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Properly Hanging The American Flag

Flags fly in America as an expression of support and patriotism. Let’s take a look at the proper etiquette for hanging or displaying the United States flag so we can give Old Glory the respect she deserves.

Standards for handling and displaying the American flag are set forth by the United States Code, written into law by Congress in 1942. This federal code does not impose penalties for improper handling or misuse of the flag, but states do have laws regarding this, and most of our fellow citizens expect the flag to be treated with respect.

The U.S. Code is more strict about some aspects of handling the flag than contemporary culture demands—it states, for example, that the flag should not be “printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.” Our society has interpreted some of the rules rather loosely because we’re enthusiastic about displaying our national symbol. Nevertheless, some important rules of decorum should be followed.

Ideally, an American flag on your house should hang from a staff that angles out from the front wall or a windowsill or balcony. It’s a good idea to screw a bracket made for holding the flagstaff to the trim. Fasten it securely and so the flag won’t become soiled or damaged. Do not allow the flag to touch the ground, floor, water, or anything else beneath it. It’s also appropriate to hang the flag from a horizontal staff.

Whether the flag hangs from an angled or horizontal staff, be sure the union or canton (the rectangle with the stars) is at the peak. (Hanging the flag with the union down signals extreme distress.) When our President declares the flag to be flown at half-staff, it is acceptable to hang the flag from a horizontal staff with the union down, though most of your neighbors may not understand why you’re doing this.

When the flag is displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be at the top and to your left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be hung so that the union is on the left when you see it from the street.