Expert Commentary...Flag Etiquette

For more than 200 years, the American flag has been the symbol of our nation's strength and unity.  It's been a source of pride and inspiration for millions of citizens.  The flag has been a prominent icon in our national history.

On January 1, 1776, the Continental Army was reorganized in accordance with a Congressional resolution which placed American forces under George Washington's control.  On that New Year's Day the continental Army was laying siege to Boston which has been taken over by the British Army.  Washington ordered the Grand Union flag be hoisted above his base at Prospect Hill.  It had 13 alternate red and white stripes and the British Union Jack in the upper-left hand corner (the canton).  In May of 1776, Betsy Ross reported that she sewed the first American flag.  On June 1777, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act.

Although the flag has changed several times in history to allow for additional stars and stripes to reflect the admission of each new state, the respect for the flag remains the same.  According to the United States Code Chapter 10 (Patriotic Customs), the flag may be displayed on buildings and stationary, stand-alone flagstaffs only from sunrise to sunset.  However, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.  The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.  It should be carefully handled and never touch the ground.  The flag should not be displayed in inclement weather unless an all-weather flag is used.  No other flag or pennant should be placed above the flag.  If displayed on the same level, the U.S. flag should be to the right.  The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle.  When the flag is displayed on an automobile, the staff must be firmly attached to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.  (For draping, use red, white and blue bunting, not the flag.)

Its always appropriate to fly the flag, but especially on Federally-declared holidays.  On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon.  More detailed information is available at

Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white.  The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, the stars represent the 50 states of the Union.  The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

This Fourth of July, show your pride by respecting the flag.