Betsy Ross and the flag
People around the world recognize it as one of a kind. Officers salute it, children pledge allegiance in front of it, and citizens honor it.
It's arguably our most famous national symbol--the flag of the United States of America.
While Americans and world citizens alike may know our country's flag, everyone can still learn more about its history and use.
For young and old, here are ten important facts to remember on Flag Day, Independence Day, or any other time of year when the flag passes by.
1. Many flag historians believe that the first American flag combined the Union Jack (British flag) with the 13-striped Colonial Merchant ensign.
At that time, posting the Union Jack without authorization was an illegal act, but the Continental Army ignored the statute and flew the flag as an act of rebellion against the British Crown.
2. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress resolved on a Flag Act specifying that the new flag would alternate 13 red and white stripes, along with 13 stars in a blue field in the corner. Today, that field contains 50 stars.
June 14th has been celebrated as Flag Day ever since the first Flag Act.
3. The most common display for the flag today is on a halyard, or staff. Under normal circumstances, the flag flies at full staff (e.g., at the top of the pole).
During times of mourning or crisis, the flag may be flown at half-staff if officially designated.
4. If the flag is displayed horizontally (i.e., from the side of a building), the blue union should be at the top left and placed close to the wall.
If displayed over a street, the union should face north on a east/west street, or face east on a north/south street.
5. The flag should never be left outdoors past sundown unless illuminated from below. If properly illuminated, the flag may fly continuously.
Sept. 13, 2001 (Pentagon)
Typical display of flag
Over time, flags do wear out from use, particularly if they are constantly exposed to the elements. Once the flag frays or develops holes, it should be retired.
6. As a first option, contact the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, or Elks Lodge. These groups will hold a flag retirement ceremony and respectfully retire the flag from use.
7. Your local scout troop may also burn the flag to retire it, but this choice is a less healthy option for the environment, particularly as today's flags are usually made of nylon (which can produce hazardous fumes when burned).
8. For a nominal fee, you may ship your old flag to a commercial recycling company. In this case, simply search online for flag recyclers.
Flag Trivia and Etiquette
9. The thirteen stripes symbolize the number of early American colonies, which later became our first states. Fifty stars on the modern flag symbolize the fifty states in our union.
10. Only the President of the United States or a State Governor may designate a flag to fly at half-staff. Others who overtake this authority may eventually erode the solemnity of the occasion and invite a casual attitude toward the symbolism involved.
At Imagine Learning, we respect our nation's flag and the meaning behind it. At this patriotic time of year, we wish our readers a Happy Flag Day and many happy experiences with the 'grand old flag' in days to come. Long may she wave!
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