How to Display the Flag

Treat Old Glory with the respect she deserves.


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Flying the stars and stripes from your home? Check out our list of dos and don'ts for proper flag treatment. These tips are from the Federal Flag Code, which serves as a guide for civilians and civilian groups. Compliance is voluntary -- but suggested.

  • Display the flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and outdoor stationary flagstaffs. The flag can be displayed 24 hours a day if the flag is illuminated during the hours of darkness.
  • Pay attention to the position of the union (the blue field). When projecting horizontally or at an angle from a windowsill or front of a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff, unless the flag is at half-staff. When displayed against a wall or in a window, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right (the observer's left).
  • When flown at half-staff (the flag is flown at half-staff by order of the President, customarily upon the death of prominent members of the government, as a mark of respect to their memory), the flag should be raised to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. Just before the flag is lowered for the day, the flag should once again be momentarily hoisted to the peak. To position the flag at half-staff, place the flag one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.
  • Dispose of a flag that is frayed, tattered, or otherwise inappropriate for display. The flag should be destroyed in a respectful manner, preferably by burning, according to U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 176k, Respect for Flag.
  • If you have a 48-star flag or another historic U.S. flag, you may display it with pride. The 50-star flag is the official flag of the U.S. as designated by President Eisenhower in 1959. There are many historic U.S. flags and, according to tradition (the Flag Code does not address this issue), they may be displayed as long as they are in good condition (unfrayed, unstained, unsoiled, without rips, tears, or holes). Historic U.S. flags should be treated with the same respect and rituals as the official flag.
  • You can place a symbolic finial on your flagstaff. Finials for flagstaffs are not mentioned in the Flag Code but, by implication, they are acceptable. The President, the Vice President, and many federal agencies use an eagle finial.
  • An indoor flag may have a fringe (a fringe on an outdoor flag would deteriorate too quickly). The Army has used a fringed flag since 1895.
  • For other patriotic decoration, 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 in front of a platform, and decorating general interior or exterior spaces. Many flag sites and patriotic memorabilia sites, like Flags Unlimited and Americastore, carry bunting. Available as ornamental banners, in fans, and by the bolt, the bunting comes in traditional cotton, easy care cotton/poly and convenient plastic.

Flags Unlimited

Americastore

  • To display the flag on a car, the staff should be attached to the chassis or the right fender.
  • On a float in a parade, the flag may only be displayed from a staff.
  • A flag patch may only be attached to the uniforms of military personnel, firefighters, police officers, and members of patriotic organizations.
  • Position a lapel flag pin on the left lapel, near the heart.
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  • Unless you have an all-weather flag (frequently made of nylon, polyester, or treated cotton), the flag should not be displayed during inclement weather.
  • Never display the flag with the union (blue field) down, except as a signal of extreme distress, as in danger to life or property.
  • The flag should not be allowed to touch anything beneath it, like the ground, floor, water, or merchandise.
  • Always carry our flag aloft and floating free, never flat or horizontally.
  • Do not place the flag over the hood, top, sides, or back of any vehicle, including a train or boat.
  • Neither the flag nor any part of the flag may be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
  • Never use the flag for apparel, bedding, or drapery.
  • The flag must always fall free and must never be festooned, drawn back or up, or in folds.
  • Never use the flag as a covering for a ceiling.
  • No mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing can be placed on the flag or any part of the flag.
  • The flag must never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • Never use the flag for advertising in any manner. Advertising signs should not be attached to the flag's staff or halyard (the rope used to hoist the flag).
  • No items that are intended for temporary use should be adorned with the flag. The flag should not be embroidered, printed, or embossed on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything that will be discarded.
  • Protect your flag -- make sure that she is not displayed or stored in a way that would allow the flag to be torn, soiled, or otherwise damaged.

Sources: CRS Report for Congress (Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress), The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions, John R. Luckey, Legislative Attorney, American Law Division, Updated June 14, 2000.

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