American Flag Care and Etiquette

Americana, History, Traditions
on May 17, 2009

The rules for handling and flying the American flag were established in the Flag Code, which was developed by the American Legion in 1923 and adopted by Congress in 1942. Here are some guidelines for appropriate display and care of the Stars and Stripes:

  • If you put your flag up daily, raise it briskly and lower it slowly.
  • You can display the flag around-the-clock if it is properly lit at night. “Any light source will do, including a porch or street light,” says Mike Buss, retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and assistant director of the American Legion’s Americanism division.
  • The flag may be flown in inclement weather if it is made of all-weather material.
  • If you display the flag from a staff projecting from a window or if you hang it on your house, the “union,” or blue field, should be at the top.
  • No part of the flag should ever touch the ground.
  • The flag should never be fashioned into decoration or drapery. However, “a shirt, necktie or other item printed with the stars and stripes isn’t the flag; it’s a representation of the flag,” Buss notes.
  • If you fly a second flag, such as a state flag, the U.S. flag should be the highest.
  • If you want to dispose of a damaged or faded flag, you can burn it, assuming your community permits open fires. “Otherwise, take it to the nearest American Legion post, where it will be disposed of appropriately,” Buss says.