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Flag rules and regulations

 

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"No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America." Section 8

"The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing." Section 8j

Read the full Flag Code


Flag Code Violations in the News Hide Section

Also visit the American Flag Wall of Shame and the Flag in the News

Please note that this website is non-partisan and use here is only to highlight violations of the Flag Code, as they are found posted by responsible news outlets or that have gone viral online.

Most pictures can be clicked for enlargements.

obamaflag

March 2012, Lake County, Florida. A flag depicting the President's face in the blue field in place of the stars was removed from Democratic headquarters in response to complaints from local veterans. The flag is very similar to the one we commented on three years ago (see January 19, 2009 below). Section 8g of the Flag Code reads, "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." Photo credit: Donald L. Van Beck

Whitney Houston

Feb. 15, 2012, New Jersey Governor Christie issued an Executive order to half-staff the US flag and state flag at all state facilities in honor of Whitney Houston (pictured). Section 7m authorizes the President, the Governor, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia to half-staff the US flag in certain circumstances. Can the governor order the US flag to half-mast?

dogflag

October 25, 2011. An Occupy Wall Street participant in San Diego, California, used a flag as a chew toy for a dog. "The flag should not be ... allowed to touch the ground." (Flag Code, Section 7n) "No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America." (Flag Code, Section 8) view video

jobs-applejobs-disneyworldjobs-microsoft
Robert Scoble, Matthew Weiland, GeekWire
Flags at Apple, Disney World, and Microsoft

October 6, 2011. In memory of Steve Jobs, US flags were hung at half-staff at Apple headquarters and Disney World. Those two displays are not in accordance with the Flag Code. However, at Microsoft's headquarters, the US flag flew at full-staff, and the Microsoft corporate flag flew at half staff.

Section 7m authorizes the President, the Governor, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia to half-staff the US flag in certain circumstances. Can my company fly the US flag at half-mast for a former employee?

Martin Bashir
click to view video

May 31, 2011. MSNBC's Martin Bashir accused Sarah Palin of a possible breach of federal law, saying that the flag (painted on her bus) should never be used for advertising purposes. There can be no breach, as the Flag Code is only advisory. There is a long unchallenged tradition of politicians using the flag. However, the partial flag on her bus is recognizable as a flag, so does constitute a US flag. Bashir is correct that the Flag Code states that the flag should never be used for advertising purposes.

us-china

January 18, 2011. China's flag flanked by the U.S. flag in Washington, DC, for Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit. Contrary to the online uproar, this is not a violation of the Flag Code. Section 7g reads, "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." Photo credit: Reuters

palin

October 20, 2010. In a video (at 1:30), Sarah Palin is seen signing a flag for a supporter. Flag Code: "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." Watch full video (from guardian.co.uk)

gatorbowl2010

January 1, 2010. The Allstate Sugar Bowl opening ceremony featured Lady Antebellum. Behind them the oversized American flag fell to the ground in front of a national audience. Two Flag Code violations were committed by this ceremony: (Section 8b.) "The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground." (Section 8c.) "The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free." more

barackflag

January 19, 2009, Baltimore, MD. Flags overprinted with the new President's image and name are distributed to celebrate his inauguration. Section 8g of the Flag Code reads, "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." Photo credit: Baltimore Sun

russert

June 13, 2008, Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, ordered all flags at city buildings lowered to half-staff in honor of news journalist Tim Russert (pictured). Section 7m authorizes the President, the Governor, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia to half-staff the US flag in certain circumstances. Can the mayor order the US flag to half-mast?

Mexican-US flags

Reno, Nevada, October 2, 2007, the flagpole at a local bar displayed the Mexican flag above the US flag on the same flagpole. Section 7g reads, "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." Photo source: KRNV News 4
Can a foreign flag fly above the US flag?

Albanian pro-Americans

Albania, June 10, 2007, the woman's flag is union out; the man is wearing flag shorts; his flag is touching the ground. Section 7h reads, "the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff." Section 8d reads, "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel." Section 8b reads, "The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground." Of course, the Flag Code doesn't apply in Albania. Photo credit: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

bush911

September 11, 2006, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush stand on a carpet of the American flag at Ground Zero in Manhattan, the site of the September 11, 2001 attack. Section 8b of the Flag Code reads, " The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground..." Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

upsidedown

April 2006, Latino protesters carry a US flag union down to protest pending federal legislation with harsher immigration policies, in Costa Mesa, California. Section 8a. "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property." Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images/David McNew
Is it okay to display the flag upside down in protest?

Kid Rock, Super Bowl 2004

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." Photo credit: Reuters

President Bush and flag

In July 2003 President Bush autographed a small flag. This picture was circulated across the Internet noting its violation of the Flag Code: "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." Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak


Folding the Flag

Folding the flag
©2014 ushistory.org

Fold the flag in half width-wise twice. If done by two, then the blue field should be facing the bottom on the first fold. 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.
Step-by-step instructions for cadets, boy scouts, etc.
• This animation frame by frame


Displaying the Flag Hide Section

PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

flag hanging over street1. 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.


crossed staffs2. 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.


flag at half mast3. 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.


sharing staff with other flags4. 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 (the viewer's left). When the flag is half-masted, both flags are half-masted, with the US flag at the mid-point and the other flag below.


flag suspended over sidewalk 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.


flag on staff6. 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.


flag draping casket7. 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.


flag other than being flown from staff8. 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.


flag carried in a procession9. 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.


flags in a group of flags10. 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.


US flag with foreign flags11. 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. The order of precedence for flags generally is National flags (US first, then others in alphabetical order in English), State (host state first, then others in the order of admission) and territories (Washington DC, Puerto Rico, etc.), Military (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard), then other. Read more.


flag in church or auditorium12. 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). Please note that the old guidelines differed from this updated and simplified one.


flag on car13. When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.


flag hanging from window14. When hung in a window, place the blue union in the upper left, as viewed from the street.



What Is a Flag? Hide Section

According to the Flag Code, a flag is a flag or anything "by which the average person seeing the same without deliberation may believe the same to represent the flag." According to the definition in the Flag Code, these images are flags.

See: Are flags on T-shirts, ties, etc., really flags?

Jasper Johns flag
Jasper Johns flag [info]
animation experiment
animation experiment
flag quilt
flag quilt
Bank of America logo
Bank of America logo [more]
child's drawing
child's drawing
flag car
flag car
flag Christmas tree
flag Christmas tree
flag stamp
flag stamp [discussion]
dog chew toy
dog chew toy

Flagpoles, Flag Sizes, Flag Proportions Hide Section

The usual size of a flag used at home is 3'x5'. A casket flag is 9-1/2'x5'. The table below shows the appropriate size flag to fly on flagpoles of several heights.

Home Use

Public display (not home-use)

flagpoleflagflagpoleflagflagpoleflag
15'3'x5'20'4'x6'50'8x12'-10x15'
20'3'x5'25'5'x8'60'-65'10'x15'-10'x19'
25'4'x6'30'-35'6'x10'70'-80'10'x19'-12'x18'
40'-45'6'x10-8'x12'90'-100'20'x38'-30'x50

Flag Proportions

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

10834flag
Standard proportions
AHoist (width) of flag1.0
BFly (length) of flag1.9
CHoist (width) of Union0.5385 (7/13)
DFly (length) of Union0.76
E 0.054
F 0.054
G 0.063
H 0.063
KDiameter of star0.0616
LWidth of stripe0.0769 (1/13)

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