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Updated on June 6, 2010


Whether you think of the flag as Old Glory or as The Stars and Stripes, it is a representation of liberty, freedom, and pride.

Some love it and some hate it.

No matter what view you may share of our nation's flag, it is one piece of history that has its own story.

It even has its own song, The Star Spangled Banner, which is our national anthem.

This lense has a narrative that will give you the story behind the Star Spangled Banner. It's a very special message and one that needs to be heard.

In all of it's glory, our flag will always represent the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom.

And for that reason alone, it deserves respect and honor.


The Star-Spangled Banner lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.

The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London. "The Anacreontic Song".

O! say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!



When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, there wasn't an official flag for the United States. Although it has never had an official status, The Grand Union Flag has been called the first national flag.

This is the same flag that George Washington used during the war we know as the American Revolution. The design of the first official flag was based on the Grand Union Flag.

The history behind the original maker of the flag is unclear because historians dispute that Betsy Ross was the one to make the first flag. There are battlefield paintings by John Trumbull and Charles Willson Peale which show her flag, with the thirteen stars in a circle, but there are no records or receipts of her being commissioned to make it.

Mary Pickersgill has also been credited as having made the first flag. She was commisioned in 1813 for $405.90, because Major George Armistad, the commander of Fort Henry, wanted a flag so large that the British ships would be able to see it from a distance.

The Star Spangled Banner Flag flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. This is the same flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. This flag can be seen today in the National Museum of American History.


Our flag is one of the most recognized symbols in the world and being a national symbol, it has to meet certain requirements that are outlined in the executive order before the United States federal government can use it. Each part of the flag has to be a specific measurement. The colors even have to be an exact shade.

Only an ensign can dip the flag and that has to be in response to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation. This tradition came about in 1908, when the a> were being held in London. All of the countries were asked to dip their flags to King Edward VII, but the flag bearer would not. The leader of the American team, Martin Sheridan was quoted as saying 'This flag dips to no earthly king.'

If a flag is flown at night, it must be properly illuminated and it should never touch the ground. If a flag becomes tattered or soiled, it should be disposed of properly. On June 14th, which is Flag Day, some organizations burn their flags which are beyond repair.

It is a myth that a flag has to be burned if it touches the ground. If it is soiled, proper measures should be taken to clean it. Flags which are beyond repair should not be displayed, but burned. These rules are in the United States Flag Code. It also prohibits other uses, such as the flag should not be embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be used temporarily and then thrown away. The rules and guidelines are set forth in order to teach people respect for it. They are all federal laws and are outlined in the United States Flag Code



By presidential proclamation, acts of Congress, and custom, American flags are displayed continuously at certain locations.

Replicas of the Star Spangled Banner Flag (15 stars, 15 stripes) are flown at two sites in Baltimore, Maryland:

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine


Flag House Square

United States Marine Corps War Memorial (Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima), Arlington, Virginia

Lexington, Massachusetts Town Green

The White House, Washington, DC

Fifty U.S. Flags are displayed continuously at the Washington Monument, Washington, DC

At U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ports of Entry that are continuously open

By Congressional decree, a Civil War era flag (for the year 1863) flies above Pennsylvania Hall (Old Dorm) at Gettysburg College. This building, occupied by both sides at various points of the Battle of Gettysburg, served as a lookout and battlefield hospital.

Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge NHP, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

Mount Slover limestone quarry (Colton Liberty Flag), in Colton, California. First raised July 4, 1917

Washington Camp Ground, part of the former Middlebrook encampment, Bridgewater, New Jersey, Thirteen Star Flag.

By custom:

at the Maryland home, birthplace, and grave of Francis Scott Key;

Worcester, Massachusetts, war memorial;

at the plaza in Taos, New Mexico (since 1861);

at the United States Capitol (since 1918); and

at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, South Dakota.

At the ceremonial south pole as one of the 12 flags representing the signatory countries of the original Antarctic Treaty

The surface of the Moon, having been placed there by the astronauts of Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17

Nashville National Cemetery

Nashville City Cemetery over the grave site of Sea Captain William Driver who in 1831 nicknamed our 24 star flag "Old Glory" and hid the famous flag from Rebels during the Civil War.

These were resourced from Wikipedia



If the flag is on a vehicle or uniform, it should be placed so that the union (blue area) is towards the front of the vehicle or uniform.

This is so when the vehicle or person is moving forward, it will give the impression that the flag is blowing backwards from its hoist. This is why flags on the right side of vehicles and uniforms look like they are reversed.

If you decide to hang the flag vertically, this is an example of how to hang it.


January: 1 (New Year's Day) and 20 (Inauguration Day)

February: 12 (Lincoln's birthday) and the third Monday (Presidents' Day, originally Washington's birthday)

May: Third Saturday (Armed Forces Day) and last Monday (Memorial Day; half-staff until noon)

June: 14 (Flag Day)

July: 4 (Independence Day)

September: First Monday (Labor Day),11 (Patriot Day), and 17 (Constitution Day)

October: Second Monday (Columbus Day) and 28 (Navy Day)

November: November 11 (Veterans Day) and fourth Thursday (Thanksgiving Day)

and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States; the birthdays of states (date of admission); and on state holidays.


May 15 - Peace Officers Memorial Day, unless it is the third Saturday

The week in which May 15 occurs - Police Week[31]

Last Monday in May - Memorial Day (until noon)

July 27 - Korean War Veterans Day

September 11 - Patriot Day

First Sunday in October - Start of Fire Prevention Week

December 7 - Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

For 30 days - Death of a president or former president

For 10 days - Death of a vice president, Supreme Court chief justice/retired chief justice, or speaker of the House of Representatives.

From death until the day of interment - Supreme Court associate justice, member of the Cabinet, former vice president, president pro-tempore of the Senate, or the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives. Also for federal facilities within a state or territory, for the governor.

On the day after the death - Senators, members of Congress, territorial delegates or the resident commissioner of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico



Does the First Amendment give us the right to desecrate the American Flag? Or is the flag a sacred symbol of our nation, deserving protection by law? Tough call? The Solution" for those who want to light Old Glory on fire, stomp all over it, or spit on it to make some sort of "statement," I say let them do it. But under one condition: they MUST get permission from three sponsors.

First, you need permission of a war veteran. Perhaps a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima? The American flag was raised over Mount Surabachi upon the bodies of thousands of dead buddies. Each night spent on Iwo Jima meant half of everyone you knew would be dead tomorrow, a coin flip away from a bloody end upon a patch of sand your mother couldn't find on a map. Or maybe ask a Vietnam vet who spent years tortured in a small, filthy cell unfit for a dog. Or a Korean War soldier who helped rescue half a nation from Communism, or a Desert Storm warrior who repulsed a bloody dictator from raping and pillaging an innocent country.

That flag represented your mother and father, your sister and brother, your friends, neighbors, and everyone at home. I wonder what they would say if someone asked them permission to burn the American flag?

Second, you need a signature from an immigrant. Their brothers and sisters may still languish in their native land, often under tyranny, poverty and misery. Or maybe they died on the way here, never to touch our shores. Some have seen friends and family get tortured and murdered by their own government for daring to do things we take for granted every day. For those who risked everything simply for the chance to become an American, what kind of feelings do they have for the flag when they Pledge Allegiance the first time? Go to a naturalization ceremony and see for yourself, the tears of pride, the thanks, the love and respect of this nation, as they finally embrace the American flag as their own. Ask one of them if it would be OK to burn the flag or spit on it.

Third, you should get the signature of a mother. Not just any mother. You need a mother of someone who gave their life for America. It doesn't even have to be from a war. It could be a cop. Or a fireman. Maybe a Secret Service or NSA agent. Then again, it could be a common foot soldier as well. When that son or daughter is laid to rest, their family is given one gift by the American people; an American flag. Go on. I dare you. Ask that mother if you can spit on her flag. Away from family, away from the precious shores of home, in the face of overwhelming odds and often in the face of death, the American flag inspires those who believe in the American dream, the American promise, the American vision...

Americans who don't appreciate the flag don't appreciate this nation. And those who appreciate this nation appreciate the American flag. So if you want to desecrate the American flag, before you spit on it or before you burn it, I have a simple request. Just ask permission. Not from the Constitution. Not from some obscure law. Not from the politicians or the pundits. Instead, ask those who have defended our nation so that we may be free today. Ask those who struggled to reach our shores so that they may join us in the American dream.

And ask those who clutch a flag in place of their sacrificed sons and daughters, given to this nation so that others may be free. For we cannot ask permission from those who died wishing they could, just once or once again ... see, touch or kiss the flag that stands for our nation: The United States of America, the greatest nation on earth.

Go ahead. Ask. I dare you!

Traveling Living American Flag

We come to your school! Our committee picks a county -- and then the Board of Education-Social Studies Department chooses the school!

THE TRAVELING FLAG - Don't forget to sign the guestbook and rate the page!

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    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      7 years ago from So Cal

      Great lens and just what I was looking for. We had a discussion about the singers who can't remember the words. My grandson said he didn't know them so now, we have your excellent lens to teach him.

    • JohnMichael2 profile image


      7 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I had an infusion of patriotism on a recent visit to Fort McHenry in Baltimore ... a great place to visit!

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      7 years ago from Maryland

      Wow, a wealth of info here! Featuring it on my "Patriotic Lenses" lens...thanks! :)

    • Lori Lee-Ray profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Lee-Ray 

      7 years ago

      @anonymous: This is based on the web searches for displaying the American flag vertically.

      Hang the flag vertically in a window or draped over a building, with the field of stars to the left of anyone looking at it from the street.

      When hanging the flag over a street, hang it with the field of stars to the east (on a north-south street) or to the north (on an east-west street).

      When hanging the flag in a hall or lobby, it should be across from the main entrance with the field of stars to the left of anyone coming through the door.

      Should've made it clearer :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I think that you are incorrect about hanging the flag vertically. The international standard for hang any flag vertially is to rotate it clockwise to 90 degrees. Please feel free to check international flag standards.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Cheers, that lense was pure awesome.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very Good, Bravo!

    • Momtothezoo profile image

      Eugenia S. Hunt 

      8 years ago

      Great Lens! Just lenrolled it to my When You Pledge Allegiance! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Very beautiful and patriotic. Lensrolled to Flag Day In The USA.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      9 years ago

      Wow! this is so beautiful Thanks. I find out you on redgade(i am michey)

      Thanks so math, I'll feature this lens in my patriotic lenses.



    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      9 years ago

      Very informative!

      Thanks for sharing.



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