US Flag Etiquette

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Oct 22, 2003
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Huntington Beach, CA
I found this online and wanted to post this before the Holiday weekend

Flag Rules and Regulations

How to Fold the Flag

Fold the flag in half width-wise twice. Fold up a triangle, starting at the striped end ... and repeat ... until only the end of the union is exposed. Then fold down the square into a triangle and tuck inside the folds.​
To see this animated gif frame by frame, click here

How to Display the Flag

1. 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 south street.

2. The 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 [that means the viewer's left --Webmaster], and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

3. 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. By "half-staff" is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. Crepe streamers may be affixed to spear heads or flagstaffs in a parade only by order of the President of the United States.

4. When 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 right of the flag of the United States. When the flag is half-masted, both flags are half-masted, with the US flag at the mid-point and the other flag below.

5. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.

6. When the flag of the United States is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.

7. When 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 ground.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/f_etiq08.gif8. When the flag is displayed in a manner other than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. When festoons, rosettes or drapings are desired, bunting of blue, white and red should be used, but never the flag.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/f_etiq09.gif9. That the flag, 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.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/f_etiq10.gif10. 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 staffs.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/f_etiq11.gif11. When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/f_etiq12.gif12. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium on or off a podium, 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 (to the right of the audience).

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/f_etiq14.gif13. When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/f_etiq15.gif14. When hung in a window, place the blue union in the upper left, as viewed from the street.

Flagpoles and Flag Sizes

.flag {border-collapse:collapse;font: 13px/15px arial;} .flag td {border:1px black solid;padding:2px 4px;vertical-align: top;} .flag th {border:1px black solid;background-color:#E7EFFF;font-weight:bold;text-align:center;vertical-align: top;padding:2px 4px;} .flag td.b, th.b {border-right:4px black solid;}






What size flag should hang on what size flagpole? The usual size of a flag used at home is 3'x5'. On houses, a 15' or 20' flagpole should fly a 3'x5' flag. A 25' flagpole should use a 4'x6' flag.

The table shows the appropriate size for public display (not home-use) of the flag.

Flag Proportions

According to Executive Order 10834, official flags (not personal flags) must meet these standards.


.bbtable {border-collapse:collapse;font:11px/13px arial;} .bbtable td {border:1px black solid;padding:2px 4px;vertical-align: top;} .bbtable th {border:1px black solid;background-color:#eee;font-weight:bold;text-align:center;vertical-align: top;}

Standard proportions

Hoist (width) of flag

Fly (length) of flag

Hoist (width) of Union
0.5385 (7/13)

Fly (length) of Union









Diameter of star

Width of stripe
0.0769 (1/13)

Flag Code Violations in the News

Super Bowl 2004, Janet Jackson's "costume malfunction" made international news; that same half-time show featured the wearing of an American flag by performer Kid Rock. He later removed the flag poncho and hurled it over his head. Section 8d. reads, "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel." Click picture for enlargement. Photo credit: Reuters

Other Questions

ul.oq {margin-left:15px;padding-left:0;list-style-type:square;font-size:11pt;}

  • My flag touched the ground. Do I need to destroy it?No. You should, of course, try to avoid having the flag touch the ground. But if it does, you should correct the situation immediately. If the flag has been dirtied, you should clean it by hand with a mild soap solution and dry it well before returning it to use.

[*]My flag is old and ready to be retired. What should I do?
  • Section 8k of the Flag Code (see below) states, "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." We recommend that you contact your local VFW Chapter and ask them for help properly disposing of your flag. And be sure to consider providing a small donation to them for their assistance. Or you can contact your local Elks Lodge (who created the idea of Flag Day, established officially by President Truman, himself a member of the Elks), the American Legion, or the Knights of Columbus. Some Boy Scout and Girl Scout troups also can provide this service.

[*]Is it appropriate to fly a flag that has fewer than 50 stars?
  • Yes. There is nothing wrong in flying a historic flag.

[*]I am not a citizen of the US; am I expected to salute the flag?
  • Americans should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious 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. Those who are not U.S. citizens should stand at attention.

[*]Is it okay to fly a flag that was used to drape a coffin?
  • The Flag Code makes no reference to this use, but consensus among experts is that yes, it would be an honor to display the flag to show patriotism.

[*]How can I get a flag that has 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'x5' or 5'x8' in fabrics of cotton and nylon.

[*]What does the fringe on the flag represent?

  • http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/flagfringe.jpg The gold trim is found on ceremonial flags, to be used indoors and for ceremonies only. They originally were used on military flags. The fringe has no specific significance, but is considered completely within the guidelines of proper flag etiquette. There is nothing in the flag code indicating that the fringe is for federal government flags only. The Internet contains many sites that claim that the fringe indicates martial law or that the Constitution does not apply in that area. These are entirely unfounded (usually citing Executive Order 10834 and inventing text that is not part of the order) and should be dismissed as urban legends.

[*]Should I fly my flag at half-mast today?
  • Your flag should be flown at half-mast upon reliable information that a past or present President or Vice-President has died. It should also be flown at half-staff upon Presidential proclamation. See Section 7-M below for more information.

[*]Can my company decide to fly our flag at half-mast for a former employee?
  • No. Only the president of the US or your state governor can order the flag lowered to half-staff.

[*]Upon the death of a sitting or former President how long does the flag fly at half-mast? For a Vice-President?
  • 30 days for the death of a sitting or former President. 10 days for the death of a Vice President. See section 7-m below for more information.

[*]How can I show mourning if my flag is on a fixed pole or staff and can't be half-masted?
  • The flag rules make no provisions for this. However, army regulations state, "A streamer of black crepe 7 feet long and 1 foot wide will be attached to the staff immediately below the spearhead of the U.S. flag."

[*]Can I have people sign my flag?
  • No, you should never sign the flag directly on it. If your flag has a canvas strip that holds the grommets, it is acceptable to have everyone sign along that canvas strip. Or, you can have everyone sign a separate document that can then be framed and displayed with the flag.

[*]I am thinking of getting a flag tattoo. Is it okay?
  • There is nothing in the Flag Code about tattoos. The question is one of respect for the flag. In this case one person's respect is another's disrespect, and we advise against a flag tattoo. Perhaps an American eagle would look good?

[*]What is the meaning of the folds in a flag-folding ceremony?
  • There is no reference to meaning of the folds in the Flag Code. There is, however, a popular flag-folding ceremony.

[*]Is Texas's the only state flag allowed to fly at the same height as the US flag?
  • No, this is an urban legend. All state flags may fly at the same height as the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag must be on its right (the viewer's left), however. Texas's laws are consistent with those of the other states. See Texas flag code.

[*]Does the ball ornament atop a flagpole contain a razor, lighter, and flare?
  • No. This is just an urban legend. One explanation is that the myth started during the Cold War and that the objects were to be used to destroy the flag in the event of a Soviet invasion. Of course, the ball ornament predates the Cold War by many years.

[*]Is it okay to have a flag t-shirt with words written on it?
  • No, the flag should never be worn and no, the flag should never have marks or words written upon it. Section 8d (see below): "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel." Section 8g: "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."

[*]Is it okay to use flag napkins or flag paper plates?
  • No. Section 8i (see below) reads: "It should not be ... printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard."

[*]Is it okay for an advertisement to use the flag?

[*]Where does the flag fly 24 hours a day?
  • Untold thousands of places. Section 6a: "when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness." Of course it flies 24 hours a day on the Moon. There is an elite group where, by executive order, it is to fly 24 hours a day, shown here:
    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 Corps 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 4, 1970).
  • 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).

[*]I fly my flag at home 24 hours a day. What does "properly illuminated" mean?
  • Section 6a: "when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness." The Flag Rules offer no additional guidance on this question. We interpret this to mean that there is either a light directly upon the flag or that there is sufficient local lighting to make the flag easily visible at night.

[*]When children paint the American flag, is that against the Flag rules and regulations?
  • Respectfully featuring the American flag in artwork is a wonderful thing and should be encouraged. We would hope that the artwork is preserved and displayed proudly by the young artists and their families.

[*]What does the Flag Code say about displaying the flag horizontally, as before a football game?

[*]Why is the flag sometimes backwards on the side of airplanes, buses, and other vehicles?
  • The flag decals have the union (the blue area with the stars) on the side closer to the front of the plane. On the plane's left, the decal shows the flag with the union at the left, as usual. On the plane's right side, the union is on the right. This is done so that the flag looks as if it is blowing in the wind created by the forward movement. You can see this on cars and trucks as well. Click to see pictures of the flag decals on Air Force 1.

[*]http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/motorcycle.gifOn my motorcycle, I have two flags, the US flag and a POW/MIA flag. How should they be positioned?
  • The US flag should always be on its right, as shown in this picture. The POW/MIA or other flag flies on its left, which is the viewer's right, facing the motorcycle.

[*]What is the proper way to wear a flag patch on one's shoulder sleeve?

  • http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/flagleft.gifLeft Flag

    http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/flagright.gifRight or "reversed field" flag

    To wear our country's flag properly, the field of stars should be worn closest to your heart. Thus, if your patch is to be worn on your LEFT sleeve, use a left flag. For patches worn on your RIGHT sleeve, use a "right" or "reversed field" flag. Since the law does not specifically address the positioning of the patch, a decision is left to the discretion of the organization prescribing the wear. Some elect to use the "left" flag on both sleeves. [Note: many states and cities have ordinances pertaining to the use of the flag; you may wish to contact the Attorney General of your state or the City Attorney's office regarding this matter.] If you are planning to wear only one patch, it is recommended that you wear a "left" flag on your left sleeve. Military guidelines specify that in support of joint or multi-national operations, the "right" flag is worn on the right sleeve, 1/4" below the shoulder seam or 1/8" below any required unit patches.Source: Army Website FAQs

[*]Isn't the American flag stamp in violation of the flag rules?

  • http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/images/faq2.jpg37¢ stamp

    This question has been asked by dozens of visitors to this page. The answer appears to be yes. Section 8e. (see below) reads, "The flag should never be ... used ... in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way." Section 8g. reads, "The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark ... of any nature." 8i. reads, "[The flag] should not be printed or otherwise impressed on ... anything that is designed for temporary use and discard."

[*]What is a flag?
  • This question does not have an obvious answer. Our conclusion is that the flag is that which we recognize to be the flag. The pictures below are all understood to be flags, even with little or inaccurate visual information, or existing in light, or with the parts of the flag in a different arrangement. These are not shown as examples of violations of the flag rules.
    These examples are all recognized as being flags:

Jasper Johns flag

animation experiment

flag quilt

Bank of America logo

child's drawing

flag car

flag Christmas tree

flag umbrella


Oct 22, 2003
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Huntington Beach, CA
Originally Posted by nydoll23

Great info Tony
God bless the great ol USA!

Yep! I bet allot of people don't even know some of these things and allot of it is taken for granted

May 5, 2005
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Originally Posted by Tony(admin) Yep! I bet allot of people don't even know some of these things and allot of it is taken for granted

I know what you mean.Now of all times we should be informed of our history and culture in the us,We fight enough for it,so we should respect it! thats for my dad thats for the us

Feb 16, 2005
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I agree, thanks for the info. My hubby is in the Air Force

Originally Posted by Tony(admin) Yep! I bet allot of people don't even know some of these things and allot of it is taken for granted
Oct 22, 2003
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Huntington Beach, CA
Originally Posted by lilla

I agree, thanks for the info. My hubby is in the Air Force

Bless him, Lilla! Tell him THANK YOU
Feb 16, 2005
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Thank you Tony, I sure will.

Originally Posted by Tony(admin) Bless him, Lilla! Tell him THANK YOU
Feb 12, 2005
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Thanks for posting this info. I learned a few things today!

Jan 18, 2004
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Same here, very interesting! I noticed there was a few similarities with the Uk concerning the Queen's face being printed on coins etc. Thanks for that.


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