Brief history of the American flag
- The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing, unless it is the ensign responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation. This is sometimes misreported as a tradition that comes from the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, where countries were asked to dip their flag to King Edward VII; American team flag bearer Ralph Rose did not follow this protocol, and teammate Martin Sheridan is often, though apocryphally, quoted as proclaiming that “this flag dips before no earthly king.” This tradition was codified as early as the 1911 U.S. Army drill regulations.
- The flag should never be displayed with the union (the starred blue union in the Canton) down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
- The flag should not be used as “wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery”, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general (exception for coffins). 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 drawn back or bunched up in any way.
- The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
- 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 never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
- 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, firefighters, police officers, and members of patriotic organizations.
- Flag lapel pins may also be worn (they are considered replicas) and are worn near the heart.
- 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 as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
- The flag should never be stepped on.
- In a parade, the flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle, railroad train, or boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
- 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.
- If the flag is being used at a public or private estate, it should not be hung (unless at half staff or when an all-weather flag is displayed) during rain or violent weather.
- When a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Sojourners, and other organizations regularly conduct dignified flag-burning ceremonies, often on Flag Day, June 14.
- The flag should never touch anything beneath it. Contrary to an urban legend, the flag code does not state that a flag that touches the ground should be burned. Instead, it is considered disrespectful to the flag and the flag in question should be moved in such a manner so it is not touching the ground.
- The flag should always be permitted to fall freely. (An exception was made during the Apollo moon landings when the flag hung from an extensible horizontal bar, allowing full display even in the absence of an atmosphere.)
How should a flag be displayed?
- When on display, the flag is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the speaker’s right, the audience’s left, in a staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be to the speaker’s left.
- 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, localities, or societies are grouped for display.
- When one flag is used with the flag of the United States of America and the staffs are crossed, the flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.
- When the flag is displayed against a wall vertically or horizontally, its union (stars) should be at the top, to the flag’s own right, and to the observer’s left.
What is the significance of the flag not touching the ground?
The flag should never touch anything beneath it. Contrary to an urban legend, the flag code does not state that a flag that touches the ground should be burned. Instead, it is considered disrespectful to the flag and the flag in question should be moved in such a manner so it is not touching the ground.