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Frequently Asked Questions

Gates Flag and Banners Company offers introductory answers to frequently asked questions about our products and services, as well as answers to most common questions about flags and banners. Click on a subject heading below to view questions and answers relating to your selection. Links throughout the answers will guide you to further information on our website or from other sources. Should you have any further questions, please call our office and we would be glad to help! Call 1-800-874-1776.


Common Terms

Canton:

The blue field in the upper left corner of the flag.

Finial:

The object on the top of a flag pole generally an arrow, ball, or eagle.

Fly:

The edge of the flag that is away from the pole, also the distance from the pole edge of the flag to the outer edge.

Fringe:

Gold braiding placed along the three edges of the flag away from the pole.

Gold:

Braiding placed along the three edges of the flag away from the pole.

Half-mast:

The flag at the center of the pole as a sign of mourning.

Halyard:

The rope used to raise the flag; also called a hoist rope.

Hoist:

The edge of the flag parallel to the pole and opposite the fly; also the measurement of the flag along the pole edge.

Length:

The measurement of the flag between the fly and the hoist.

Obverse:

The front or more important side of the flag. The side seen when the flag pole is to the right of the flag.

Point of Honor:

On the United States Flag this is the blue field and stars (union).

Staff:

Flag pole. On a ship it may be referred to as a mast.

Union:

The blue background with white stars.

Width:

The distance along the side of the flag parallel to the pole.

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Flag Etiquette

(Flaq Etiquette information source - usflag.org)

Standards of Respect

The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. They are:

  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
    Note: Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Many Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well. Contact your local American Legion Hall or Scout Troop to inquire about the availability of this service.

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Raising and Lowering the Flag

The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.

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Displaying the Flag Indoors

When on display, the flag is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be to the left.

The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of states, localities, or societies are grouped for display.

When one flag is used with the flag of the United States of America and the staffs are crossed, the flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.

When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag's union (stars) should be at the top, to the flag's own right, and to the observer's left.

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Displaying the Flag Outdoors

When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half staff.

When it is displayed from the same flagpole with another flag - of a state, community, society or Scout unit - the flag of the United States must always be at the top except that the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for Navy personnel when conducted by a Naval chaplain on a ship at sea.

When the flag is displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag's union should be farthest from the building.

When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right.

  • The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger
  • No other flag ever should be placed above it.
  • The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.

When flown with the national banner ( banner makers ) of other countries, each flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the same height. Each flag should be the same size. They should be raised and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed above that of another nation.

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Parading and Saluting the Flag

During a Parade:

The flag should be to the right of the marchers. When other flags are carried, the flag of the United States may be centered in front of the others or carried to their right. When the flag passes in a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all should face the flag and salute.

To salute:

All persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge.

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The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem

The pledge of allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting. When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music.

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The Flag in Mourning

To place the flag at half staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position half way between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered. On Memorial Day the flag is displayed at half staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset.

The flag is to be flown at half staff in mourning for designated, principal government leaders and upon presidential or gubernatorial order.

When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.

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What is the standard for a proper US flag display?

  • When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.
  • The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right, the flag's own right [that means the viewer's left], and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
  • The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. By "half-staff" is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. Crepe streamers may be affixed to spear heads or flagstaffs in a parade only by order of the President of the United States.
  • When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the right of the flag of the United States (the viewer's left). When the flag is half-masted, both flags are half-masted, with the US flag at the mid-point and the other flag below.
  • When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.
  • When the flag of the United States is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.
  • When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
  • When the flag is displayed in a manner other than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. When festoons, rosettes or drapings are desired, bunting of blue, white and red should be used, but never the flag.
  • That the flag, when carried in a procession with another flag, or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag's own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.
  • The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.
  • When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.
  • When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium on or off a podium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker (to the right of the audience).
  • When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
  • When hung in a window, place the blue union in the upper left, as viewed from the street.

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How to properly retire a US Flag?

Section 8k of the Flag Code (see below) states, "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." We recommend that you contact your local VFW Chapter or your local Elks Lodge and ask them for help properly disposing of your flag.

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Is it appropriate to fly a flag that has fewer than 50 stars?

Yes, it is. You can fly a historic flag.

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When it is appropriate time for a half-mast?

Your flag should be flown at half-mast upon reliable information that a past or present President or Vice-President has died. It should also be flown at half-staff upon Presidential proclamation.

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When flying more then one flag, what order should they be in?

The order of precedence for flags is National, State, Military, Veterans and POW/MIA, then other. If there are multiple state flags, place them in order of admission to the union. Multiple other national flags are traditionally shown in alphabetical order.

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What is the meaning of the folds in a flag-folding ceremony?

There is no legal reference to meaning of the folds in the Flag Code. There is, however, a popular description of a flag folding ceremony:

  • The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  • The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.
  • The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.
  • The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.
  • The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."
  • The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
  • The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
  • The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on mother's day.
  • The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
  • The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
  • The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
  • When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God we Trust."

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Can I fly the flag 24x7?

When a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. The Flag Rules offer no additional guidance on this question. Shine your light directly upon the flag unless you have sufficient local lighting to make the flag easily visible at night.

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What are the appropriate proportions for flagpoles and flags?

Flagpole Height Flag Size

  • 15' 3’x5'
  • 20' 3’x5' – 4x6’
  • 25' 4'x6' – 5’x8’
  • 30' 5’x8’- 6’x10’
  • 35' 6'x10'-8’x12’
  • 40' 8'x12' – 10’x15’
  • 50' 10’x15' – 12’x18’
  • 60' 12’x18’-15’x25’
  • 70'-80' 15’x25’- 20’x30’
  • 90'-100' 20'x38'-30'x50

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