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How to Properly Display the American Flag

There can be confusion and questions about how to properly wear and display the American flag, especially around the summer holidays of Memorial Day and July 4th when many people want to display a flag.

Here is what the law says about using the American flag properly (PDF):

  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise.

  • The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

  • No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.

  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.

  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

  • The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat.

Read more rules and regulations that govern flag display (PDF).

Read this post in Spanish.

The American flag is 235 years old today. Learn about the history of our flag.

Celebrate the Flag

Photo of the American flag by Bin Lee

Image description: The sun shining through the American flag. Photographed by Bin Lee.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring June 14th National Flag Day. In 1949, Congress officially declared June 14th as National Flag Day, acknowledging President Wilson’s proclamation.

American Memory from the Library of Congress explains the history of the flag design:

According to legend, in 1776, George Washington commissioned Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new nation. Scholars debate this legend, but agree that Mrs. Ross most likely knew Washington and sewed flags. To date, there have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag, but the arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers’ preferences until 1912 when President Taft standardized the then-new flag’s forty-eight stars into six rows of eight. The forty-nine-star flag (1959-60), as well as the fifty-star flag, also have standardized star patterns. The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959.

Learn more about the American flag and the protocol for flying the flag.