How to display a flag

Show patriotism by displaying the American flag this 4th of July. We have all the information you need to display flags, observe flag holidays, practice flag etiquette, and treat Old Glory with the respect it deserves.

Flying the stars and stripes for the first time? Check out our list of dos and don’ts when learning how to display the American flag on a house, boat, or car. These tips from the Federal Flag Code—which serves as a guide for civilians and civilian groups—will help you show the proper respect for Old Glory. As with any sort of etiquette, compliance is voluntary but suggested. Get our tips for how to properly display the American flag indoors, outside, and on your vehicle. Learn the most important dates for displaying the American flag—and when to display it at half-staff.

For added convenience, we’ve also compiled a handy list of important flag dates to observe. While it’s encouraged to display the flag every day, be sure to fly it high on important observation days. Some days are obvious—like Memorial Day and the 4th of July—while others are a bit more obscure. Government-run buildings are required to follow the codes outlined by the Congressional Research Service, and while it’s not mandatory for civilians, we’ve outlined the best rules practices for respectfully caring for and displaying your flag, including a list of flag-flying dates to remember. Learn how to properly display the American flag.

How to Display the American Flag

Display the flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and outdoor stationary flagstaffs. The flag can be displayed 24 hours a day if the flag is illuminated during the hours of darkness.

Pay attention to the position of the union (the blue field). When projecting horizontally or at an angle from a windowsill or front of a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff, unless the flag is at half-staff. When displayed against a wall or in a window, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s right.

Occasionally, the flag is flown at half-staff by order of the President, customarily upon the death of prominent members of the government as a mark of respect to their memory. When flown at half-staff, the flag should be raised to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. Just before the flag is lowered for the day, the flag should once again be momentarily hoisted to the peak. To position the flag at half-staff, place the flag one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.

If you have a 48-star flag or another historic U.S. flag, you may display it with pride. The 50-star flag is the official flag of the U.S. as designated by President Eisenhower in 1959. There are many historic U.S. flags and, according to tradition, they may be displayed as long as they are in good condition. Historic U.S. flags should be treated with the same respect and rituals as the official flag.

You can place a symbolic finial on your flagstaff. Finials for flagstaffs are not mentioned in the Flag Code but, by implication, they are acceptable. The President, the Vice President, and many federal agencies use an eagle finial.

An indoor flag may have a fringe (a fringe on an outdoor flag would deteriorate too quickly).

To display the American flag on a car, the staff should be attached to the chassis or the right fender.

Unless you have an all-weather flag (frequently made of nylon, polyester, or treated cotton), the flag should not be displayed during inclement weather.

If you’re wondering how to display the flag vertically, never display the flag with the union (blue field) down, except as a signal of extreme distress, as in danger to life or property.

Respecting the Flag

Whether you’re displaying the flag on a wall, outside, or on a vehicle, there are rules for treating the American flag with respect.

  • Do not place the flag over the hood, top, sides, or back of any vehicle, including a train or boat.
  • Neither the flag nor any part of the flag may be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
  • Never use the flag for apparel, bedding, or drapery.
  • Never use the flag as a covering for a ceiling.
  • No mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing can be placed on the flag or any part of the flag.
  • The flag must never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • Never use the flag for advertising in any manner. Advertising signs should not be attached to the flag’s staff or halyard (the rope used to hoist the flag).
  • No items that are intended for temporary use should be adorned with the flag. The flag should not be embroidered, printed, or embossed on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything that will be discarded.

More American Flag Etiquette

Follow these tips for how to correctly display the American flag.

  • Dispose of a flag that is frayed, tattered, or otherwise inappropriate for display. The flag should be destroyed in a respectful manner, preferably by burning, according to U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 176k, Respect for Flag.
  • For other patriotic decoration, 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 in front of a platform, and decorating the general interior or exterior spaces. Available as ornamental banners, in fans, and by the bolt, the bunting comes in traditional cotton, easy-care cotton/poly, and convenient plastic.
  • On a float in a parade, the flag may only be displayed from a staff.
  • A flag patch may be attached only to the uniforms of military personnel, firefighters, police officers, and members of patriotic organizations.
  • Position a lapel flag pin on the left lapel, near the heart.
  • The flag should not be allowed to touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, floor, water, or merchandise.
  • Always carry our flag aloft and floating free, never flat or horizontally.
  • The flag must always fall free and must never be festooned, drawn back or up, or in folds.
  • Protect your flag—make sure that it is not displayed or stored in a way that would allow the flag to be torn, soiled, or otherwise damaged.

Important Flag Dates

It’s appropriate to display the American flag every day. However, it’s particularly important to fly the flag on the following days:

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5 Tips on How to Display the American Flag on a Wall

Are you planning to display the American flag on a wall inside your home or business? If so, there are a few things you should know. While the American flag is a symbol of our nation’s values, as well as its history, there are rules for displaying it. You can still display the American flag on a wall inside your home or business, but you should follow these tips to ensure it’s displayed in a respectful and appropriate manner.

#1) Position Union to the Left

Position your American flag against the wall so that the union — the stars — is located on the left (from your perspective). The U.S. Flag Code specifically states that the American flag should always be positioned with the union on the observer’s left except in cases where it’s displayed on a flagpole. If you display the American flag on a flagpole, it will flow freely in the wind, meaning you won’t be able to adjust its position. If you display the American flag on a wall, though, you’ll have the opportunity to adjust it so that the union is located on the left.

#2) Place Flush Against the Wall

You should also place your American flag completely flat so that it’s flush against the wall. If there’s any loose or excess material, you’ll need to readjust your American flag. Not only does it look it bad, but displaying the American flag with loose or excess material on a wall is poor etiquette. Therefore, you should place your American flag so that it’s completely flush against the wall.

#3) Vertically or Horizontally

Contrary to what some people believe, you aren’t restricted to displaying the American flag horizontally on a wall; it’s perfectly fine to display the American flag vertically as well. Whether you choose a horizontal or vertical orientation, though, you should position your American flag so that the union is located on the left.

#4) Don’t Let It Touch the Ground

Whether you display your American flag atop a flagpole or against a wall, you should never allow it to touch the ground. It’s a violation of the U.S. Flag Code to allow the American flag to touch the ground. And while there are no “flag police” to arrest you for it, it’s proper etiquette to comply with the U.S. Flag Code by keeping your American flag off the ground.

#5) Clean It

Your American flag will likely gather dust when displayed on a wall. Assuming it’s not damaged, you should be able to revitalize its appearance by cleaning it. You can typically clean an American flag by hand-washing it in cold water and liquid detergent. After allowing it to air-dry, you can then rehang it on your wall.

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What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?

What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? is an “installation for audience participation.” It is from the larger body of work, American Newspeek…Please Feel Free?

In 1989, while on display at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, What is the Proper Way…? became the center of national controversy over its use of the American flag. President Bush Sr. declared What is the Proper Way… “disgraceful” and the entire US Congress denounced this work as they passed legislation to “protect the flag.” Senator Dole specifically noted that the law would apply to “the so-called ‘artist’ who has invited the trampling on the flag.” As part of the popular effort to oppose moves to make patriotism compulsory, I, along with three others, burned flags on the steps of the US Capitol. This resulted in a Supreme Court case and landmark First Amendment decision.

The installation is comprised of: a photomontage (the montage consists of pictures of South Korean students burning US flags holding signs saying ‘Yankee go home son of bitch’ and flag draped coffins in a troop transport; text printed on the photomontage reads “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?”), books (originally with blank pages) on a shelf, ink pens, a 3’x5′ American flag on the ground and an active audience. The audience was encouraged to write responses to the question “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?” As they did so, they had the opportunity to stand on the flag as they wrote their response. When this work has been displayed, thousands of people filled hundreds of pages with responses. Many many of those stood on the flag as they added their comments to the work. Below is a brief sampling of comments from these pages.

Samples from What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag? ledgers.

There are many questions you have raised. For that I thank you. It does hurt me to see the flag on the ground being stepped on. Yet now after days have passed, I have realized tat this is the ultimate form of patriotism. Our country is so strong in believing what it stands for that we would allow you to do this. You have made me really think about my own patriotism, which has grown stronger.

I am a German girl. If we Germans would admire our flag as you all do, we would be called Nazis again…I think you do have too much trouble about this flag.

You’re fucked–minorities get everything!

In Russia you would be shot and your family would have to pay for the bullets. But once again what do you expect from a nigger named “Dread Scott”?

Dear Dread, Like someone who viewed the exhibit, I began reading other people’s comments standing next to the flag, but gradually moved to standing on it. As someone raised to be iconoclastic (at least I thought I was) it was an interesting moment of self-awareness, which (I think) is the whole purpose of the display. Perhaps when human life and liberty is really valued above property (and symbols) in America we will all have more allegiance to the principles of “liberty” and “justice” for all. Congratulations on your courage in getting arrested to test this crazy law.

P.S. Kudos to the gallery for their courage. Why is it OK to “Knowingly maintain on the ground homeless people but not the flag”.

If you ever attended school in Illinois before becoming a student here, what did you learn besides the Bill of Rights? You learned the Illinois codes for displaying the American flag! One code stated the flag should not touch the ground, Didn’t you “New Generation” of students hear anything your teacher said? Were you rebellious and disruptive then also? You take your freedom for granted!
—Chicago Public School Teacher

Let it burn, Let it burn, let the Fucker Burn, Burn, Burn. The first time I had to confront the flag was in Vietnam–Black GI’s in my unit refused to stand & salute it! After much debate & anguish I did the same. The second time I was when I found Marine Vets burning the flag in anger, Finally I had to understand why youth carried the Viet Cong flag in support of the Vietnamese. I found out that it was because the Vietnamese were right & deserved to Win! Since then I’ve seen it burned all over the world & welcomed it. The US deserved to be defeated in Vietnam & deserves the same around the World.
—Joe Urgo, Viet Vet-1968

Hi, the flag is now folded on the shelf. I have the right to unfold it, but the veterans are here and I’m afraid to. Is it right (is it American) for me to feel afraid to exercise my rights?

Right now a lady is on the ground crying because of what you have done. I feel you did something wrong and I feel you should be put in jail or have something done to you for this. I love my country and it hurts me to know that don’t. I hope you feel good about yourself for what you are putting people through. You’re an asshole.

This flag I’m standing on stands for everything oppressive in this system—The murder of the Indians and all the oppresses around the world, including my brother, who was shot by a pig who kicked over his body to “make sure the nigger was dead.” the pig was wearing the flag. Thank you Dread Scott for this opportunity.

As a veteran defending the flag I personally would never defend your stupid ass! You should be shot!
—U.S. Navy Seal Team

Media coverage

Chicago CBS affiliate, includes several video segments

This work first became know nationally and threatened with censorship in the pre internet era. Most coverage is not readially available online. Three good articles are:

Elizabeth Hess, “Capture the Flag”, The Village Voice, 4/4/1989. Very long and very good story. Best coverage of the controversy surrounding What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?

Lilly Wie, Art In America, “On Nationality: 13 Artists,” September 1991. Fairly long interview with me that details the controversy surrounding “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?”

Dread Scott, “Speakeasy,” New Art Examiner, June, 1989. Written at the time of the controversy, here are my thoughts on the the storm around my work and the stakes of the battle .

In this tutorial, we will demonstrate how to use the image sprite that consists of 249 country flags for website display. In a nutshell, the image sprite is a method that combines, usually, multiple small images into a single image file for usage. What are the advantages of doing so? To explain further, when the website needs to display one image, it will make one HTTP/HTTPS request to the server for the image file retrieval. If the website needs to display 20 images, then the website will have to make 20 round trips for the complete display. These round trips are time-consuming. However, by combining 20 images into a single image sprite, the website will now just need to make a single HTTP/HTTPS request for the same purpose. Inevitably, this will greatly reduce the page loading time, by cutting down the excessive HTTP/HTTPS round trips to only one. Imagine that if you were going to get those images across continents, how much time you could have saved with the image sprite.

Anyway, the image sprite is useful if you are going to display multiple images on a web page, if you only need a single image, an individual image file loading is more than a feasible approach. Regarding the set of images provided by IP2Location, we provide both individual image files and also the image sprite, so that you can decide which one works best for you. However, in this article, we will provide you with some guidelines on how to use the image sprite.

Getting Started

To start, first, we will need to download the country flags file. There are five types of country flag image sprite available according to the different sizes of the country flag, which are 16×16, 32×32, and 64×64. The different sizes of the flags are shown below:After downloaded the zip file, unzip the file and move the “image_sprite” folder to your web directory. Next, in the header tag of your page, call the CSS file like this:

This will load the CSS file in your page to load the image sprite. The next step is to fetch the particular country flag and display it on the website. The following piece of code shows how to load 16×16 and 32×32 country flags from the image sprite:

We will be using the tag to hold and load the flag. Lastly, save the changes made and refresh the website in your browser to see the changes.

Below are the complete source codes for the above display.

The American Flag may be displayed with other flags as long as its display follows the rules specified by the Flag Code. These rules were set to make sure the American Flag is in a position of prominence over other flags. The flag represents the government of the United States, and on American soil, the government is the highest authority. The American flag is even displayed above church flags, except in rare instances.

The Rules:

  • When displayed with other flags, the size of the American Flag should be larger than the other flags or relatively equal to the size of the largest flag. Other flags should not overshadow the American Flag in any way.
  • The American Flag should be flown higher than lesser flags. If the flags are displayed on the same level, the American Flag should be flown to the (flag’s own) right of all other flags. The right is a position of prominence.
  • If the flags of other nations are displayed with the American Flag, they should be of equal size and at equal heights on separate staffs at a time of peace. The American Flag should be displayed to the (flag’s own) right but not higher than other national flags.
  • In a group of state, local and/or society flags, the American Flag should be flown highest and in the center.
  • The American Flag should be hoisted first and lowered last, when flown with other flags on adjacent staffs.
  • When the American Flag is displayed against a wall with another flag, it should be on the (flag’s own) right with its staff in front of the other flag.
  • Another nation’s flag shouldn’t be displayed on the same halyard as the American Flag.
  • If a state, local or society flags are flown on the same halyard with the American Flag, the American Flag should be at the top.
  • If the American Flag is carried in a procession with other flags, it should be to its own right or in the center of a line of flags.

Exceptions to the Rules:

  • In any nation the national flag must be placed in a place of prominence. The flag code only applies to flags flown on American soil.
  • In foreign waters or to salute a foreign country, the U.S. Navy may fly the country’s national flag on the masthead of the ship. This is not a violation of the flag code because the code only applies to civilians (not the Navy), and also because the stern and gaff of a ship are more prominent positions to fly a flag.
  • A church pennant may be flown above the American Flag if a church service is done by naval chaplains at sea for personnel of the Navy. After the service is over, the American Flag must again be placed in the prominent position.
  • The United Nations’ headquarters may fly the flags of all 188 member nations in alphabetical order. Although it is technically located within the United States (banks of the East River in Manhattan), the headquarters is owned by all the members of the United Nations, so it is not considered to be American soil.


U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7

The Care and Display of the American Flag by the Editors of SharpMan 2004.

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Introduction: How to Build a Memorial Flag Case

How to display a flag

How to display a flag

How to display a flag

In this DIY woodworking project tutorial, I’ll show you how to build a beautiful wooden memorial flag display case for an American flag to honor a fallen hero.

My Grandfather served in the Army during World War II and passed away several years ago, and to honor his memory and service I decided to build this Memorial Flag Display Case as a gift to give to my Dad for Father’s Day. For this project, I’ll be basing this case off of plans I found online with some modifications. To check out those plans, click here.

Step 1: Milling the Lumber

For this project I’ll be using some beautiful 3/4 Walnut with some nice figure on it. To get started, I’m ripping the walnut into 3″ strips on my table saw. Next I can cut the angles on the pieces to create the mitered triangle shape. To do that, I have to make a quick tenoning jig for my table saw because I can’t create that angle with my existing tools.

Tenoning Jig

The tenoning jig is made of a few pieces of plywood so that the pieces can stand vertically as they pass through the saw, which allows you to cut more acute angles than are usually possible on a table saw. If you’d like more info on how to build a tenoning jig, you can find out how to build your own here.

Step 2: Cutting the Rabbets

Before I glue up the mitered pieces, I’m using my dado stack to cut a 1/8″ deep by 1/4″ wide rabbet into each piece so I can inset the back panel into the case later. Once that is cut, I can glue up the main body.

Step 3: Building the Face Frame

I’m modifying from the plans I made above because I want to have a hinged face frame for this case. I rip some 1.5″ strips on the tablesaw and then cut the miters into them to create the triangle shape. Then I use the dado stack to cut a rabbet onto the inside edge of each piece so that I can inset a piece of tempered glass into the case later on.

Next I used my trim router to cut a profile into the inner edge of each piece. This would be a good job for a router table if you have one. Then I can glue up the face frame. From there I can lay out and mark where the hinges are going to attach on the face frame and main case body. I found these little brass hinges in the hardware section at Home Depot. I trace out the hinges on the body and then chisel out the mortises so they sit flush with the case.

Step 4: Rough Assembly

With the mortises cut, I can use the small screws to attach the face frame to the case body. And then I can rough sand the whole case with some 120 grit sandpaper, before working my way up to 220 by hand.

To latch the case closed, I decided to add a rare earth magnet into the case body and face frame that would be hidden in a 3/8″ recess into the case. I drilled this hole out and then epoxied the magnets in place so that when the case it closed there is no visible latch from the outside.

Step 5: Finishing the Case

I want a really clean finish on this case so I’m using a Tung Oil finish which hardens inside the wood. I apply the first coat, then lightly sand with 500 grit. Then I add the second coat of Tung Oil before sanding once again to 600 grit. Then lastly apply a third finish coat of Tung Oil.

For the backing of the case I cut a piece of hardboard to fit in the triangle shaped rabbet in the back of the case and then I had a piece of tempered glass cut to fit the face frame at a local glass place. It only cost me $7. To attach the glass, I used a thin bead of clear silicone and a couple window glazing retaining clips.

Step 6: Finished Product

That’s it for this project! I hope you enjoyed it. This project made a wonderful gift for my Dad and I’m happy that I could help honor my Grandfather’s memory and service to the country.

If you liked this project, you may like some of my other woodworking projects that you can check out here: