What do the state flags look like? Where can I find the flag for a country? How can I find out what a flag's colors mean? What is the history of the United States Flag? What is Flag Day? Where can I learn all about flags?
flag, piece of cloth, usually bunting or similar light material, plain, colored, or bearing a device, varying in size and shape, but often oblong or square, used as an ensign, standard, or signal or for display and decorative1
purposes, and generally attached at one edge to a staff or to a halyard by which it may be hoisted3
. The part of the flag attached to the staff or halyard is the hoist2
; the portion from the attached part to the free end is the fly; the top quarter of the flag next to the staff is the canton.
Origin and Design
In the British colonies of North America before the Revolution, each of the 13 colonies had its flag. On Jan. 2, 1776, the first flag of the United States was raised at Cambridge, Mass., by George Washington. Known as the Grand Union flag, it consisted of 13 stripes, alternate red and white, with a blue canton bearing the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew. Congress, on June 14, 1777, enacted4
a resolution that the Flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation5
. The story of Betsy Ross and the first flag is now discredited6
. Official records have not confirmed that she was responsible for the design and making of the first flag, and suggest that Francis Hopkinson may have designed it.
On Jan. 13, 1794, Vermont and Kentucky having been admitted to the Union, Congress added a stripe and a star for each state. Congress in 1818 enacted that the 13 stripes, denoting the 13 original colonies, be restored and a star added to the blue canton for each state after its admission to the Union. All of the states and territories of the United States also have their own flags.
Rules for Display
In 1942 a law was passed by the U.S. Congress establishing specific rules for the display of the U.S. flag by civilians7
or groups previously8
not subject to U.S. governmental regulations. The intent of the law was to ensure that the U.S. flag be given a position of honor. In a procession the U.S. flag is carried on the military right of the column; in procession with other flags it is carried in front; with another flag on a wall, both flags with staffs, the U.S. flag is to the right with the U.S. flagstaff in front of the other; with other flags on the same halyard, the U.S. flag is on top, although an exception is made when the church pennant9
of the services is flown from the same staff; with two or more flags in line, the U.S. flag is at right; with a group of other flags on display where the bottoms of the staffs touch in fanlike fashion, the U.S. flag is displayed in the center. Although the U.S. flag is usually displayed from sunrise to sunset, through law or presidential proclamation it is flown both day and night at the following patriotic10
sites: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historical Shrine11
, Md.; Flag House Square, Baltimore; United States Marine12 Corps13
(Iwo Jima) Memorial, Va.; and Battle Green, Lexington, Mass.