In 1942 Congress passed a joint resolution summarizing the rules for display of the flag. The Federal Flag Code does not proscribe any behavior: it is merely a codification of customs and traditions. Section 176, Respect for flag reads:
“No disrespect should be allowed to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
“(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
“(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
“(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
“(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
“(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
“(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
“(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
“(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
“(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
“(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin, being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
“(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
The flag of the United States is much more than just red, white and blue cloth. As the symbol of America, it stands for the past, present, and future of our country. It represents our people, our land, and our many ways of life.
The flag may be carried on a staff in parades, at meetings, and during other ceremonies and patriotic events. Displayed from a staff in an auditorium or place of worship, the flag of the United States of America holds the position of honor to the right of the speaker as he or she faces the audience. Any other flag should be placed to the speaker’s left.
When displaying a flag horizontally or vertically against a wall, the blue field should be at the top and at the flag’s own right (to your left as you look at the flag). To display a flag over a street, it should hang vertically with the blue field to the north on an east-west street or to the east on a north-south street.
During the War of 1812, a British fleet attacked Fort McHenry near Baltimore, Maryland. A young man named Francis Scott Key watched as the bombardment lasted through the night. He did not know if the American fortress could withstand the assault.
When the smoke cleared the next morning, Key saw the United States flag—the Star Spangled Banner—still flying over the fort. He wrote down feelings he’d had during the night and his trust in America’s future in a poem he called, “Defence of Fort McHenry.” Soon the words were being sung throughout the country. Francis Scott Key had written lyrics to the song that has become known as “The Star-Spangled Banner”—our national anthem:
“Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming? And the Rockets’ red glare, the Bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there; O! say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the Land of the free, and the home of the brave?”