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The joint Committee on Printing of our U.S.
During the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry
in the harbor at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year old
lawyer-poet, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange
ship. He had gone to seek the release of a friend but they were refused
permission to go ashore until after the attack had been made. As the battle
ceased on the following morning, Key turned his telescope to the fort and saw
that the American flag was still waving. The sight so inspired him that he
pulled a letter from his pocket and began to write the poem which eventually was
adopted as the national anthem of the United States--"The Star Spangled Banner."
Key was returned to Baltimore and later that day took a room at a Baltimore
tavern where he completed the poem. Years later, Key told a hometown audience in
"I saw the flag of my country waving over a city-the
strength and pride of my native State-a city devoted to plunder and desolation
by its assailants. I witnessed the preparation for its assaults. I saw the array
of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the
noise of the conflict fell upon my listening ear, and told me that 'the brave
and the free' had met the invaders."
The joint Committee on Printing is pleased to present the latest edition of Our
Flag. This Congressional publication briefly describes the history of the flag,
and sets forth the practices and observances appropriate to its display. The
Committee hopes that this document will be both useful and informative to its
The Joint Committee on Printing extends thanks and appreciation to the
individuals and organizations that contributed their knowledge to this booklet.
"Let the praise, then, if any be due, be given, not to
me, who only did what I could not help doing, not to the writer, but to the
inspirers of the song!"
-Francis Scott Key
THE HISTORY OF THE STARS AND STRIPES
The Stars and Stripes originated as a result of a resolution adopted by the
Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14,
1777. The resolution read:
"Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red
and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing
a new constellation. "
The resolution gave no instruction as to how many points the stars should have,
nor how the stars should be arranged on the blue union. Consequently, some flags
had stars scattered on the blue field without any specific design, some arranged
the stars in rows, and some in a circle. The first Navy Stars and Stripes had
the stars arranged in staggered formation in alternate rows of threes and twos
on a blue field. Other Stars and Stripes flags had stars arranged in alternate
rows of four, five and four. Some stars had six points while others had eight.
Strong evidence indicates that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the
Declaration of Independence, was responsible for the stars in the U.S. flag. At
the time that the flag resolution was adopted, Hopkinson was the Chairman of the
Continental Navy Board's Middle Department. Hopkinson also helped design other
devices for the Government including the Great Seal of the United States. For
his services, Hopkinson submitted a letter to the Continental Admiralty Board
asking "whether a Quarter Cask of the public Wine will not be a proper &
reasonable Reward for these Labours of Fancy and a suitable Encouragement to
future Exertions of a like Nature." His request was turned down since the
Congress regarded him as a public servant.
AN EARLY STARS AND STRIPES
During the Revolutionary War, several patriots made flags for our new Nation.
Among them were Cornelia Bridges, Elizabeth (Betsy) Ross, and Rebecca Young, all
of Pennsylvania, and John Shaw of Annapolis, Maryland. Although Betsy Ross, the
best known of these persons, made flags for 50 years, there is no proof that she
made the first Stars and Stripes. It is known that she made flags for the
Pennsylvania State Navy in 1777. The flag popularly known as the "Betsy Ross
flag," which arranged the stars in a circle, did not appear until the early
The claims of Betsy Ross were first brought to the attention of the public in
1870 by one of her grandsons, William J. Canby. In a paper he read before the
meeting of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Canby stated:
"It is not tradition, it is report from the lips of the
principal participator in the transaction, directly told not to one or two, but
a dozen or more living witnesses, of which I myself am one, though but a little
boy when I heard it. . . . Colonel Ross with Robert Morris and General
Washington, called on Mrs. Ross and told her they were a committee of Congress,
and wanted her to make a flag from the drawing, a rough one, which, upon her
suggestions, was redrawn by General Washington in pencil in her back parlor.
This was prior to the Declaration of Independence. I fix the date to be during
Washington's visit to Congress from New York in June, 1776 when he came to
confer upon the affairs of the Army, the flag being no doubt, one of these
THE GRAND UNION FLAG
The first flag of the colonists to have any resemblance to the present Stars and
Stripes was the Grand Union Flag, sometimes referred to as the Congress Colors,
the First Navy Ensign, and the Cambridge Flag. Its design consisted of 13
stripes, alternately red and white, representing the Thirteen Colonies, with a
blue field in the upper left-hand corner bearing the red cross of St. George of
England with the white cross of St. Andrew of Scotland. As the flag of the
revolution it was used on many occasions. It was first flown by the ships of the
Colonial Fleet on the Delaware River. On December 3, 1775, it was raised aboard
Captain Esek Hopkin's flagship Alfred by John Paul Jones, then a Navy
lieutenant. Later the flag was raised on the liberty pole at Prospect Hill,
which was near George Washington's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It
was our unofficial national flag on July 4, 1776, Independence Day; and it
remained the unofficial national flag and ensign of the Navy until June 14,
1777, when the Continental Congress authorized the Stars and Stripes.
Interestingly, the Grand Union Flag also was the standard of the British East
India Company. It was only by degrees that the Union Flag of Great Britain was
discarded. The final breach between the Colonies and Great Britain brought about
the removal of the British Union from the canton of our striped flag and the
substitution of stars on a blue field.
FIFTEEN STARS AND STRIPES
When two new States were admitted to the Union (Kentucky and Vermont), a
resolution was adopted in January of 1794, expanding the flag to 15 stars and 15
stripes. This flag was the official flag of our country from 1795 to 1818, and
was prominent in many historic events. It inspired Francis Scott Key to write
"The Star-Spangled Banner" during the bombardment of Fort McHenry; it was the
first flag to be flown over a fortress of the Old World when American Marine and
Naval forces raised it above the pirate stronghold in Tripoli on April 27, 1805;
it was the ensign of American forces in the Battle of Lake Erie in September of
1813; and it was flown by General Jackson in New Orleans in January of 1815.
However, realizing that the flag would become unwieldy with a stripe for each
new State, Capt. Samuel C. Reid, USN, suggested to Congress that the stripes
remain 13 in number to represent the Thirteen Colonies, and that a star be added
to the blue field for each new State coming into the Union. Accordingly, on
April 4, 1818, President Monroe accepted a bill requiring that the flag of the
United States have a union of 20 stars, white on a blue field, and that upon
admission of each new State into the Union one star be added to the union of the
flag on the fourth of July following its date of admission. The 13 alternating
red and white stripes would remain unchanged. This act succeeded in prescribing
the basic design of the flag, while assuring that the growth of the Nation would
be properly symbolized.
Eventually, the growth of the country resulted in a flag with
48 stars upon the admission of Arizona and New Mexico in 1912. Alaska added a
49th in 1959, and Hawaii a 50th star in 1960. With the 50-star flag came a new
design and arrangement of the stars in the union, a requirement met by President
Eisenhower in Executive Order No. 10834, issued August 21, 1959. To conform with
this, a national banner with 50 stars became the official flag of the United
States. The flag was raised for the first time at 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 1960, at
the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland.
Traditionally a symbol of liberty, the American flag has carried the message of
freedom to many parts of the world. Sometimes the same flag that was flying at a
crucial moment in our history has been flown again in another place to symbolize
continuity in our struggles for the cause of liberty.
One of the most memorable is the flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington
on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. This same flag was raised
again on December 8 when war was declared on Japan, and three days later at the
time of the declaration of war against Germany and Italy. President Roosevelt
called it the "flag of liberation" and carried it with him to the Casablanca
Conference and on other historic occasions. It flew from the mast of the U.S.S.
Missouri during the formal Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.
Another historic flag is the one that flew over Pearl Harbor on December 7,
1941. It also was present at the United Nations Charter meeting in San
Francisco, California, and was used at the Big Three Conference at Potsdam,
Germany. This same flag flew over the White House on August 14, 1945, when the
Japanese accepted surrender terms.
Following the War of 1812, a great wave of nationalistic spirit spread
throughout the country; the infant Republic had successfully defied the might of
an empire. As this spirit spread, the Stars and Stripes became a symbol of
sovereignty. The homage paid that banner is best expressed by what the gifted
men of later generations wrote concerning it.
The writer Henry Ward Beecher said:
"A thoughtful mind when it sees a nation's flag, sees
not the flag, but the nation itself. And whatever may be its symbols, its
insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag, the government, the principles, the
truths, the history that belongs to the nation that sets it forth. The American
flag has been a symbol of Liberty and men rejoiced in it.
"The stars upon it were like the bright morning stars of God, and the stripes
upon it were beams of morning light. As at early dawn the stars shine forth even
while it grows light, and then as the sun advances that light breaks into banks
and streaming lines of color, the glowing red and intense white striving
together, and ribbing the horizon with bars effulgent, so, on the American flag,
stars and beams of many-colored light shine out together . . . ."
In a 1917 Flag Day message, President Wilson said:
"This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is
the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has
no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The
choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute
those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to
us-speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us, and of the
records they wrote upon it. "We celebrate the day of its birth; and from its
birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol
of great events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people.... "Woe
be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way in this day of high
resolution when every principle we hold dearest is to be vindicated and made
secure for the salvation of the nation. We are ready to plead at the bar of
history, and our flag shall wear a new luster. Once more we shall make good with
our lives and fortunes the great faith to which we were born, and a new glory
shall shine in the face of our people."
EARLY AMERICAN FLAGS
Archeological digs in northern India, dating around 3,500 B.C., have uncovered a
seal, used to sign documents. The seal shows a procession of seven men carrying
square standards, held aloft on poles like modem flags. While these ancient
flags were rigid, like boards, and not made of cloth as modern flags are, they
provided ample testimony that heraldry and the displaying of banners dated to
the earliest civilizations.
In American history, the Vikings carried a flag which bore a black raven on a
field of white. In 1492 Columbus sailed to our shores with his three small ships
displaying the Spanish flag bearing two red lions on two white fields and two
yellow castles on two red fields. The Dutch brought their own striped flags when
they settled in New Amsterdam, which we now call New York, and pioneers from
other nations also brought along the standards of their countries when they
settled on our shores.
It is only natural, therefore, that America should create colonial flags as soon
as the first colonists settled. Given the disparate array of settlers, it is not
surprising that a wide variety of flags was created. The first flags adopted by
our colonial forebears were symbolic of their struggles with the wilderness of
the new land. Beavers, pine trees, rattlesnakes, anchors and various other
insignia were affixed to different banners with mottoes such as "Hope,"
"Liberty," "Appeal to Heaven," or "Don't Tread on Me."
In the early days of the Revolution, there were colonial and regimental flags by
the score. The Boston Liberty flag, consisting of nine alternate red and white
horizontal stripes, flew over the Liberty Tree, a fine old elm in Hanover Square
in Boston, where the Sons of Liberty met. Still another was a white flag with a
green pine tree and the inscription, "An Appeal to Heaven." This particular flag
became familiar on the seas as the ensign of the cruisers commissioned by
General Washington, and was noted by many English newspapers of the time.
Flags with a rattlesnake theme also gained increasing prestige with colonists.
The slogan "Don't Tread on Me" almost invariably appeared on rattlesnake flags.
A flag of this type was the standard of the South Carolina Navy. Another, the
Gadsden flag, consisted of a yellow field with a rattlesnake in a spiral coil,
poised to strike, in the center. Below the snake was the motto, "Don't Tread on
Me." Similar was the Culpepper flag, banner of the Minutemen of Culpepper (now
spelled Culpeper) County, Virginia. It consisted of a white field with -a
rattlesnake in a spiral coil in the center. Above the rattlesnake was the legend
"The Culpepper Minute Men" and below, the motto, "Liberty or Death" as well as
"Don't Tread on Me."
In December of 1775, an anonymous Philadelphia correspondent wrote to
Bradford's Pennsylvania journal concerning the symbolic use of the snake. He
began the letter by saying:
"I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness that
of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may, therefore, be
esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once
engaged, ever surrenders. She is, therefore, an emblem of magnanimity and true
It was probably the deadly bite of the rattler, however, which was foremost in
the minds of its designers, and the threatening slogan "Don't Tread on Me" added
further significance to the design.
The Moultrie flag was the first distinctive American flag displayed in the
South. It flew over the ramparts of the fort on Sullivan's Island, which lies in
the channel leading to Charleston, South Carolina, when the British fleet
attacked on June 28, 1776. The British ships bombarded the fort for 10 hours.
But the garrison, consisting of some 375 regulars -and a few militia, under the
command of Col. William Moultrie, put up such a gallant defense that the British
were forced to withdraw under cover of darkness. This victory saved the southern
Colonies from invasion for another two years. The flag was blue, as were the
uniforms of the men of the garrison, and it bore a white crescent in the upper
corner next to the staff, like the silver crescents the men wore on their caps,
inscribed with the words "Liberty or Death."
The Maritime Colony of Rhode Island had its own flag, which was carried at
Brandywine, Trenton, and Yorktown. It bore an anchor, 13 stars, and the word
"Hope." Its white stars in a blue field are believed by many to have influenced
the design of our national flag.
The Army preferred its regimental flags on the battlefield instead of the Stars
and Stripes. A popular form of the U.S. flag that was used in battle had the
obverse (front) of the Great Seal in the canton. The Army also used the Stars
and Stripes with 13 stars in a circle. The Stars and Stripes was officially used
in Army artillery units in 1834, and in infantry units in 1842.
THE FLAG TODAY
The flag of the United States of America has 13 horizontal stripes--7 red and 6
white--the red and white stripes alternating and a union which consists of white
stars of 5 points on a blue field placed in the upper quarter next to the staff
and extending to the lower edge of the fourth red stripe from the top. The
number o stars equals the number of States in the Union. The proportions o the
flag as prescribed by Executive Order of President Eisenhower on August 21,
1959, are as follows:
Hoist (width) of flag..................1.0
Fly (length) of flag.....................1.9
Hoist (width) of union...............0.5385
Fly (length) of union..................0.76
Width of each stripe.................0.0769
Diameter of each star..............0.0616
FLAG LAWS AND REGULATIONS
The laws relating to the flag of the United States of America are found in
detail in the United States Code. Title 4, Chapter 1 pertains to the flag and
seal, seat of Government and the States; Title 18, Chapter 33 pertains to crimes
and criminal procedures; Title 36, Chapter 10 pertains to patriotic customs and
observances. These laws were supplemented by Executive Orders and Presidential
Title 36, Chapter 10 PATRIOTIC CUSTOMS
§171. National anthem; Star-Spangled Banner, conduct during playing
During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present
except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right
hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their
right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.
Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the
anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not
displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner
they would if the flag were displayed there.
§172. Pledge of Allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery
The Pledge 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 for
all.", should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag
with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their
headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being
over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and
render the military salute.
§173. Display and Use of flag by civilians; codification of rules and customs;
The following codification of existing rules and customs pertaining to the
display and use of the flag of the United States of America is established for
the use of such civilians or civilian groups or organizations as may not be
required to conform with regulations promulgated by one or more executive
departments of the Government of the United States. The flag of the United
States for the purpose of this chapter shall be defined according to Title 4,
United States Code, chapter 1, section 1 and section 2 and Executive Order 10834
issued pursuant thereto.
§174. Time and occasions for display
(a) 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.
(b) The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
(c) The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement,
except when an all weather flag is displayed.
(d) The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on New Year's Day,
January 1; Inauguration Day, January 20; Lincoln's Birthday, February 12;
Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February; Easter Sunday (variable),
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;
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; the birthdays of States (date of admission); and
on State holidays.
(e) The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration
building of every public institution.
(f) The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election
(g) The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every
§175. Position and manner of
when carried in a procession
with another flag or flags,
should be either on the
marching right; that is, the
flag's own right, or, if
there is a line of other
flags, in front of the
center of that line.
flag should not be displayed
on a float in a parade
except from a staff, or as
provided in subsection (i)
of this section.
flag should not be draped
over the hood, top, sides,
or back of a vehicle or of a
railroad train or a boat.
When the flag is displayed
on a motorcar, the staff
shall be fixed firmly to the
chassis or clamped to the
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, when the church
pennant may be flown above
the flag during church
services for the personnel
of the Navy. 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
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
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
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. 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.
When the flag is displayed
over the middle of the
street, it should be
suspended vertically with
the union to the north in an
east and west street or to
the east in a north and
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 to the right
of the audience.
The flag should form a
distinctive feature of the
ceremony of unveiling a
statue or monument, but it
should never be used as the
covering for the statue or
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 a 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. The flag shall
be flown at half-staff
thirty days from the death
of the President or a former
President; ten days from the
day of death of the Vice
President, the Chief Justice
or a retired Chief Justice
of the United States, or the
Speaker of the House of
Representatives; from the
day of death until interment
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;
and on the day of death and
the following day for a
Member of Congress. As used
in this subsection
the term "half-staff" means
the position of the flag
when it is one-half the
distance between the top and
bottom of the staff;
the term "executive or
military department" means
any agency listed under
sections 101 and 102 of
title 5, United States Code;
the term "Member of
Congress" means a Senator, a
Representative, a Delegate,
or the Resident Commissioner
from Puerto Rico.
the flag is used to cover a
casket, it should be so
placed 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 flag is suspended across
a corridor or lobby in a
building with only one main
entrance, it should be
suspended vertically with
the union of the flag to the
observer's left upon
entering. If the building
has more than one main
entrance, the flag should be
suspended vertically near
the center of the corridor
or lobby with the union to
the north, when entrances
are to the east and west or
to the east when entrances
are to the north and south.
If there are entrances in
more than two directions,
the union should be to the
§176. Respect for the Flag
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the
flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State
flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal
of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the
floor, water, or merchandise.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It
should never be 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,
the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a
speaker's desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a
manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor
attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or
drawing of any nature.
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding,
carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner
whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or
handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or
boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising
signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel,
firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents
a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel
flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem
for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
§177. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag
During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing
in a parade or in review, all persons present except those in uniform should
face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those
present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men
should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left
shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The
salute to the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag
§178. Modification of rules and customs by President
Any rule or custom pertaining to the display of the flag of the United States of
America, set forth herein, may be altered, modified, or repealed, or additional
rules with respect thereto may be prescribed, by the Commander in Chief of the
Armed Forces of the United States, whenever he deems it to be appropriate or
desirable; and any such alteration or additional rule shall be set forth in a
Presentation of the flag during a ceremony should be preceded by a brief talk
emphasizing the importance of the occasion. Following the presentation all
present should salute the flag, recite the pledge of allegiance, and sing the
FOLDING THE FLAG
Two persons, facing each other, hold the flag waist high and horizontally
The lower striped section is folded, lengthwise, over the blue field. Hold
bottom to top and edges together securely.
Fold the flag again, lengthwise, folded edge to open edge.
A triangular fold is started along the length of the flag, from the end to the
heading by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to meet the open edge.
The outer point is turned inward parallel with the open edge, forming a second
Repeat the triangular folding until the entire length of the flag is folded.
When the flag is completely folded only the triangular blue field should be
CARE OF YOUR FLAG
The life of your flag depends on your care. Dirt can cut fabrics, dull colors,
and cause wear. Most outdoor flags can be washed in mild detergent and
thoroughly rinsed. Indoor and parade flags should be dry-cleaned. Many dry
cleaners offer free cleaning of U.S. flags during the months of June and July.
Damaged flags can be repaired and utilized as long as the overall dimensions are
not noticeably altered. American Legion Posts and local governments often have
facilities to dispose of unserviceable flags. Store your flags in a well
ventilated area away from any harsh chemicals or cleaning compounds. If your
flag gets wet, never store it until it is completely dry. Wet folds cause
permanent creases. Dampness ruins fabric and causes mildew. Pole care is also
related to flag care. Rust and scale cause permanent stains and some metallic
oxides actually eat holes in fabric.
SIZES OF FLAGS
The size of the flag is determined by the exposed height of the flagpole from
which it is flying. The only consideration is for the flag to be in proper
proportion to its pole. Flags which fly from angled poles on homes and those
which are displayed on standing poles in offices and other indoor displays are
usually either 3' x 5' or 4' x 6'. Color guards usually carry flags measuring 4'
x 6'. Other recommended sizes are shown in the following table:
Flagpole Height (ft.) Flag Size (ft.)
20 4 x 6
25 5 x 8
40 6 x 10
50 8 x 12
60 10 x 15
70 12 x 18
90 15 x 25
125 20 x 30
200 30 x 40
250 40 x 50
FLAGS AT THE UNITED STATES CAPITOL
No record has been found for the earliest date the flag was flown over the east
and west fronts of the Capitol. Early engravings and lithographs in the office
of the Architect of the Capitol show flags flying on either side of the original
low dome above the corridors connecting the areas now known as Statuary Hall and
the Old Senate Chamber.
After the addition of the new House and Senate wings in the 1850s, even before
the great dome was completed in 1863, photographs of the period show flags
flying over each new wing and the central east and west fronts.
The custom of flying the flags 24 hours a day over the east and west fronts was
begun during World War I. This was done in response to requests received from
all over the country urging that the flag of the United States be flown
continuously over the public buildings in Washington, DC.
The east and west front flags, which are 8 x 12 feet, are replaced by new ones
when they become worn and unfit for further use. Prior to machine-made flags,
individuals were hired by the Congress to handsew these flags.
Presidential proclamations and laws authorize the display of the flag 24 hours a
day at the following places:
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore, Maryland
(Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948).
Flag House Square, Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore Maryland (Public Law
83-319, approved March 26, 1954).
United States Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington, Virginia (Presidential
Proclamation No. 3418, June 12, 1961).
On the Green of the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts (Public Law 89-335,
approved November 8, 1965).
The White House, Washington, DC. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September
Washington Monument, Washington, DC. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July
6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971).
Fifty flags of the United States are displayed at the Washington Monument
continuously. United States Customs Ports of Entry which are continually open
(Presidential Proclamation No. 413 1, May 5, 1972).
Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge,
Pennsylvania (Public Law 94-53, approved July 4,1975).
Many other places fly the flag at night as a patriotic gesture by custom.
HOW TO OBTAIN A FLAG FLOWN OVER THE CAPITOL
Constituents may arrange to purchase flags that have been flown over the Capitol
by getting in touch with their Senators or Representative. A certificate signed
by the Architect of the Capitol accompanies each flag. Flags are available for
purchase in sizes of 3' x 5' or 5' x 8' in fabrics of cotton and nylon
AMERICAN WAR MOTHERS FLAG
The American War Mothers is a national organization chartered by Congress with
its headquarters in Washington, DC. Its members are mothers whose sons and
daughters have served or who are serving in the Armed Forces. Its objective is
to aid the serviceman or veteran and his family, including those who are
According to records in the Office of the Architect of the U.S. Capitol, the
American War Mothers flag was purchased by them and first flown over the U.S.
Capitol, always below the American flag, on Armistice Day, November 11, 1926.
The authority for flying that flag over the U.S. Capitol on this occasion and in
subsequent years has been granted annually by written permission of the Vice
President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Provision for the ceremony was further recognized when the flagpole on the east
front, after the extension of 1960, was installed with two halyards.
Traditionally the flag has been raised at 11 minutes after 11 a.m. by a detail
from the Capitol Police . The flag flies until sundown, although originally it
flew only for three hours. A bugler selected from one of the armed services
plays taps. Brief memorial services are held in connection with the ceremony.
These services have been accommodated on the east and west front steps or in
Statuary Hall and permission to hold them is generally granted in the same
letter that permits the flag to be flown.
The act of July 1, 1882, regulating the use of the Capitol Grounds vests the
Vice President and the Speaker with the authority to grant this privilege.
The American War Mothers flag is kept in a safe at the U.S. Capitol. The present
flag, first used in 1970, replaced the original woolen flag of 1926. It is of a
synthetic fabric, 47 x 72 inches in size, consisting of a white field with a red
border 11 inches wide. At the top is an 11-inch blue star for the 4,695,039 who
served in World War I. These figures are 2 1/2 inches in blue. Across the center
in 4-inch letters are the words "United States Service Flag." Below is an
11-inch gold star for the 60,672 who gave their lives. These figures are 21/2
inches high in gold.
HOW TO OBTAIN A BURIAL FLAG FOR A VETERAN
Any honorably discharged veteran is entitled to a burial flag. The funeral
director, as part of the services, will make the necessary arrangements for the
family on behalf of the veteran. The flag may be used to cover the casket and it
is presented to the family as a keepsake. The local office of the Department of
Veterans' Affairs can also provide information on the procedure for obtaining a
flag for a deceased veteran. A 12 by IS foot flag flies at the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial 24 hours a day. The flagpole is located just a few feet from the
statute of the "Three Servicemen" and near the walkway leading to the Memorial
walls. The base of the flagpole has an inscription and the emblem of the five
U.S. military services, and was designed to be placed for public viewing.
A 12 by IS foot flag flies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial 24 hours a day. The
flagpole is located just a few feet from the statute of the "Three Servicemen"
and near the walkway leading to the Memorial walls. The base of the flagpole has
an inscription and the emblem of the five U.S. military services, and was
designed to be placed for public viewing.
Each year on June 14, we celebrate the birthday of the Stars and Stripes, which
came into being on June 14, 1777. At that time, the Second Continental Congress
authorized a new flag to symbolize the new Nation, the United States of America.
The Stars and Stripes first flew in a Flag Day celebration in Hartford,
Connecticut in 1861, during the first summer of the Civil War. The first
national observance of Flag Day occurred June 14, 1877, the centennial of the
original flag resolution.
By the mid 1890's the observance of Flag Day on June 14 was a popular event.
Mayors and governors began to issue proclamations in their jurisdictions to
celebrate this event.
In the years to follow, public sentiment for a national Flag Day observance
greatly intensified. Numerous patriotic societies and veterans groups became
identified with the Flag Day movement. Since their main objective was to
stimulate patriotism among the young, schools were the first to become involved
in flag activities.
In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide
observance of Flag Day on June 14. It was not until 1949 that Congress made this
day a permanent observance by resolving "That the 14th day of June of each year
is hereby designated as Flag Day . The measure was signed into law by President
Although Flag Day is not celebrated as a Federal holiday, Americans everywhere
continue to honor the history and heritage it represents.
THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a
committee to devise a seal for the United States of America. This mission,
designed to reflect the Founding Fathers' beliefs, values, and sovereignty of
the new Nation, did not become a reality until June 20, 1782.
In heraldic devices, such as seals, each element has a specific meaning. Even
colors have specific meanings. The colors red, white, and blue did not have
meanings for the Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777. However, the
colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings. Charles Thompson, Secretary
of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:
"The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of
the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red,
hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the
stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."
The obverse front of the Great Seal-which is used 2,000 to 3,000 times a
year-authenticates the President's signature on numerous official documents such
as treaty ratifications, international agreements, appointments of Ambassadors
and civil officers, and communications from the President to heads of foreign
governments. The design of the obverse of the Seal, which is the U.S. coat of
arms, can be shown on coins, postage stamps, passports, monuments and flags, and
in many other ways. The American public sees both the obverse and less familiar
reverse, which is never used as a seal, every day when exchanging the $1 dollar
The Great Seal die, counter die, press, and cabinet in which they are housed,
are located in the Exhibit Hall of the Department of State inside a locked glass
enclosure. An officer from the Department's Presidential Appointments Staff does
the actual sealing of documents after the Secretary of State has countersigned
the President's signature.
The American bald eagle is prominently featured supporting a shield composed of
13 red and white stripes (pales) representing the Thirteen Original States with
a blue bar (chief) uniting the shield and representing Congress. The motto of
the United States, E Pluribus Unum (meaning out of many, one), refers to this
union. The olive branch and 13 arrows grasped by the eagle allude to peace and
war, powers solely vested in the Congress, and the constellation of stars
symbolizes the new Nation taking its place among the sovereign powers.
The pyramid signifies strength and duration: The eye over it and the motto,
Annuit Coeptis (meaning He, [Godj has favored our undertakings), allude to the
many interventions of Providence in favor of the American cause. The Roman
numerals below are the date of the Declaration of Independence. The words under
it, Novus Ordo Seclorum (meaning a new order of the ages), signify the beginning
of the new American era in 1776.
Fort McHenry is located in Baltimore, Maryland. This low citadel overlooks the
entrance to Baltimore harbor and it is where the Americans defended the city
against British land and naval attack on September 13-14 in 1814. It was during
this battle that Francis Scott Key began the draft to "The Star-Spangled Banner"
after seeing the flag still flying after a day and night of bombardment.
The fort continued in active military service for nearly a century after the
battle but changing technology eventually made it obsolete as a coastal defense
system. Today the 43-acre fort is preserved as a national monument and historic
shrine. The property is managed by the National Park Service and the flag is
flown over the fort 24 hours a day.
THE FLAG HOUSE
The Flag House is located on the northwest corner of Albemarle and Pratt Streets
in Baltimore, Maryland. It was the home of Mary Pickersgill from 1807 to 1857,
and it was where she made the original "Star-Spangled Banner," which measured 30
by 42 feet. The stripes were two feet wide and the stars were two feet from
point to point. Mrs. Pickersgill was paid $405.90 for her services. The flag was
delivered to Fort McHenry on August 19, 1813, a full year before the Battle of
In 1876, Caroline Pickersgill Purdy wrote a letter to Georgiana Armistead
Appleton, daughter of the Fort McHenry Commandant, in which she recounted the
details of the making of the flag. Caroline wrote"
"It was made by my mother, Mrs. Mary Pickersgill, and I assisted her. My
grandmother, Rebecca Young, made the first flag of the Revolution under George
Washington's directions, and for this reason my mother was selected by Commodore
Barney and General Stricker to make this star-spangled banner, being in
exceedingly patriotic woman. This flag, I think, contained four hundred yards of
bunting, and my mother worked many nights until twelve o'clock to complete it in
a given time."
The flag bears the autograph of Lt. Col. George Armistead as well as the date of
the British bombardment. The flag remained in the Armistead family for many
years until it was loaned to the Smithsonian for an official display in 1907. On
December 19, 1912, it was donated to the Smithsonian where it is now on
permanent exhibit. In 1914, much-needed preservative work was done on the flag
by Mrs. Amelia Fowler and several other restoration experts. Although the flag
was reduced in size in order to repair it, the reinforcement technique used has
preserved its existence.
The Flag House is a National Historic Landmark, and is operated by an
independent non-profit association. The flag is flown over the house 24 hours a
PLEDGE 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 FOR ALL."
The Pledge of Allegiance received official recognition by Congress in an Act
approved on June 22, 1942. However, the pledge was first published in 1892 in
the Youth's Companion magazine in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate the 400th
anniversary of the discovery of America, and was first used in public schools to
celebrate Columbus Day on October 12, 1892.
In its original version, the pledge read "my flag" instead of "the flag of the
United States." the change in the wording was adopted by the National Flag
Conference in 1923. The rationale for the change was that it prevented ambiguity
among foreign-born children and adults who might have the flag of their native
land in mind when reciting the pledge.
The phrase "under God" was added to the pledge by a Congressional act approved
on June 14, 1954. At that time, President Eisenhower said:
"in this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in
America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those
spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in
peace and war."
The American's Creed
I BELIEVE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AS A GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE
PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE; WHOSE JUST POWERS ARE DERIVED FROM THE CONSENT OF THE
GOVERNED; A DEMOCRACY IN A REPUBLIC, A SOVEREIGN NATION OF MANY SOVEREIGN
STATES; A PERFECT UNION, ONE AND INSEPARABLE; ESTABLISHED UPON THOSE PRINCIPLES
OF FREEDOM, EQUALITY, JUSTICE, AND HUMANITY FOR WHICH AMERICAN PATRIOTS
SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES AND FORTUNES.
I THEREFORE BELIEVE IT IS MY DUTY TO MY COUNTRY TO LOVE IT, TO SUPPORT ITS
CONSTITUTION; TO OBEY ITS LAWS; TO RESPECT ITS FLAG; AND TO DEFEND IT AGAINST
The Creed was written in 1918 by William Tyler Page of Friendship Heights,
Maryland in the course of a nationwide contest on the subject. Page was a
descendent of President Tyler, and Representative John Page, who served in the
Congress from 1789-97.
William Tyler Page began his government career as a Congressional page in
December of 1881. In 1919, he was elected Clerk of the House of Representatives,
and held that position until December of 1931. a new post, Emeritus Minority
Clerk, was then created for him which he occupied until his death on October 20,
The information above comes from the WEB site of
The joint Committee on Printing of our U.S.