How to Display the Flag

unfurl it, then hoist it quicklyI’ve seen American flags hanging from bridges overhanging the highways. I’ve seen them attached to cars and motorcycles, whipping in the wind as the vehicles pass by. I’ve seen paper flags taped to windows and doors. I’ve never seen so many flags. But do we really remember how to treat them correctly? Here are a few flag etiquette tips from Service Etiquette, written by Oretha Swartz.

1977: How to Display the Flag

The national flag should be raised and lowered by hand. It should be displayed only from sunrise or sunset, or between such hours as may be designated by proper authority. Do not raise the flag while it is furled. Unfurl it, then hoist it quickly to the top of the staff. In lowering it, however, lower it slowly and with dignity. Place no objects on or over the flag. For instance, various articles are sometimes placed on a speaker’s table covered with the flag. This practice should be avoided. . . .

Other miscellaneous rules are:

When displayed over the middle of the street, the flag should be suspended vertically, with the union to the north in an east-west street, or to the east in a north-south street.

When the flag is to be flown at half-mast, it should be hoisted to the peak for an instant, and then lowered to the half-mast position; but before being lowered for the day, it should again be raised to the peak . . .

When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope, extending from house to pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out from the building, toward the pole, union first.

When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at any angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should go clear to the peak of the staff (unless the flag is to be displayed at half-mast). . . .

At all times, every precaution should be taken to prevent the flag from becoming soiled. It should not be allowed to touch the ground or floor, or to brush against objects.

Source: Swartz, Oretha D. Service Etiquette. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1977.
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