of Etiquette for Display and Use of the U.S. Flag
Taken from a 1999 Almanac.
by National Flag Foundation
the Stars and Stripes originated in 1777, it was not until 146 years
later that there was a serious attempt to establish a uniform code
of etiquette for the U.S. flag. On Feb. 15, 1923, the War Department
issued a circular on the rules of flag usage. These rules were adopted
almost in their entirety June 14, 1923, by a conference of 68 patriotic
organizations in Washington, D.C. Finally, on June 22, 1942, a joint
resolution of Congress, amended by Public Law 94-344, July 7, 1976,
codified "existing rules and customs pertaining to the display
and usage of the flag
to Display the Flag-The flag should be displayed on all days,
especially on legal holidays and other special occasions, on official
buildings when in use, in or near polling places on election days,
and in or near schools when in session. Citizens may fly the flag
at any time. It is customary to display it only from sunrise o sunset
on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. It may be
displayed at night, however, on special occasions, preferably lighted.
The flag now flies over the White House both day and night. It flies
over the Senate wing of the Capitol when the Senate is in session
and over the House wing when that body is in session. It flies day
and night over the east and west fronts of the Capitol, without
floodlights at night but receiving illumination from the Capitol
Dome. It flies 24 hours a day at several other places, including
the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, where it inspired
Francis Scott Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner."
The flag also flies 24 hours a day, properly illuminated, at U.S.
Customs ports of entry.
the Flag at Half-Staff-Flying the flag at half-staff, that is,
halfway up the staff, is a signal of mourning. The flag should be
hoisted to the top of the staff for an instant before being lowered
to half-staff. It should be hoisted to the peak again before being
lowered for the day or night.
provided by presidential proclamation, the flag should fly at half-staff
for 30 days from the day of death of a president or former president;
for 10 days from the day of death of a vice president, chief justice
or retired chief justice of the U.S. of speaker of the House of
Representatives; from day of death until burial of an associate
justice of the Supreme Court, cabinet member, former vice president,
Senate president pro tempore, or majority or minority Senate or
House leader; for a U.S. senator, representative, territorial delegate,
or the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, on day of death and
the following day within the metropolitan area of the District of
Columbia and from day of death until burial within the decedent's
state, congressional district, territory or commonwealth; and for
the death of the governor of a state, territory, or possession of
the U.S., from day of death until burial.
Memorial Day, the flag should fly at half-staff until noon and then
be raised to the peak. The flag should also fly at half-staff on
Korean War Veterans Armistice Day (July 27), National Pearl Harbor
Remembrance Day (Dec. 7), and Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15).
to Fly the Flag-The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered
ceremoniously and should never be allowed to touch the ground or
the floor. When the flag is hung over a sidewalk from a rope extending
from a building to a pole, the union should be away from the building.
When the flag is hung over the center of a street the union should
be to the north in an east-west street and to the east in a north-south
street. No other flag may be flown above or, if on the same level,
to the right of the U.S. flag, except out at the United Nations
Headquarters the UN flag may be placed above flags of all member
nations and other national flags may be flown with equal prominence
or honor with the flag of the U.S. At services by Navy chaplains
at sea, the church pennant may be flown above the flag.
2 flags are placed against a wall with crossed staffs, the U.S.
flag should be at right-its own right, and its staff should be in
front of the staff of the other flag; when a number of flags are
grouped and displayed from staffs, it should be at the center and
highest point of the group.
and Platform Use-In an auditorium, the flag may be displayed
flat, above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff
in a church or in a public auditorium, the flag should hold the
position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and
in the position of honor at the speaker's right as she or he faces
the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the
left of the speaker or to the right of the audience.
the flag is displayed horizontally or vertically against a wall,
the stars should be uppermost and at the observer's left.
used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed so that the union
is at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered
into the grave nor touch the ground.
to Dispose of Worn Flags-When the flag is in such condition
that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be
destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
to Salute the Flag-All persons present should face the flag,
stand at attention, and salute on the following occasions: (1) when
the flag is passing in a parade or in a review, (2) during the ceremony
of hoisting or lowering, (3) when the national anthem is played,
and (4) during the Pledge of Allegiance. Those present in uniform
should render the military salute. A man wearing a hat should remove
it with his right hand and hold it to his left shoulder during the
Uses of the Flag-The flag should not be dipped to any person
or thing. (An exception-customarily, ships salute by dipping their
colors.) It should never be displayed with the union down save as
a distress signal. It should never be carried flat or horizontally,
but always aloft and free.
should not be displayed on a float, an automobile, or a boat except
from a staff. It should never be used as a covering for a ceiling,
nor have placed on it any word, design, or drawing. It should never
be used as a receptacle for carrying anything. It should not be
used to cover a statue or a monument.
flag should never be used for advertising purposes, nor be embroidered
on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs, printed or otherwise
impressed on boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use
and discard; or used as a costume or athletic uniform. Advertising
signs should not be fastened to its staff or halyard.
flag should never be used as drapery of any sort, never festooned,
drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting
of blue, white, and red always arranged with the blue above and
the while in the middle, should be used for covering a speaker's
desk, draping the front of a platform, and for decoration in general.
act of Congress approved on Feb. 8, 1917 provided certain penalties
for the desecration, mutilation, or improper use of the flag within
the District of Columbia. A 1968 federal law provided penalties
of as much as a year's imprisonment or a $1,000 fine or both for
publicly burning or otherwise desecrating any U.S. flag. In addition,
many states have laws against flag desecration. In 1989, the Supreme
Court ruled that no laws could prohibit political protesters from
burning the flag. The decision had the effect of declaring unconstitutional
the flag desecration laws of 48 states, as well as a similar federal
statute, in cases of peaceful political expression.
Supreme Court, in June 1990, declared that a new federal law making
it a crime to burn or deface the American flag violated the free-speech
guarantee of the First Amendment. The 5-4 decision led to renewed
calls in Congress for a constitutional amendment to make it possible
to prosecute flag burners.
of Allegiance to the Flag
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
the current official version of the Pledge of Allegiance, has developed
from the original pledge, which was first published in Sep. 8, 1892
issue of Youth's Companion, a weekly magazine then published in
Boston. The original pledge contained the phrase "my flag,"
which was changed more than 30 years later to "flag of the
United States of America." A 1954 act of Congress added the
words "under God."
authorship of the pledge had been in dispute for many years. The
Youth's Companion stated in 1917 that the original draft was written
by James B. Upham, an executive of the magazine who died in 1910.
A leaflet circulated by the magazine later named Upham as the originator
of the draft "afterwards condensed and perfected by him and
his associates of the Companion force."
Bellamy, a former member of Youth's Companion editorial staff, publicly
claimed authorship of the pledge in 1923. In 1939, the United States
Flag Association, acting on the advice of a committee named to study
the controversy, upheld the claim of Bellamy, who had died 8 years
earlier. In 1957 the Library of Congress issued a report attributing