The Grand Old Flag
The 4th of July is just around the corner and everywhere across this great country we will see the flag proudly being flown. In 1906 George M. Cohan penned the words to the popular song about our flag that will be heard again and again in the next few days:
You’re a grand old flag,
You’re a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev’ry heart beats true
‘neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
I feel a swell of pride each time I see an American flag flying and waving in the breeze and even more so on July 4th when flags are flown everywhere. Today we wanted to help you brush up on info about our flag, share some things you may not know, and the give you the official etiquette for flying our national colors.
A Brief Flag History
In May of 1776, Betsy Ross reported that she sewed the first American flag. On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several acts that changed the shape, design and arrangement of the flag and allowed for additional stars and stripes to be added to reflect the admission of each new state.
Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor, White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and the Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.
Here is a list of some things you may not know from the official website for our nations flag:
The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. 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 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.
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, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
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.
It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. In earlier times, most American flags were made of cotton or wool. But today’s flags are often nylon or other petroleum-based materials. Burning them can release hazardous gases, including formaldehydes, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and traces of hydrogen cyanide into the air. In some states, it is even illegal to burn nylon, so adhering to the Flag Code puts you in direct violation of the law. Burning is preferred for cotton and wool flags. Nylon and flags made from other synthetics can be buried.
Displaying the Flag Outdoors
When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union (the stars) should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half staff.
When the flag is displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the stars to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag’s stars should be farthest from the building.
The flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor – to its own right. ..Any other flags may be smaller but none may be larger.
No other flag ever should be placed above it.
The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
Raising and Lowering the Flag
It should be illuminated if displayed at night. The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest
Parading and Saluting the Flag
When carried in a procession, the flag should be to the right of the marchers. When other flags are carried, the flag of the United States may be centered in front of the others or carried to their right. When the flag passes in a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all should face the flag and salute.
To salute, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge.
The Flag in Mourning
To place the flag at half staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position half way between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered. On Memorial Day the flag is displayed at half staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset.
The flag is to be flown at half staff in mourning for designated, principal government leaders and upon presidential or gubernatorial order.
When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union(the stars) at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.
The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem
The pledge of allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting. When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music.
History of our Pledge of Allegiance
The original Pledge of Allegiance
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands- one nation indivisible-with liberty and justice for all.”
On September 8,1892, the Boston based “The Youth’s Companion” magazine published a few words for students to repeat on Columbus Day that year. Written by Francis Bellamy,the circulation manager and native of Rome, New York, and reprinted on thousands of leaflets, was sent out to public schools across the country. On October 12, 1892, the quadricentennial of Columbus’ arrival, more than 12 million children recited the Pledge of Allegiance, thus beginning a required school-day ritual.
At the first National Flag Conference in Washington D.C., on June14, 1923, a change was made. For clarity, the words “the Flag of the United States” replaced “my flag”. In the following years various other changes were suggested but were never formally adopted.
It was not until 1942 that Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance. One year later, in June 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite it. In fact, today only half of our fifty states have laws that encourage the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom!
In June of 1954 an amendment was made to add the words “under God”. Then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower said “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
This 4th of July, no matter what your political views are, fly your flag proudly. If you don’t have one, you can order one at The American Flag Store or buy it from Costco or True Value or Walmart. If you call American your home, don’t miss this opportunity to come together to celebrate our history, our heritage and our future. She is a Grand Old Flag….long may she wave!