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How to Properly Display Your American Flag

Updated on August 1, 2017

"The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing."--U.S. Code: Title 4, Chapter 1 § 8. Respect for Flag

Patriotism is showing love for your country. The word invokes feelings of loyalty and faithfulness. Devotion and being true-blue are components of patriotism. A patriot loves his country. Patriots are often called flag wavers and good citizens. Some may say that patriotism is dead in America, but I disagree.

The American flag is the living representation of our country and as such demands a great deal of respect. Showing respect to our flag is the same as showing respect to our country. That is why displaying your flag correctly is so important. However, many people do not know the rules associated with displaying their flags.

The United States Code in Title 4, Chapter 1 gives guidance on how to properly display your American flag. These rules and regulations are centered around respect for the United States of America and the flag that represents it. Properly displaying your flag is an important part of being a good citizen.


A Little History

The first flag was sewn by Betsy Ross in May of 1776, just a few months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The first official flag of the United States was made of thirteen stripes alternating red and white and a ring of thirteen white stars set on a field of blue. The design was shown to Betsy by George Washington.

Betsy Ross was approached by a committee sent by the Continental Army that consisted of George Washington, George Ross and Robert Morris. Betsy Ross knew George Washington well. They worshiped at the same church and were friends. George Ross was the uncle of her recently deceased husband. She was an upholsterer by trade and known for her skill in sewing.

This flag was officially recognized as the national flag on June 14, 1777 by an act of Congress. The design would change in 1795, with the addition of 2 more stars and stripes to commemorate Kentucky and Vermont joining the Union. By 1818 five more states had joined and Congress changed the flag again.

The new flag was to have 13 alternating red and white stripes and 20 stars. The star's arrangement became horizontal instead of circular. It was also decided that a new star would be added with each new state. New stars would appear on the 4th of July following the new state's admission into the Union.

Today we have 13 stripes alternating red and white and 50 white stars on a field of blue. The 13 stripes are to recognize the original 13 states. The colors also have meaning. Red represents hardiness and valor. Blue represent vigilance, perseverance and justice. White stands for purity and innocence.

A High School Student designed our Current Flag

Robert Heft, a high school student, designed our 50 star flag.  Imagine, he only received a B- on the assignment.
Robert Heft, a high school student, designed our 50 star flag. Imagine, he only received a B- on the assignment. | Source
Almost Time to Take this Flag Down
Almost Time to Take this Flag Down | Source
The Pledge of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance | Source

When to Display Your Flag

The American flag is typically displayed from sunup to sunset. You may display your flag after sunset if you have proper lighting. Do not display it during inclement weather unless you have an all weather flag. Be sure to hoist your flag rapidly and with enthusiasm and to lower it ceremoniously and respectfully.

The flag may be displayed every day, but you should hoist the red, white and blue for these holidays at the minimum:

  • New Year’s Day, January 1
  • Inauguration Day, January 20
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, third Monday in January
  • 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;

The Correct Way to Display Your Flag

One of the first rules of displaying the American flag is it must always be above other flags on the same flagpole. No other flag may be placed above the American flag in the United States of America. When you have two flagpoles, the American flag is always hung on the right side. In a line of flags the American flag should be center and highest.

The flags of different nations may be flown at an adjacent height to the American flag when on different flagpoles. International protocols forbid the hanging of one nation's flag above another nation's during times of peace. But the American flag must be flown to the right. In every case when there are two flagpoles, the American flag is flown on the right.

The American flag is always hoisted first and taken down last. All other flags must be put up after the American flag is flying and taken down before the American flag is taken down.

If placed in a display against the wall, crossed with another flag, the American flag must be on the right with it's staff crossed in front of the other's. This will place the American flag on the left hand side of someone standing and looking at the display.

When the American flag is placed flat on a wall behind a speaker it is above and behind the speaker.  If it is placed behind the right shoulder of a speaker if displayed on a pole. Any other flag should be placed at the speaker's left.

An American flag hung from a pole horizontally or at an angle from a house or building should always have the blue field with stars (otherwise known as the union) at the peak of the staff. The union should always be at the topmost point of the flag.

The union should always be on the flag's right (observer's left) when an American flag is displayed vertically or horizontally on a wall. The union should additionally be in the uppermost position. This same placement should be observed when displaying the flag in a window.

This next one can be a little tricky for some. When you hang a flag over a road suspend the American flag vertically. Keep the union uppermost and facing the north on an east-west street, or east on a north-south street. (Hint: Find someone who knows east from west and north from south before attempting this placement!)

When flying an American flag at half-mast (halfway between the top and bottom of the pole) always hoist the flag to the top of the pole before lowering it to half-mast. Raise the flag again to the top before lowering it at the end of the day.


How Much Did You Learn?

Cast your vote for How to Hang Your American Flag

© 2009 Kari Poulsen


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    • gator strong profile image

      gator strong 2 years ago from USA

      I love your hub.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      I found your Hub when I did a HubPages search to see if someone had written an article on displaying the American flag correctly. Thanks for writing such a comprehensive article. I appreciate all the work you put into doing so.

      I was reading some newly-published Hubs earlier today, and I noticed that someone from London, England used an American flag behind him in his profile photo. Unfortunately, the flag was displayed incorrectly.

    • rainmaker15002 profile image

      rainmaker15002 7 years ago from Greensburg, PA

      Great hubpage! This website had some awesome flags too...

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 7 years ago from Ohio

      dahoglund, It is our flag and it does deserve respect. I think many people just don't realize that there are codes of conduct concerning hanging the flag. Thanks!

      gator strong, Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • gator strong profile image

      gator strong 7 years ago from USA

      Love yout post and pictures. I never get tired of our Flag.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I just ran across your hubs. I don't know if we all need to fly flags, I am more concerned that it be done properly. You did a good job of outlining that. I was bothered by the flag waving tendency after 9-11, not because people were flying the flag but how little real respect they gave it.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      uncleflag, I'm glad you liked this. Thanks for the links, I will check them out. :D

    • uncleflag profile image

      uncleflag 8 years ago from USA

      Hi Kari, Thanks for the great post!

      Obviously it wasn't Betsy who made the first flag, but she is still a great historical icon. Here's a great forum with the true history I think you'll enjoy.

      God Bless America


    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      James, I think people did know the rules better in the past. With Memorial Day weekend coming I started to think about hanging my flag and thought I would look up some pointers. LOL, Then I realized how much I didn't know.

      l1blonde, I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for stopping by. :D

    • l1blonde profile image

      l1blonde 8 years ago

      I really enjoyed your hub. Good information.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      Fabulous Hub!  I enjoyed this thoroughly.  I think this is one of those areas where in the past a lot more people knew these rules.  Thanks for bringing this important issue to our attention.