Fly your U.S. flags in January 2020

January 1, 2020

“Raising the first American flag, Somerville, Mass., January 1, 1776.” Harper’s Weekly painting by Clyde Osmer DeLand, 1897. From the digital collections of the New York Public Library

January is loaded with flag flying dates, when we add in statehood days, dates those states are invited to fly their U.S. flags.

In January 2020, the U.S. Flag Code urges citizens to fly flags on these dates, listed chronologically:

  • New Year’s Day, January 1, a federal holiday
  • January 2, Georgia Statehood Day
  • January 3, Alaska Statehood Day
  • January 4, Utah Statehood Day
  • January 6, New Mexico Statehood Day
  • January 9, Connecticut Statehood Day
  • Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a federal holiday on the third Monday of January; that date is January 20, in 2020; King’s actual birthday is January 15, and you may fly your flag then, too
  • Inauguration Day, January 20, the year after election years; 2020 is not an inauguration year; 2021 will be
  • January 26, Michigan Statehood Day
  • January 29, Kansas Statehood Day

You may fly your flag any other day you wish, too; flags should not be flown after sundown unless they are specially lighted, or at one of the few places designated by Congress or Presidential Proclamation for 24-hour flag flying.  According to Wikipedia’s listing, those sites include:

  • Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland (Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948).
  • Flag House Square, Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore, Maryland (Public Law 83-319, approved March 26, 1954).
  • Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial), Arlington, Virginia (Presidential Proclamation No. 3418, June 12, 1961).
  • Lexington Battle Green, Lexington, Massachusetts (Public Law 89-335, approved November 8, 1965).
  • White House, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September 4, 1970).
  • Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July 6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971).
  • Any port of entry to the United States which is continuously open (Presidential Proclamation No. 413 1, May 5, 1972).
  • Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (Public Law 94-53, approved July 4, 1975).
Flag House in 1936, 844 East Pratt & Albemarle Streets (Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland) (cropped). Image courtesy of the federal HABS—Historic American Buildings Survey of Maryland.

Flag House in 1936, where Mary Pickersgill sewed the garrison-sized, 15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore in 1814; one of the sites where the U.S. flag may be flown 24 hours. The house is at 844 East Pratt & Albemarle Streets (Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland). Cropped image courtesy of the federal HABS—Historic American Buildings Survey of Maryland.

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Children unfurl a large flag at a Denver Nuggets/Indiana Pacers NBA basketball game in Denver, January 2016. Colorado Public Radio image.
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Merry Christmas, 2019! Fly your flag on Christmas Day

December 24, 2019

“A Gift to a Nation” by painter of western scenes Tom Browning; Santa Claus puts together a flag for a family to fly on Christmas.

Christmas Day, December 25, is one of the holidays designated in the U.S. Flag Code for U.S. residents to fly the flag.

No, you don’t take the flag down for mere inclement weather; fly it through rain and snow. Remember to dry your flag before putting it away.

More:

  • Next dates to fly the flag: December 28, for Iowa statehood; December 29, for Texas statehood; New Years Day
  • Look around for other Christmas and Santa Claus posts

Ron Cogswell captured a flag displayed at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., in December 2015; Creative Commons license

Ron Cogswell captured a flag displayed at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., in December 2015; Creative Commons license

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December 11: Hoosiers fly the flag for Indiana Statehood

December 11, 2019

Indiana won admission to the union on December 11, 1816.

U.S. Flag Code urges residents of each state to fly the U.S. flag on the anniversary of statehood, so flags may be flying in Indiana today.

A giant, 50 X 80 foot flag flies from a 232 foot flagpole at Glenbrook Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Is it the largest regularly flown in the U.S.? Photo by Christopher Crawford, who sells prints of this giant patriotic display, at ChrisCrawfordPhoto.com

A giant, 50 X 80 foot flag flies from a 232 foot flagpole at Glenbrook Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Is it the largest regularly flown in the U.S.? Photo by Christopher Crawford, who sells prints of this giant patriotic display, at ChrisCrawfordPhoto.com

Why are the biggest flags in most states flown at car dealerships? Asking for a friend, who notes the Flag Code says flags are not to be flown as advertising devices.

The Glenbrook dealership is proud to fly the flag; details from the dealership website.

The large American flag flying high above our dealership is now an established landmark in the city of Fort Wayne.

We believe this to be one of the largest continuously flying flags in the United States. It was erected in 2001. The flag symbolizes our appreciation to our country and to the many customers we’ve had the pleasure to serve over the years.

This flag measures 50 feet by 80 feet. The flagpole is 43 inches in diameter. The pole weighs 35,600 pounds! The base contains 400,000 lbs of concrete. The flag is made of nylon and weighs 80 pounds. The flag can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 months before it has to be changed.

Indiana got a bicentennial stamp in 2016, from a stunning photograph from Indiana native Michael Matti.

Indiana's bicentennial stamp, from a photography by Michael Matti.

Indiana’s bicentennial stamp, from a photography by Michael Matti.

Interesting factoid: Delegates to a convention to create Indiana’s state constitution found the summer of 1816 too hot to stay indoors. So they adjourned most activities outdoors, under a massive elm tree, the Constitution Elm. The mighty tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease in 1925, sadly.

“This photograph of the ‘Constitution Elm’ was taken between 1921 and 1925. Delegates to the June 1816 constitutional convention apparently often worked in the shade of this tree. Although specific reports of dimensions vary, it was enormous with branches that spanned over 100 feet. It died of Dutch Elm Disease in 1925.” Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.

Here’s a story of Indiana’s path to statehood, produced in 2016 for Indiana’s Bicentennial.

Happy statehood day, Hoosiers; fly your flags today.

Flag on a barn, perhaps in Indiana, From IndianaPublicMedia.

Flag on a barn, perhaps in Indiana, From IndianaPublicMedia.

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Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

 


December 2019 flag-flying days

December 5, 2019

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A “living flag” composed of 10,000 sailors, or “Blue Jackets at Salute,” by the Mayhart Studios, December 1917; image probably at the Great Lakes training facility of the Navy. Gawker media image

November offers several flag flying days, especially in years when there is an election.

But December may be the month with the most flag-flying dates, when we include statehood days.

December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  It’s not in the Flag Code, but public law (P.L. 103-308) urges that the president should issue a proclamation asking Americans to fly flags.

December 25 is Christmas Day, a federal holiday, and one of the score of dates designated in the Flag Code. If you watch your neighborhood closely, you’ll note even some of the most ardent flag wavers miss posting the colors on this day, as they do on Thanksgiving and New Years.

Other dates?

Nine states attained statehood in December, so people in those states should fly their flags (and you may join them).  Included in this group is Delaware, traditionally the “First State,” as it was the first colony to ratify the U.S. Constitution:

  • Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  • Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state)
  • Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  • Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  • Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  • Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  • New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  • Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  • Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, marking the day in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was declared ratified; but though this event generally gets a presidential proclamation, there is no law or executive action that requires flags to fly on that date, for that occasion.

Eleven flag-flying dates in December.  Does any other month have as many flag flying opportunities?

Have I missed any December flag-flying dates?  11 events on 10 days (Delaware’s statehood falls on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack).

Here’s a list of the days to fly the flag, under national law, in chronological order:

  1. Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  2. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7
  3. Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state) (shared with Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day)
  4. Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  5. Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  6. Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  7. Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  8. New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  9. Christmas Day, December 25
  10. Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  11. Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

Fly your flag with respect to the flag, for the republic it represents, and for all those who sacrificed that it may wave on your residence.

Appropriate to a snowy December.

Appropriate to a snowy December. “The Barn on Grayson-New Hope Road. This barn with its old truck and ever-present American flag, is often the subject of photographs and paintings by the locals.” Photo and copyright by Melinda Anderson

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Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

November 2019 days to fly the flag

November 14, 2019

The Major, a very large U.S. flag made in honor of Brent Major, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2018. The flag flew at the mouth of Coldwater Canyon.

The Major, a very large U.S. flag made in honor of Maj. Brent R. Taylor, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2018. The flag flew at the mouth of Coldwater Canyon. The flag is a quarter-acre in size, more than 100 feet on the longest side. North Ogden plans an annual celebration of the U.S. flag in early November. Photo by Ben Dorger, for the Ogden Standard-Examiner newspaper.

Running late. November flies by!

Eight events spread over seven different days come with urgings to fly the U.S. flag in November: Six states celebrate statehood, Veterans Day falls as always on November 11, and Thanksgiving Day on November 28.

Did I say eight? Elections are dates to fly the flag, and several states have “off-year” elections. You may fly your flag at home on election day, too. (Yes, flags should be flown at all early polling places, on days of early voting, too — do you know of poll where that did not occur? Tell us in comments.)

Two states, North Dakota and South Dakota, celebrate their statehood on the same date. Washington’s statehood day falls on Veterans Day, November 11 — so there are only seven days covering nine events.

In calendar order for 2019, these are the seven days:

  • North Dakota statehood day, November 2 (1889, 39th or 40th state)
  • South Dakota statehood day, November 2 (1889, 39th or 40th state) (shared with North Dakota)
  • Election day, November 5 (several states) — Go vote!
  • Montana statehood day, November 8 (1889, 41st state)
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Washington statehood day, November 11 (1889, 42nd state) (shared with Veterans Day)
  • Oklahoma statehood day, November 16 (1907, 46th state)
  • North Carolina statehood day, November 21 (1789, 12th state)
  • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November (November 28 in 2018)

Most Americans will concern themselves only with Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day. Is flying the U.S. flag for statehood day a dying tradition?

More:

Polling station in South Carolina. SCETV image.

Polling station in South Carolina. SCETV image.

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Gold Star Mothers Day 2019 – fly your flag on Sunday, September 29

September 29, 2019

Gold Star Mothers Day, honoring mothers and widows of soldiers killed in service, is the last Sunday of September — September 29 in 2019.

It’s a date designated by law to fly your U.S. flag at home.

President Trump issued a proclamation on flying the flag in 2019:

Every life lost in service to our country is precious and irreplaceable.  Our deepest sympathy, utmost respect, unwavering support, and profound gratitude go to the families who must endure the ongoing pain of such loss.  On Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, we solemnly honor these families and pray for their continued strength and courage.

Since the founding of our Republic, our liberty has been defended by our men and women in uniform.  Their love of country and devotion to duty represent the very best of America.  Our Nation’s military families share in the demands and pressures of this noble calling.  The cost is exceedingly high — with multiple deployments, relocations, and separations — but the sobering price of their sacrifice is most clearly seen in the families who have faced the life-altering loss of a father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother who died fighting for our freedom.

Because of tragedies that forever change the course of their lives, these families receive the designation of the Gold Star.  Each story is unique; each death is profoundly personal.  The fallen leave behind families who must learn to carve out a new future while coping with their loved one’s absence on holidays, at celebrations, and during everyday activities.  Their pain permeates every facet of life, never fully fading.

Yet, in spite of their challenges and heartbreak, Gold Star families exemplify amazing grace and resilience.  From the depths of grief, they emerge to find hope, purpose, and joy, serving as an example and a source of inspiration for others.  These patriots know the true cost of freedom, and it is the responsibility of all Americans to stand alongside them and share in shouldering this profound burden.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1895 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 29, 2019, as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.  I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this special day.  I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation’s gratitude and respect for our Gold Star Mothers and Families.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-seventh day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

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Colorado statehood day, August 1, 2018

July 31, 2019

From the Walking Tourists, a photograph of a U.S. flag near Colorado Springs, with Pikes Peak in the background. A view from the top of Pikes Peak inspired Kathryn Lee Bates to write a poem, “America the Beautiful.”

Colorado officially joined the Union on August 1, 1876.

Coloradans should fly U.S. flags today in honor of statehood. Colorado was the 38th state admitted to the union.


Did you fly your flag for Easter?

April 21, 2019

We didn’t post a reminder, but we did mention it in the post for flag-flying in April: Did you fly your flag for Easter?

Did you notice whether anyone else on your block did?

Caption from U.S. Navy: Arlington, Va. (Mar. 27, 2005) – A member of the Navy Honor Guard stands under a large American Flag during the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region’s Easter Sunrise Service at Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater. Chaplain of the Marine Corps/Deputy Chief of Chaplains for the Navy, Rear Adm. Robert F. Burt, delivered the free, nondenominational sermon. Members of the military community, general public, and media attended the joint-service event. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark A. Suban

Fly your flag today, Presidents Day 2019

February 18, 2019

A flag in Dallas, Texas.

Of course you’re already flying your flag today, for Presidents Day 2019.

Presidents Day is that hybrid holiday designed to create a three-day weekend, and consolidate previous practices of having two holidays, one on Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, and another on Washington’s birthday on February 22 (Gregorian, or New Calendar).

February 2019 marks the third year in a row the U.S. is without a functioning president, but we celebrate the day anyway.

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Utah Statehood Day, 2018

January 4, 2019

President Grover Cleveland signed the proclamation making Utah the 45th state on January 4, 1896. Utah residents should fly the U.S. flag today in commemoration.

A golden pen used by President Grover Cleveland to sign the law setting conditions for statehood in 1894; Utah met the conditions, and Cleveland signed the proclamation of statehood just over a year later, on January 4, 1896. Sources of the photograph do not say who has the pen now, nor where it might be displayed. ILoveHistory.com image

A golden pen used by President Grover Cleveland to sign the law setting conditions for statehood in 1894; Utah met the conditions, and Cleveland signed the proclamation of statehood just over a year later, on January 4, 1896. Sources of the photograph do not say who has the pen now, nor where it might be displayed. ILoveHistory.com image

Flying the U.S. flag is a big deal in Utah. Most families have at least one flag to fly on holidays. But in my decades in the state, I don’t think I saw anyone fly the flag for Utah Statehood day.

Utah’s public officials take their oaths of office on January 4, traditionally. In the past couple of decades, a ball for statehood, a Statehood Dance, is scheduled on a Saturday close to January 4, in the museum in Fillmore, Utah, which once was the territorial capitol building before the capital was moved to Salt Lake City.

Got a U.S. flag, Utahns? Fly ’em if you got ’em.

Marchers carrying stars and colored material to make stripes for a flag in a statehood parade in Salt Lake City, 1910. Photo from the University of Utah Marriott Library.

Marchers carrying stars and colored material to make stripes for a flag in a statehood parade in Salt Lake City, 1910. Photo from the University of Utah Marriott Library.

Rare 1900 campaign flag featuring portraits of President William McKinley and Vice President nominee Theodore Roosevelt. Such a display is contrary to the U.S. Flag Code today, but in 1900 there was no flag code, and not really much solid regulation on U.S. flags. Bonsell/Americana image.

Rare 1900 campaign flag featuring portraits of President William McKinley and Vice President nominee Theodore Roosevelt. Such a display is contrary to the U.S. Flag Code today, but in 1900 there was no flag code, and not really much solid regulation on U.S. flags. Bonsell/Americana image.

More:

  • Utah, the 45th star and the largest flag ever made to that time, film from Colonial Flags


December 14, Alabama flies the flag for 199 years of statehood

December 14, 2018

U.S. and Alabama flags fly with the Moon and a rocket, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Photo by Jerry Slaughter, via Pinterest

U.S. and Alabama flags fly with the Moon and a rocket, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Photo by Jerry Slaughter, via Pinterest

Alabama joined the union on December 14, 1819, the 22nd state.

Under provisions of the U.S. Flag Code, residents of a state are encouraged to fly the U.S. flag on their respective statehood day.

Does Alabama commemorate its own statehood? Perhaps there are big celebrations planned for statehood day in 2019, the 200th anniversary of statehood.

More: 

Caption from LInn's Stamp News:

The stamp planned for Alabama’s Bicenntennial in 2019. Caption from LInn’s Stamp News: “Alabama Statehood. The 22nd state, Alabama, was admitted into the union on Dec. 14, 1819. The new stamp commemorating this bicentennial shows a photograph by Alabama photographer Joe Miller of sunset in Cheaha State Park, including a view of Talladega National Forest, which surrounds the park.”

 

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December 11: Fly the flag for Indiana Statehood, Hoosiers!

December 11, 2018

Indiana won admission to the union on December 11, 1816.

U.S. Flag Code urges residents of each state to fly the U.S. flag on the anniversary of statehood, so flags may be flying in Indiana today.

A giant, 50 X 80 foot flag flies from a 232 foot flagpole at Glenbrook Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Is it the largest regularly flown in the U.S.? Photo by Christopher Crawford, who sells prints of this giant patriotic display, at ChrisCrawfordPhoto.com

A giant, 50 X 80 foot flag flies from a 232 foot flagpole at Glenbrook Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Is it the largest regularly flown in the U.S.? Photo by Christopher Crawford, who sells prints of this giant patriotic display, at ChrisCrawfordPhoto.com

Why are the biggest flags in most states flown at car dealerships? Asking for a friend, who notes the Flag Code says flags are not to be flown as advertising devices.

The Glenbrook dealership is proud to fly the flag; details from the dealership website.

The large American flag flying high above our dealership is now an established landmark in the city of Fort Wayne.

We believe this to be one of the largest continuously flying flags in the United States. It was erected in 2001. The flag symbolizes our appreciation to our country and to the many customers we’ve had the pleasure to serve over the years.

This flag measures 50 feet by 80 feet. The flagpole is 43 inches in diameter. The pole weighs 35,600 pounds! The base contains 400,000 lbs of concrete. The flag is made of nylon and weighs 80 pounds. The flag can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 months before it has to be changed.

Indiana got a bicentennial stamp in 2016, from a stunning photograph from Indiana native Michael Matti.

Indiana's bicentennial stamp, from a photography by Michael Matti.

Indiana’s bicentennial stamp, from a photography by Michael Matti.

Interesting factoid: Delegates to a convention to create Indiana’s state constitution found the summer of 1816 too hot to stay indoors. So they adjourned most activities outdoors, under a massive elm tree, the Constitution Elm. The mighty tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease in 1925, sadly.

“This photograph of the ‘Constitution Elm’ was taken between 1921 and 1925. Delegates to the June 1816 constitutional convention apparently often worked in the shade of this tree. Although specific reports of dimensions vary, it was enormous with branches that spanned over 100 feet. It died of Dutch Elm Disease in 1925.” Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.

Here’s a story of Indiana’s path to statehood, produced in 2016 for Indiana’s Bicentennial.

Happy statehood day, Hoosiers; fly your flags today.

A barn side flag in Spencer, Indiana. This flag was painted on a shipping pallet. BookCoverPics.

A barn side flag in Spencer, Indiana. This flag was painted on a shipping pallet. BookCoverPics.


December 7, 2018: Fly flags for Pearl Harbor Remembrance, and for Delaware statehood — and at half staff

December 7, 2018

From Dayton Daily News: Jeff Duford, curator for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, with a flag that flew on the U.S.S. St. Louis in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The same flag flew aboard the U.S.S. Iowa in Tokyo Bay on September 16, 1944, as Japan signed instruments of surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri.

From Dayton Daily News: Jeff Duford, curator for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, with a flag that flew on the U.S.S. St. Louis in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The same flag flew aboard the U.S.S. Iowa in Tokyo Bay on September 16, 1944, as Japan signed instruments of surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. [This flag was displayed for one day at the museum, on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2016.]

December 7 is a two-fer flag-flying day.

By public law, December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and Americans fly the U.S. flag in memory of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. U.S. flags should be flown at half-staff.

As for Delaware, under the U.S. Flag Code, residents of the relevant state should fly their U.S. flag on the date the state joined the union.

In 1787 Delaware quickly and promptly elected delegates to the former colony’s convention to ratify the Constitution proposed at the Philadelphia convention just over three months earlier. The ratification of the Constitution won opposition from strong factions in almost every state. Pols anticipated tough fights in New York, Virginia, and other states with large populations. They also expected other states would wait to see what the bigger states did.

Delaware didn’t wait.  On December 7 Delaware became the first of the former British colonies to ratify the Constitution. Perhaps by doing so, it guaranteed other states would act more favorably on ratification.

Because Delaware was first, it is traditionally granted first position in certain ceremonies, such as the parades honoring newly-inaugurated presidents. Delaware’s nickname is “The First State.”

In Delaware and the rest of the nation, fly your flags on December 7, 2016. If you can, fly your flag at half-staff to honor the dead at Pearl Harbor; if you have a flag on a pole that cannot be adjusted, just fly the flag normally.

The most famous portrayal of a U.S. flag flying in Delaware is in the painting by Emanuel Leutze (American, 1816–1868).

The most famous portrayal of a U.S. flag flying in Delaware is in the painting by Emanuel Leutze (American, 1816–1868). “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” 1851. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34) Among other problems with this portrayal: The flag depicted had not been designated on the date of the crossing, Christmas 1776.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Flag respect on display for Ford funeral; same for Bush

December 5, 2018

Actions convey messages. Actions communicate. How one acts in regarding the U.S. flag, at different times when action is required, tells something about character — whether one was even paying attention when respect for the flag, and the ideals it portrays, was explained.

President Ford's casket in the Capitol Rotunda - photo by Todd Heisler, NY Times

President Ford’s casket lies in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. New York Times photo by Todd Heisler.

Back in early 2007 I discussed some of the flag etiquette we saw at the funeral of President Gerald R. Ford. We see these things again at the funeral of President George H. W. Bush. Let’s repeat the observations.

Here are a few things you may have observed during the services for President Ford, which you may observe again at the funeral of George H. W. Bush, with minor edits:

1. On his coffin, the U.S. flag’s union will always be over President Bush’s left shoulder. This is a reversal from the usual display method for the flag; in display on a wall, the field should always be in the upper left as one observes it, the “northwest” corner (as if looking at a map); on a coffin, that would put the flag over the person’s right shoulder. Instead, on a coffin the flag is draped so the union is over the left shoulder, usually explained as being over the soldier’s heart. Also, note that a flag-draped casket should be carried foot first to the grave.

2. Since Bush is a military veteran, the flag should accompany the casket to the grave, but not into it (I believe this applies also to presidents if they did not serve, but in any case it applies to Bush). The flag will be folded in the traditional seafaring triangle fold, and presented to the Bush family before the casket is lowered into the grave.

3. When the flag is folded at the cemetery, watch how carefully the military people will work to get each fold just right. Their goal is a perfect fold, which will leave only the blue field of stars from the union showing, in a triangular fold. To get it right, the color guard (pall bearers, I presume in this case) will take its time. Occasionally the flag team will halt and unfold the flag, and refold, if the process is not proceeding just exactly right. But that is rare; the flag folding team sacrifices speed, for care. If the ceremony proceeds very quickly, I would be surprised.

4. It is unlikely that there will be any ceremonial reading during the folding of the flag. Any reading given, however, would be selected by the family. In the past couple of decades, presidential funerals have been planned out well in advance of the event. Differences between Bush’s funeral in 2018, Ford’s funeral in 2007 and Reagan’s funeral in 2004, are due to the different plans of the families, not due to any formal procedure required by U.S. law or tradition. We’re a democratic nation, and such ceremonies are not sacred writ. (I have written here before about the mistaken idea that there is an “official” flag folding ceremony with specific meaning given to each of the 13 foldings of the flag; there is no official ceremony. There is no official meaning ascribed to the folding of the flag; the triangular fold is a convenience at sea, where flags folded into the triangle will unfurl without fouling or snagging as they rise up the mast. We continue that tradition on land.)

In general, the flag will be treated respectfully. Do not expect to see a lot of flag waving during the service. When the flag is present, it will be treated soberly, with care, with special attention to getting official ceremonial details correct.

Students, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts should pay attention.

  • Associated Press photo by Lawrence Jackson. Telephoto showing some of the 50 flags surrounding the Washington Monument flying at half-mast in honor of the late President Gerald Ford, with the dome of the U.S. Capitol in the background. The Capitol is more than a mile away from the Washington Monument; compression of the images by the telephoto lens makes the dome appear much closer.

Flags fly at half staff in honor of former President Gerald Ford at the Washington Monument, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Dec. 27, 2006. Ford will lie in state in the Capitol before burial in Grand Rapids, Mich. Credit: AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

Flags fly at half staff in honor of former President Gerald Ford at the Washington Monument, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Dec. 27, 2006. Ford will lie in state in the Capitol before burial in Grand Rapids, Mich. Credit: AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

Minor update: The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Press has an informative article about flag etiquette in this situation, here.

See also:

2018 update: President George H. W. Bush’s casket lies in state, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, on the catafalk originally constructed to hold the casket of President Abraham Lincoln.

 Members of the public view the casket containing former President George H.W. Bush's remains as he lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Monday night. Cameron Pollack/NPR

“Members of the public view the casket containing former President George H.W. Bush’s remains as he lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Monday night. Cameron Pollack/NPR.” Compare with the photo of President Ford’s casket, in the photo at the top of this post.


Illinois flies flags December 3 for statehood

December 3, 2018

December 3 is the anniversary of the day Illnois was admitted to the union in 1818, the 21st state.

Under the U.S. flag Code, Americans should fly their U.S. flags on the statehood day of their state.

You flying ’em, Illinois?  If you’re in this area, you should be!

A U.S. flag flies in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago, some time between 1980 and 2006. Part of Carol Highsmith's collection of American photographs at the Library of Congress.

A U.S. flag flies in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago, some time between 1980 and 2006. Part of Carol Highsmith’s collection of American photographs at the Library of Congress.

At the American Memory site at the Library of Congress, we get a good, brief dose of the events leading to statehood.

Illinoisans are big on flag flying. "Chicago (north), Illinois. Mrs. Alice Burns, who sings on the local radio station, leading the singing of the national anthem at a neighborhood flag dedication ceremony." Flag dedication ceremony honoring people serving in the military from that block, 1942. Library of Congress image. Jack Delano, photographer, November 1942.

Illinoisans are big on flag flying. “Chicago (north), Illinois. Mrs. Alice Burns, who sings on the local radio station, leading the singing of the national anthem at a neighborhood flag dedication ceremony.” Flag dedication ceremony honoring people serving in the military from that block, 1942. Library of Congress image. Jack Delano, photographer, November 1942.

Next date for flying U.S. flags is a two-fer, December 7, for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and for Delaware’s statehood. Delaware was the first colony to ratify the Constitution on that December day in 1787.


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