How to Display the Flag

Posted by Elaine Yam on

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 she 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.

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 are obvious—like Memorial Day and the 4th of July—while others are a bit more obscure. 

Displaying the 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.

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    • 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 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.



  • Never display the flag with the union (blue field) down, except as a signal of extreme distress, as in danger to life or property.

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