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 United States Flag

The American Flag
Old Glory - Ensign - Colours - Red, White, and Blue - Colors - Banner - Emblem
Stars and Stripes - Star Spangled Banner
- Standard - National emblem - Pennant 
The United States Flag
The Flag of the "Land of the Free, Because of the Brave"
Flag Etiquette
Saluting the Flag
Maintenance Half-Staff / Mast Folding the Flag With other flags
Multiple U.S. Flags Prior Versions Holidays Gold Fringe
Flagpoles Buildings Outside Parades
Automobiles Boats Caskets POW/MIA flag
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Image Use Draping Flag Patches & Pins Decorated Accessories
Up-Side-Down Flag Desecration About the Flag Code Flag over the U.S. Capitol
  Other Flag information  
Pledge of Allegiance National Anthem Flags of the U.S.A. Flag Timeline
Old Glory State Flags Other Flag Info. Flag Poems

Red Skelton's Interpretive Rendition of the "Pledge of Allegiance"

Flag TimeLine Flag Day Other Flag Info. Flag Trivia Skelton's Pledge Flag Videos Flag Links
FYI:  The union of the flag is the field of blue containing the white stars. 

The following are based upon the U.S. Flag code, tradition, and common sense.

The U.S. Flag Code; It's Purpose.

The U.S. Flag Code was devised to be a guideline to spell out the proper display and care in the respectful handling of the American Flag. The Federal Code does not contain penalties although some States have codes that do. U.S. Supreme Court decisions concerning flag desecration has ruled that the burning of a flag is a Constitutional right of free speech. Though legal enforcement is unlikely, many have taken upon themselves to enforce the rules, taking upon themselves possible prosecution. Various provisions have been changed over the years due to reasons of being outdated or to add other considerations.  In January 2008 President George W. Bush signed a law that revised the code to allow American Military Veterans to use the military salute whether in uniform or not. That was a change to further honor those who serve to protect America.

2008 - CRS Report to Congress: The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions.
The U.S. Code Chapter 1 - The Flag  (01-08-2008)
US Department of Veterans Affairs - Guidelines for Display of the Flag

Respect of the U.S. Flag

The American Flag should always be treated with the utmost respect.  The American flag is never "dipped", not even in showing respect to any person or thing.  Other flags of the military or other Governmental levels may dip to show honor. Though other nation's flag may dip, the American Flag does not.

The American Flag should not be altered in anyway for a demonstration of support or opposition.  The burning, soiling, marking, slashing or other intentional misuse constitutes disrespect, not only for the American flag but for America, her founding fathers, veterans, and the American citizenry.

The flag should always be allowed to flow freely when being carried unless properly folded when carried to its storage location.  It should never be allowed to touch the ground or other objects as it freely flies.  When raising the flag it should be done briskly and then cautiously when lowering.

The union of the American Flag should always be displayed at top except as a distress call in an extreme emergency where life or property is at immediate risk.   When ordered to be placed at half-staff the union is still at the top but the flag is positioned lower on the pole.

The U.S. flag should be raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset.  The American flag is always to be raised first and lowered last.  Display at night of the American Banner should be illuminated by a light aimed to shine upon the flag.

The flag should be displayed daily, on or near the main administration building of every public institution.  The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.  The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days. There should be a flag in all meeting rooms of all Government Offices. Your local Library should have a flag in their meeting room but often, due to budget constraints, neglect to comply.

No other flag or pennant shall be flown above the U.S. Flag.  If on the same level no other flag or pennant shall be placed to the right of the American Flag.

The American Flag should not be used for advertising purposes, nor should any advertising signs be placed on the Flag's lanyard or pole.   Nothing is to be attached to the flag for any reason.  See more on Clothing/Drapery.  The flag is not to be used as a covering of ceiling, walls, windows or other, simply for utility or decorative purposes.

At a ceremony for unveiling a statue or monument the U.S. Flag should hold a prominent position but placed in accordance with the established rules; it is never to be used as the covering of the art or monument.

The American Flag should not be carried flat or horizontally but allowed to freely fly.  Only when carried for storage having been properly folded may the flag be carried flat.

Also see
Flag Desecration, Up-Side-Down & Maintenance


Saluting the Flag

The flag should be saluted when reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance", when the flag is presented and placed, when the flag is retired, as the U.S. flag passes in a parade or procession, and when the National Anthem is played. 

In a parade the flag should be saluted when it has approached to within six paces and the salute relieved when the banner is six paces beyond.  The flag should be saluted as the float passes by.

At the playing of a rendition of the National Anthem the flag is to be saluted upon the first note and held until the last note has been played. All should stand during the performance of the National Anthem.  All should face the American Flag when one is present.  When one is not present all should face the source of the music and salute as though a flag was present.

All in attendance of the presenting or the retirement of a flag or as a flag is paraded past should rise to stand while saluting the flag.

Civilians salute the flag by placing their right hand with palm open and fingers together over their heart.
Veterans may salute the flag with the military salute whether in uniform or not or may opt for the civilian, hand over heart, salute.

When dressed in civilian attire men wearing hats should remove them and hold the hat over their left shoulder with their hand over their heart.  Women do not remove their headwear but salute with their right hand over their heart. 

When the hat is a part of a military uniform or that of patriotic organizations it is not removed but the appropriate military salute is made.  The Boy Scouts of America and other such Patriotic organizations may have their own salute and do not remove the hat of their uniform.


Maintenance of the U.S. Flag

The U.S. Flag should never be attached, displayed or stored in a manner that would easily cause it to be torn, soiled or otherwise damaged.  It should not be allowed to contact with other objects but allowed to fly free.  The American Flag should be lowered during inclement weather to avoid undue wear; there are some flags designed to withstand such weather.  Should the flag become soiled or otherwise touch American soil simply launder as you would for any prized outfit made of the same material.  Tears and frays should be mended or the flag disposed of as described below.

Should a U.S. flag become tattered from use or become badly soiled it should be disposed of in a dignified manner.  The preference is by burning in a ceremonious manner.  Your local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) chapter is able and willing to help in this matter.

Do not allow the flag to touch foreign soil.  Should contact with foreign soil occur the flag should be disposed of in the same manner as that of a worn out ensign.

Also see
Respecting, Flag Desecration & Up-Side-Down


Half-Staff     -      Half-Mast

First I must make the clarification between the "half-mast" and the "half-staff."   I until 2007 had referred to the lowering of the flag as "half-mast" as do many American citizens.  I was informed by J. Kleinsmith, SFC, U.S. Army Retired of my error.  When I stopped to think, "mast," of course a mast is on a ship! Yet it has become popular among our society to call the lowering, "half-mast." I've even heard the media use the wrong term.
"Half-staff" is on the land when the flag is flown on a "staff." "Half-mast" is of course when the flag is flown upon a mast of a ship.  The rules to lowering the flag apply to both staff and mast.

Half-staff is a sign of mourning.  When a person of national prominence passes-away the flag is placed at half-staff.  The Flag is raised to the top, held for a moment, then lowered to the half-staff position.  When lowering the Flag from the half-staff position raise it to the top, hold for a moment, then lower in accordance to proper procedure.  The half-staff position is to be rendered on each Memorial Day and is held only until noon, then raised to the top of the staff until sunset.

It is preferred that other ensigns on the same staff are removed when flying the American flag at half-staff.  If other flags are to be flown they likewise are lowed and positioned below the American Flag, that flies in the middle of the staff. When other flags, State, City, localities, pennants, or flag logos, are also lowered with the American Flag first raised for a moment then lowered to half-staff.  Flags of another nation flown on adjacent staffs are not lowered unless that nation is also lowering their flag in respect for the same reason (the only time the American Flag is to fly lower than other flags that may accompany it, but never on the same staff.)

Flags that are affixed to the staff or flown as kit that is mounted to the side of a house or other building, a "black ribbon" is to be placed hanging from the top of the flag. The ribbon is to the same width as a stripe on the flag and the same length as the flag. The "black ribbon" in leiu of lowering has been established by the American Legion.

Telescoping flag poles are becoming more and more popular. The placement of the American Flag for 'half-staff' on a telescoping pole is the second set of rings with the top set left empty.  I have used the second set of rings with the top ring of the second set tied with a piece of twine to the top ring attachment with enough length to allow the flag to wave at the middle of the pole.

When a President or past President passes away the flag is to be set at half-staff for a period of one month from the date of his passing.  The term is ten days from the death of a Vice President, a retired or current Chief Justice of the United States or the Speaker of the House.  In the passing of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or: the Governor of a State, territory or possession the Flag is flown at half-staff from the date of passing until the day of internment.  In the event of the passing of a Member of Congress the flag is flown half-staff the day of passing and the day after.

The passing of other dignitaries when ordered by the President of the United States; a Governor of a state or territory; or the District of Columbia Mayor, may require the flag to be placed at half-staff as specified for no more than one week from the date of death.  

The Governor of a state or U.S. Territory may declare a Half-staff position of the National Flag within his state for the passing of a dignitary of that State. Governors of States or Territories may declare the American Flag be lowered to half-staff for military personnel from their state that has been killed in the line of duty.  Cities and Counties do not have the authority to order a half-staff positioning of the flag except for the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

The American Flag should not be placed at half-staff at the whim of any private person, organization or corporation.  Personal, organizational, Corporate, or other flags may be placed at half-staff showing respect, while the U.S. Flag remains flying high at the top of the pole or staff.

The American Flag is not lowered to half-staff for foreign subjects unless specifically ordered by the President of the United States.   One such example is when President G. W. Bush ordered the half-staff for the passing of the pope in 2005.  The pope holds much esteem to a substantial segment of the American citizenry.

Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles, Buildings, Outside, Parades & Automobiles


Folding the Flag

When lowering the flag it should be handled by hands and not allowed to touch the ground or other object.  It is then to be folded in the triangular formation prior to storage.

Not letting the Flag drape low, touching the ground, hold our nation's flag out flat. Fold first lengthwise in half bringing the closest corners together. Then fold in half again. Beginning at the opposite end from the union, turn the corner over to begin a triangle.  Fold again following the new edge turned over.  Following suit with a turn forward followed by a turn to the left or right.  Once to the end the remainder is then tucked in to form a triangle; a reminder of those who wore the cocked hat in an offence against tyranny; victorious in gaining the liberty we enjoy today. 


With other flags

When flown with another nation's flag or flags of other nations each are to be on separate staffs. Each including the American Flag are to be flown at the same height. The American Flag is to be on its own right. International law prevents the placement of one nation's flag over another in times of peace.

On a pole or staff when other flags are flown, the American Flag is always flown at the top.  In a panoply, an arrangement of flag staffs in the same mount, the U.S. ensign should be at the center and highest point.  When displaying with crossed staffs the U.S. Flag should be to its own right and its staff in front of the other.  When a number of other, than foreign nation, flags are flown from staffs the U.S. Flag is to be flown higher and in the center of the flags.


  When two or more U.S. flags are flown together

When two or more U.S. Flags are displayed together as across from one another, on crossed staffs, on multiple staffs or poles, or displayed in windows, there should be no other flag flown with them. The most prominent of the American flags should comply with the other established rules. When flown with any other ensigns on same or separate mounts, only one U.S. flag is to be displayed and then in accordance with proper flag etiquette.


Prior Versions of the American Flag

American Flags that had been used with fewer than 50 stars are still considered "living flags" which are to be given due respect and may be displayed, when done so in compliance with established flag etiquette.

In 1777, Congress set the design of the American Flag (
"the Flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white," and that "the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.") Before that various designs had been used. Use only those that you know to have existed. In 1818, Congress designated one additional star when a state is added to the union. 7 stars were added in 1818 for seven new states, so the flag went from 13 stars to 20 stars. There were no 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, or 19 star flags so know your history of the flag and do not use an improper number of stars. There were other times where more than one state entered the union in the same year allowing for a skip of a particular number of stars.


National / Other Holidays

Some will choose to only display the flag on actual holidays.  The National Holidays or observances that the flag should be displayed are New Year's Day, Inauguration Day, Lincoln and Washington's Birthdays, President's Day, Easter Sunday, Mother's Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Father's Day, National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day, Columbus Day, Navy Day, Veteran's Day, also at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The President of the United States may proclaim that the flag be displayed on other days that are proclaimed for the recognition of an honor.  In each State the American Flag should be flown on the State's date of admission and on that State's holidays.


Gold Fringe

Gold Fringe is often found on flags used in ceremonies indoors or outside. Gold Fringe is used at ones own preference.  The Gold Fringe does not designate martial law or the federal government as conspiracy theory would have you believe.


Flying flags on flagpoles

The United States flag should always be flown above any other flags that are flown with it on the same pole.  Displaying of the flag when there are two or more poles, place our Ensign on the pole to the flag's right.  This would be your left as you view the poles.  A flag pole on land is called a staff on a ship it is called a mast. The American Flag should not be able to touch the ground, or other objects to avoid disrespect and/or damage to the flag.

Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Buildings, Outside, Parades & Automobiles


Displayed On or In Buildings

When draping the flag vertically or horizontally against the side of a building or in a window the union is to be placed to the left to those viewing the ensign. When raising a flag by rope on a vertical or staff angled away from a building the union is to be raised first.

When placed behind the speaker the U.S. flag should be placed flat and above. The bottom of the ensign should not touch other objects or the floor.  When on staffs that are placed behind or beside the speaker The American flag should be positioned to the speaker's right. 

In Halls or other meeting rooms when on staffs the U.S. flag should be placed to its right, which is to the left as the audience would view it. 

In the lobby of a building, hanging flat from the ceiling the U.S. flag should be across from the main entrance with the Union to the left of those entering through the door.  When the flag is viewed from front and back from opposite entrances the Union is to be to the North or East depending upon the layout of the building. At the end of a hallway the flag should be displayed with the union to the left of those entering the hall.


Outside Placement

For rallies or other gatherings outdoors when the flag is placed behind the speaker it should be placed flat.  Its bottom should not touch other objects or the ground.  Other placements should follow the various other rules spelled out on this page.  When draping the American flag across a street it should be hung vertically with the union to the east on north-south streets and to the North on east-west streets.

Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles, Buildings, Parades & Automobiles


Processions or Parades

When marching in a procession or parade the flag should be on the right.  If there are many other flags the American flag should be positioned center front.

When carrying the flag hold it slightly angled from your body.  It can also be carried with one hand resting it on your right shoulder.  A design of a flag carrier may require a slightly different placement but the flag should always be angled out away from the body.

On a float in a parade the flag should only be displayed on a staff or flat against the wall with the union to the left as viewers view the flag.

Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles, Buildings, Outside, & Automobiles


On Automobiles

On automobiles the U.S. flag should be flown on the antenna, a flagstaff firmly secured to the chassis, attached to the right fender or attached to the right window.  Inside the vehicle at the front windshield it should be placed in the center on the dash, displayed on a short staff.  In the rear window the flag should again be on a staff and be placed to its right as viewed from the rear of the vehicle.  Nothing including our national ensign should be placed so that it impedes the visibility of the driver in his driving safely and defensively.

The Flag is not to be draped over any automobile, train, boat or other vehicle.

Flag sticker placement should be on the rear of the automobile to the lower left as facing the vehicle, preferable on the bumper.  Avoid having any other stickers (bumper stickers) near or above the Flag sticker. If other flag stickers are to be displayed with the American Flag sticker, all are to be lower than the American Flag. When more than two stickers must accompany the American Standard the American Flag may be placed in the Middle of the bumper in a higher position and all other stickers placed lower and distributed on both sides of our nation's emblem.

Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles, Buildings, Outside & Parades


Boat flying of our Ensign

U.S. yachts when at anchor should fly the US Ensign from the stern staff, if so equipped, only while occupied.

Gaff-rigged sailboats should fly the ensign from the peak of the aftermost gaff.

The Ensign is flown from the stern staff of powerboats underway on inland waters.

Sailboats with the modern high-aspect-ratio rig should fly the U.S. Ensign on the stern staff while under way; under power alone, or at anchor or made fast and not while the ship is racing.

On a sports fisherman, the ensign should be flown form a halyard rigged just behind the tuna tower, when a stern staff would interfere with the action. 


Casket Placement

When the flag is placed over a casket the union is to be placed so that it is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased.  The flag is not to touch the ground or any other object and is not to be lowered into the grave.  It is to be removed ceremoniously and folded in accordance with proper flag folding procedures. 

The American Flag is not to be draped directly upon the remains of a deceased. The transporting of remains via stretcher, gurney or other mode of transport, when not within a casket, usually does not require display of the American flag.  When such is desired to display respect, the American Flag should be carried by staff ahead of the deceased.  When more than one remains are to be transported, the American Flag may be carried by staff at the beginning of the procession. An American Flag may be carried by staff prior to each and every remains within the procession. In all cases all remains, being transported together, shall be shown equal respect.


POW / MIA   flag

The POW/MIA flag when flown on one pole is to be directly below the National Ensign and above any state flag. When two poles are to be used the POW/MIA flag is to be flown on the same pole as, and under, the National Ensign. State flags are to be on the pole to the left of the National flag. (Your right when facing the American flag.) If using three poles the American Flag is to be in the place of prominence (Its own right), then immediately to the left of the U.S. Flag the POW/MIA flag is to be flown and the state flag to the left of the POW/MIA flag.



Veterans have served in various capacities to protect the liberty and freedoms that Americans enjoy today.   This section is to direct you to those sections that address our Veterans.  Of course, much more pertain as well.  In 2008 under President George W Bush it became proper for a Veteran to render a military salute whether in uniform or not.

 POW/MIA flag   -   Half-staff   -   Internment   -   Salute   -   Hats


  Non Citizens

Those who are not United States citizens shall not be compelled or required to salute the American Flag. Nor should they be compelled or required to recite or publicly read the Pledge of Allegiance. Non-citizens should however, stand at attention in respect during ceremonies when the colors are presented, raised, lowered or otherwise honored by the pledge or during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem. Display of foreign flags must comply with the U.S. Flag Code when on U.S. soil, meaning the U.S. Flag should be present and in the prominent position as spelled out in the U.S. Flag Code.



The American flag should not be taken and made into or used as clothing or drapery.  The flag should not be attached to clothing except as a patch to be worn on the shoulder (in accordance to flag etiquette) nor should anything be attached to the flag. The American flag should not be used as a scarf, shawl, poncho, or other clothing except in case of emergency, for warmth, or administering first aid, when nothing else is available. 

See Image Use


Marking Upon

The American flag should not be embroidered upon; printed upon; or otherwise have placed upon it, any items or markings for any reason.  Some have wished to embroider a name and date onto the flag to honor an individual, however that would constitute disrespect of the American flag. One may place a name date or other respectful notations onto the canvas trim where the grommets are attached. Where the mounting edge of the flag is a continuation of the flag design it is improper to write, embroider or otherwise attach anything onto it (Such would include the branding of the manufacturer of that particular flag).


Image Use

The image of the flag should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise placed upon items that are intended to be discarded after temporary use. (These days the previous is often violated, such as when the flag is printed on napkins. Such use is temporary and rarely allows for the respectful discard of the flag's image.)

The image of the flag should not be used for advertising or business logos. The flag is the primary 'logo' of the United States of America representing our liberty and those who fought and/or sacrificed that we be free.

The stitching, screen printing, or other media that places a design that includes the "image" of a flag does not constitute the attachment of a flag onto clothing. except in the District of Columbia.  The "image" of the American flag when used as a part of a design shall be done so in a respectful manner, and may have other, respectful images placed ahead leaving the flag behind the other image. You cannot take an American Flag and attach anything onto it but may include the image into your design (not for advertising) if done respectfully. In the District of Columbia the image of the American Flag shall not be used in any fashion in any way on any clothing or other articles.



The U.S. Flag should not be used as a cover for desk, podium, or any object except for the casket of one who has served our country.  The American Flag is not to be draped directly upon the remains of a deceased (see casket).  A flag is not to be used as a decoration; bunting; or any other purpose other than specified by established flag etiquette.  There are other designs of Red, White and Blue for the purpose of decoration or covering.  When using bunting the Blue stripe should be at the top.  You might want to follow that last requirement when placing ribbon and other such decorator items that have red, white and blue stripes running horizontally. When red, white, and blue stripe run vertically the blue should be on the left as it is being viewed.

The American flag should not be used as a means to carry or otherwise wrap other objects.


  Flag Patches and Pins

U.S. Flag patches are to be sewn on the shoulder of the garment.  When on the right shoulder the patch should show the reverse side of the flag. As one moves forward the flag trails as it would when carrying the flag on a staff. U.S. Flag pins must be worn on the left lapel or area where a left lapel would be so that it is positioned near the heart.


  Decorated  Accessories

Accessories such as bags to hold folding chairs or other items that are decorated with the colors or closely resemble the American flag should be treated with respect, keeping off the ground or kept stored out of site so as to minimize the appearance of a mishandled flag.



The U.S. flag should never be flown upside down except to show distress in times of danger to life, limb or property. The flag should not be flown upside down as a means of protest for or against any cause even though the premise might be construed as being a 'danger'.

Also see
Respecting, Flag Desecration & Maintenance   


 Flag Desecration

Desecrating the flag is any willful or wanton destruction or defacing of the American Flag. Desecration of the American Flag is often unenforceable.  The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld flag burning within the rights of the First Amendment under Free Speech.  Regardless of ones rights it is disrespectful, to the U.S. Flag, America, law-abiding American citizens and to the service of American Veterans, to desecrate the flag in any manner.  When the offender provides his own flag for the purpose of protest he or she must comply with all Federal, State, and local law concerning safety of persons and property.  An offender cannot steal a flag without being subjected to arrest for theft. An offender cannot burn the flag where it may pose a danger to himself or others. The offender cannot use the flag and or staff as a weapon against another. An offender may not deface the flag of another with the prior expressed consent or be subject to vandalism charges and restitution. Usually local permits are required for the public burning of any item. The burning of synthetic materials may be hazardous to those in the immediate area. Though the offender cannot be prosecuted for the act there may be other laws that are broken during the act of the flag desecration, that may be enforced. 

Also see
Respecting, Up-Side-Down & Maintenance


Flag Flown Over The U. S. Capitol

At the United States of America Capitol there is a Flag pole, maybe more, where a flag is removed from its packaging raised then lowered and again packaged. Another is flown then another. Flag up, flag down, flag up, flag down sun up to sun down. Those flags are then made available to the American Public.
To obtain an American Flag that was flown over the Capitol simply write your Senator or Congressman with your request. Each Senator and Congressman (Directory Links Below) will have a form on their website. The link is usually under "Services." The flag will be accompanied with a certificate from the Architect Of The Capitol authenticating the date flown. There is a reasonably small fee for the flag. If you order more than 4 week prior you may request it be flown on a specific day. Keep in mind the more popular days such as Independence Day may book up fast. It may take one to two months to receive your flag. It seems that flags flown over the White House are not available.

United States Senators                      United States House of Representatives

More than 100,000 requests for a "Capitol Flag" are made each year. It was in 1937 that the Capitol Flag Program began. A congressman was the first to request a flag that had been flown over the Capitol that led to other requests that then prompted the creation of the program.

All information written and/or compiled is copyrighted
2004, 2005, 2010, 2012 Roger W Hancock,, all rights reserved.


Reciprocal  Links

American Flags - American, State, World, Feathered flags and more.
Flag Desk
- Flags, Flagpoles, Parts & Accessories.
National Anthems
-Lyrics and Audio for Anthems of all Countries of the World.
Waving Flag Images - Free Flag Animations - Military, State, Historical, Worldwide

More Flag Links @
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Red Skelton's Interpretive Rendition of the "Pledge of Allegiance"

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