Flag EtiquetteFederal law stipulates many aspects of flag etiquette. The section of law dealing with American Flag etiquette is generally referred to as the Flag Code. Some general guidelines from the Flag Code answer many of the most common questions:
- The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.
- The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.
- The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
- The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
- The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
- The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
- The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it, or attached to it.
- The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
- When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms.
- To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
- The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
- When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
The Etiquette of the Flag: The flag is displayed every day only on government buildings and schoolhouses. On state holidays, and like commemorative days when it is customary for the flag to be displayed on private buildings, it should be raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset. It should not be displayed on stormy days, nor left out over night. It should never be allowed to touch the ground. When it is to be displayed at half-mast only, it should be raised to the tip of the staff and then lowered halfway. It should never be festooned or draped, but always be hung flat. On Memorial Day, May 30, the flag should be displayed at half-mast until twelve o'clock noon, and then raised to the top of the staff until sunset. The salute for the changing of the position of the flag at all army posts and stations having artillery, is as follows: immediately before noon, the band plays some appropriate air, and at the stroke of twelve the national salute of twenty-one guns is fired. After this the flag is hoisted to the peak of the staff, while everybody stands at attention, with hand raised to the forehead ready for the salute. When the colors reach the top, the salute is given, and the band plays patriotic airs. The salute to the flag is used at its formal raising, and when it passes on parade or in review. The hand salute according to the regulations of the United States Army is as follows: "Standing at attention, raise the right hand to the forehead over the right eye, palm downward, fingers extended and close together, arm at an angle of forty-five degrees. Move hand outward about a foot, with a quick motion then drop to the side. When the colors are passing on parade or in review, the spectator should, if walking, halt, if sitting, arise, and stand at attention and uncover." In schools two forms of salute are taught. The first, for primary children, is: "We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country; one country, one land, one flag." The second, for all other pupils, is: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." When the flag is carried on parade, it is dipped in salute to the official who is reviewing the parade. Whenever the flag is displayed with other flags, whether the colors of a regiment or other military organization, or of alien nations, it should be placed, or carried, or crossed, at the right of the other flag or flags. When portrayed in illustrations by any process or for any purpose, it is so pictured that the staff will always be at the left and the fabric will float to the right. The chief regulations governing the composition of the flag are as follows: In the field of the flag there should be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternating red and white, the first and the last stripes red. These stripes represent the thirteen original colonies. The colors red and white were chosen by George Washington, the red from the flag of England, the Mother Country, broken by the white, symbolizing liberty, to show the separation. The union of the flag; white stars on a field of blue; should be seven stripes high, and about seven-tenths of the height of the flag in length. "The stars should have five points, with one point directly upward." The stars symbolize the States. "By an act of Congress on October 26, 1912, the flag now has forty-eight stars, arranged in six horizontal rows of eight each." Edith Ordway,"The Etiquette of To-Day", 1918
American Flag Protocol
Rules for Display of the American Flag:
Display Outdoors Over the Middle of the Street
Flown at Half-staff
- 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.
Flown on the Same Halyard with Non-Nation Flags
- 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.
Suspended Over a Sidewalk
- The American Flag 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.
From a Staff Projecting Horizontally or at an Angle
- The flag may be suspended 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.
In a Parade with Other Flags
- The flag may be projected from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, with the union of the flag placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.
With Non-National Flags
- 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.
With Other National Flags
- 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.
With Another Flag Against a Wall from Crossed Staffs
- 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.
Display Indoors From a Staff in a Church or Public Auditorium on a Podium
- Should be on the right, the flag's own right which is the viewer's left, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
- 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).
From a Staff in a Church or Public Auditorium off the Podium
- Custom and not the flag code hold that the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence as part of the audience, in the position of honor at the audience's right.
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.
Other than being Flown from a Staff
- The flag 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.
Source USA Flag Site. Org