though staffed. 

Saluting the flag: When the national flag is raised or lowered as part of a ceremony, or when it passes by in a parade or in review, all persons, except those in uniform, should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform, a man should remove his hat with his right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Those in uniform should give the military salute. The flag should be saluted at the moment it passes in a parade or in review. Citizens of other countries stand at attention, but need not salute.

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When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the U.S. should be in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience ( the left of the audience). Any other flag so displayed is to be placed to the speaker's left at he faces the audience (the right of the audience).

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If displayed flat against a wall on a speaker's platform, the U.S. flag should be placed above and behind.

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The U.S. flag 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 with the U.S. flag in the position of honor at the U.S. flag's own right, which is the extreme left as the flags are viewed.

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The U.S. flag, when displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the U.S. flag's own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

When displayed outdoors with other flags, the position of honor for the U.S. flag is the U.S. flag's own right which is normally the extreme left position as the flags are most frequently viewed.

When the U.S. flag is displayed on a pole 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. When suspended from a rope extending from the building on a pole, the flag should be hoisted out union first from the building.

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When flags of two or more nations are displayed: in this circumstance, all the flags including the U.S. flag, 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. 

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When other flags are flown from the same halyard: the U.S. flag should always be at the peak. When other flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the U.S. flag should be hoisted first and lowered last. No flag may fly above or to the right of the U.S. flag.

When flown at half staff: the U.S. flag should be first hoisted to the peak for a moment and then lowered to the half staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

The U.S. flag should form a distinctive feature at the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument, but should never be used at the covering for the statue or monument.

When the U.S. flag is used to cover a casket, it should be placed so that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

Important Do's and Don'ts

It is generally not desirable to fly the flag outdoors when the weather is particularly inclement because exposure to severe winds and rain may damage the flag or the pole on which it is displayed.

Never in any way should disrespect be shown the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are dipped as a mark of honor.

The U.S. flag should never be displayed with the union down except as a signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

The U.S. flag should never touch anything beneath it--ground, floor, water or merchandise.

The U.S. flag should never be carried horizontally, but it should always be aloft and free.

Always allow the U.S. flag to fall free--never use the U.S. flag as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, festooned, decoration in general, use blue, white, and red bunting. Always arrange the bunting with blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below.

The U.S. flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in a manner which will permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way.

Never use the U.S. flag as a covering or drape for a ceiling.

Never place anything on the U.S. flag . The U.S. flag should never have placed upon it, or on any part of it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.

Never use the U.S. flag for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything. The U.S. flag should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use or discard. Advertising signs should never be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

Never use any part of the U.S. flag as a costume or athletic uniform. A flag patch may be affixed to uniforms of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.

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

Never display the U.S. flag from a float except from a staff, or so suspended that its folds fall free as though staffed.

The information presented is based on Public Law 94-344 94th Congress and Amendments thereto.

Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God,indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The National Anthem

"The Star-Spangled Banner"

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Francis Scott Key
(1779 - 1843)


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