Flag Day may have passed on June 14 and Independence Day on July 4, but we believe in being well-prepared for future celebrations. At The Post, we also listen to what our readers are saying. Last week, we received a comment about the flag image used to accompany the article entitled “Liberty and conscience for all” about First Amendment Scholar Charles C. Haynes III 71C 85G.
Our reader shared, “Wanted to let you know that the flag is displayed incorrectly – when the flag is hanging down, the field of stars should be in the upper left corner, not the upper right corner.”
Though the image used (see right) was intended to be artistic and thematic, we took this reader comment to heart and did some research. Though everywhere we turned we found contradictions in correct flag etiquette, we went to the ultimate source – the United States Government. Chapter 1, Title 4, United States Code “governs the use/display of the National Flag for federal agencies and provides guidance for others. It should be noted that each state Attorney General has the responsibility to set flag policy, including the National flag, for their respective states.”
If you visit The Institute of Heraldry website (created by the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army), you will learn just about everything you want to know about our National Flag and its display and treatment within military environments. To dig deeper into all ramifications of use of the National Flag for every conceivable situation within non-military environments, you need to review the United States Code.
In short, here are three interesting highlights of what “Uncle Sam” has to say about the National Flag:
- The flag should “be hoisted briskly and lowered cerimoniously.”
- “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.”
- “The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.”
And one more specific motorcade-important guideline should you be scheduled to ride in a Labor Day parade:
- “When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.”
The United States Code does say”The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.”
What we could not find (after a thorough reading by the non-lawyer editor of The Post) was a distinction for proper orientation of the flag in artwork, such as the photograph above created from an image of the flag with the addition of expressive details. Over sidewalks? The answer is there. When the flag is flown with those of other nations? Absolutely. We know that flags must be flown with the union (the starred section) at the top of the display when flown from a mast or staff.
But for artwork, we lay down the red, white, and blue gauntlet. If you are a United States Code scholar, please do share your expertise by leaving us a comment for this article on The Post.
And yes, The Post will continue to ponder and research this very thoughtful reader comment.
More fun flag facts to ponder
Emory’s professors are known for their intelligent curiosity, and Winship Distinguished Professor Skip Garibaldi in the department of mathematics and computer science is no exception. When posed with the challenge of how to effectively and graphically add a star or more to our existing flag, he responded by designing a computer program to calculate all the potential permutations and layouts for the star-spangled American flag. Read all about his journey at Emory’s eScienceCommons blog.
If you’re curious, too, you can learn how to fold the United States flag with this animated image of a flag-folding in process.
Stay tuned to The Post for great information about Emory University’s flag.