United States Flag
The flag of the United States of America, often referred to as the
American flag or the U.S. flag, is the national flag of the United
States. It consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and
bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton
(referred to specifically as the "union") bearing fifty small, white,
five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows, where rows
of six stars (top and bottom) alternate with rows of five stars. The 50
stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of
America, and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that
declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and became the
first states in the U.S.
Nicknames for the flag include the Stars and
Stripes, Old Glory, and the Star-Spangled Banner.
The current design of the U.S. flag is its 27th; the design
of the flag has been modified officially 26 times since 1777.
The 48-star flag was in effect for 47 years until the 49-star
version became official on July 4, 1959. The 50-star flag was
ordered by then president Eisenhower on August 21, 1959, and was
adopted in July 1960. It is the longest-used version of the U.S.
flag and has been in use for over 60 years.
United States Flag Code
The United States Flag Code establishes advisory rules for
display and care of the national flag of the United States of
America. It is Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code (4
U.S.C. § 1 et seq). This is a U.S. federal law, but only
suggests voluntary customs for handling of the American flag and
was never intended to be enforceable. The code uses non-binding
language like "should" and "custom" throughout and does not
prescribe any penalties for failure to follow the guidelines.
Separately, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1968
(amended in 1989) (18 U.S.C. § 700), a since struck-down
criminal statute, which prohibits mutilating, defacing, defiling
or burning the flag. Although it remains part of codified
federal law, it is not enforceable due to the Supreme Court of
the United States finding it unconstitutional in United States
- 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."
- When a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to
serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be
replaced in a dignified manner. The Veterans of Foreign
Wars, American Legion, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of
the USA, TrailLife USA, the military and other organizations
regularly conduct dignified flag retirement ceremonies.
- The flag should never be used as a receptacle for
receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
- The flag should never touch anything physically beneath
- 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.
- The flag should always be permitted to fall freely. (An
exception was made during the Apollo moon landings when the
flag hung from a vertical pole designed with an extensible
horizontal bar, allowing full display even in the absence of
- The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally.
- The flag should never be used for advertising purposes
in any manner whatsoever.
- The flag should never be upside down, except to signal
distress or great danger.
- When displayed vertically against a wall, the union
should be to the observer’s left.
Folding the Flag
Observed by United States
Date June 14
Next time June 14, 2021
In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It
commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on
June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.
The Flag Resolution, passed on June 14, 1777, stated: "Resolved,
That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes,
alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white
in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
The United States Army also celebrates the U.S. Army birthday on
this date; Congress adopted "the American continental army"
after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the
Whole on June 14, 1775.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that
officially established June 14 as Flag Day; on August 3, 1949,
National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. Flag
Day is not an official federal holiday. Title 36 of the United
States Code, Subtitle I, Part A, CHAPTER 1, § 110 is the
official statute on Flag Day; however, it is at the president's
discretion to officially proclaim the observance. On June 14,
1937, Pennsylvania became the first U.S. state to celebrate Flag
Day as a state holiday, beginning in the town of Rennerdale. New
York Statutes designate the second Sunday in June as Flag Day, a
Perhaps the oldest continuing Flag Day parade is in Fairfield,
Washington. Beginning in 1909 or 1910, Fairfield has held a
parade every year since, with the possible exception of 1918,
and celebrated the "Centennial" parade in 2010, along with some
other commemorative events. Appleton, Wisconsin, claims to be
the oldest National Flag Day parade in the nation, held annually
Quincy, Massachusetts, has had an annual Flag Day parade since
1952 and claims it "is the longest-running parade of its kind"
in the U.S. The largest Flag Day parade had been held annually
in Troy, New York until 2017, which based its parade on the
Quincy parade and typically draws 50,000 spectators. In
addition, the Three Oaks, Michigan, Flag Day Parade is held
annually on the weekend of Flag Day and is a three-day event and
they claim to have the largest flag day parade in the nation as
well as the oldest. In Washington, D.C., Flag Day is celebrated
heavily through the 7th and 8th Wards of the city. It is said
that Clyde Thompson is the "Godfather of Flag Day". It is
tradition in these wards to slow-smoke various meats and