The Protocol of Patriotism

Wide angle photo of a tattered American flag blowing in the wind over a distant city lit by golden sunset light

With Flag Day (June 14) and the 4th of July coming up, perhaps you’ve considered displaying an American flag at your shop to show your love of country. Research suggests that, just as customers prefer buying locally-sourced or made products, they also like patronizing patriotic businesses.

Two rocking chairs and an American flag in front of a small town antique store
Two rocking chairs and an American flag in front of a small town antique store

But be advised: there are very specific rules you must follow if you choose to fly Old Glory. Here’s a basic rundown of the Flag Code:

  • If flown in a group of flags (with state, local or group flags), the U.S. flag should always be the highest, and should be raised first and lowered last. If flown with the flag of another nation, the flags should never be flown on the same pole, and the flags should be of even height, with the U.S. always to its own right (the viewer’s left).
  • If displayed in a window, the flag may be placed vertically or horizontally, but always with the Union (the stars representing the states) on the viewer’s upper left.
  • The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should also not be embroidered on handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use to be discarded.
  • You may fly your flag at night, provided it is illuminated.
  • Unless you purchase an all-weather flag (nylon), you should bring your flag indoors during inclement weather.
  • Never let the flag touch anything beneath it (ground, floor, water, merchandise)
  • Never place anything on the flag, including letters, insignia, or designs of any kind.
  • Never use it for apparel, bedding or drapery.

When to fly the flag at half-staff:

  • May 15 — Peace Officers Memorial Day: half-staff from sunrise to sunset
  • Last Monday in May — Memorial Day: the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon
  • September 11 — Patriot Day: half-staff from sunrise to sunset
  • Sunday, usually of week in which October 9th falls — Fire Prevention Week: half-staff from sunrise to sunset.
  • December 7 — National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day: half-staff from sunrise to sunset
  • When the President or your state’s governor proclaims you should

Proper flag dimensions:

20’ pole: 4’ x 6’ flag

25’ pole: 5’ x 8’ flag

30’-35’ pole: 6’ x 10’ flag

40’-45’ pole: 6’ x 10’ to 8’ x 12’ flag

50′ pole: 8’ x 12′ to 10’ x 15′ flag

60′ to 65′ pole: 10’x 15′ to 10′ x 19′ flag

Proper flag disposal:

The Flag Code states that unserviceable flags should be destroyed, preferably by burning. (Note: you do not need to destroy your flag if it touched the ground.) If you burn the flag yourself, do so discreetly so it is not perceived as an act of protest. You can contact your local American Legion chapter, which holds flag burning ceremonies.