Flag Etiquette: A Summary of Rules

The American Flag is customarily displayed from sunrise to sunset on flagstaffs in the open. Please hoist the Flag quickly and lower it carefully and with respect.

When it is carried in a procession with another flag or flags, the American Flag 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 the line.

The American Flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff.

No other Flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the Flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the Flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy.

When it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, the American Flag should be on the right, the Flag's own right and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

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 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, the American flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

When the American 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. When used on a speaker's platform, the American Flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker.

When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, 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 or to the right of the audience.



The American Flag should form a distinctive feature of the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument. However, the American Flag should never be used as a covering for a statue or monument.

When flown at half-staff the American Flag should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The American Flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

On Memorial Day, the American Flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.

When the American 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 American Flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

The American Flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, state flags, and organizational or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

The American Flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of the dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

The American Flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

The American Flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

Bunting of blue, white and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping in front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

The American Flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.

No part of the American Flag should ever be used as a custom or athletic uniform. However, an American Flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The Flag represents a living country and is itself considered as a living thing. Therefore, the lapel American Flag -being a replica- should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

When it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, the American Flag should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the American Flag, or when the Flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present except those in uniform should face the American Flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Non-citizens should stand at attention. The salute to the American Flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Displaying the Flag with the State Flag

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“American’s symbol of freedom – its flag - is changed today. It is different because of us in Hawaii. Today Hawaii’s star is set in the firmament for the first time, and   for all time. There is something special about our star. It stands for a state where peoples of every nationality and culture have learned to live in harmony with each other.”

~ Excerpted from Governor Quinn’s Address at the Iolani Palace
flag-raising on July 4, 1960, attended by 10,000 people.