Flag Day and the History of Old Glory

The American flag, often referred to as Old Glory, is a symbol of our nation’s heritage. Our flag is a source of pride, courage, and determination. For those who lived through World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, it can also trigger feelings of sadness and remembrance.

On June 14, many Americans celebrate Flag Day by flying Old Glory at their homes and places of business. If you will be one of them, here’s a bit of history about the American flag and some rules for displaying it.

The Flags Before Old Glory

In 1775, discontented colonists wanted a flag that represented their independence. Several versions of the flag followed. An early version featured a snake with the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me.” Another, known as the Liberty Tree, displayed an evergreen tree with red, white, and blue stripes. A late 1775 flag presented the British Union Jack along with 13 stripes to represent the 13 colonies.

Then a seamstress from Philadelphia came on the scene. It was Betsy Ross who replaced the Union Jack with a circle of 13 stars designed to represent each of the original colonies. This was the version officially adopted on June 14, 1777, a day we now designate as Flag Day.

On holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day, Americans fly their flag proudly.

Displaying the American Flag

When it comes to flying the American flag, it’s important to know and honor a few basic rules, including:

  • Hang the flag only in places where it will be kept clean.
  • Always allow the flag to fall freely. Don’t tie or fasten it back.
  • Unless there is lighting to spotlight it, the flag should be flown only from sunrise to sunset.
  • When the flag is hung in a window, the stars should always face north.
  • Only in an emergency can the flag be flown upside down as a symbol of distress.
  • Never use the flag as a decoration or as clothing.
  • Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
  • When displayed in a row with other flags, Old Glory should be placed on the viewer’s left.
  • If flags of other nations are also being flown, all the flags should be at the same height. When state and local flags are being displayed, the American flag should be the highest one.
  • If the American flag is part of a procession or parade, attendees should stand, face the flag, and place a hand over the heart. Men and boys should also remove their hats. Veterans, military personnel, police, and firefighters should salute the flag.
  • When the flag is displayed as part of a speaker’s platform, it needs to be placed behind, above, and to the right of the speaker.
  • On Memorial Day, the flag is flown at half-staff until noon, and then it is raised.
  • If taps are played during a Flag Day celebration, veterans and active-duty military personnel must salute the flag until the end of the song.

We hope you will keep these rules in mind when you display an American flag!

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