7 Common Misconceptions About the American Flag

7 Misconceptions about the American flag.

From Paul Revere's ride to the ringing of the Liberty Bell to the actual date of America's independence, to George Washington's wooden teeth, the myths developed in the course of our nation's glorious history are often more fun to believe than the slower-moving and oft-more-convoluted true accounts of the events they reference.

The American flag is the object of an array of these mis-spun accounts. Here are 7 of the most commonly accepted misconceptions. . .

Misconception # 1:
Betsy Ross, seamstress extraordinaire.

Today, it is virtually common knowledge that Betsy Ross designed and sewed the first American flag at the behest of George Washington. There's just one troublesome issue with this knowledge — as of this writing, the notion is not supported by any documenting evidence.  

Charles H. Weisgerber, the artist who painted the iconic image of Betsy Ross sitting in her sewing parlor with the American flag draped over her lap, certainly profited from the legend some 100+ years later. However, a grandson's claim and a nation's willingness to believe are all that keep this legend alive.

Misconception # 2:
Old designs are obsolete.

The sad misconception here is that only American flags bearing 50 stars and 13 stripes can be legally displayed. Of course this is entirely untrue.

In fact, the U.S. Flag Code makes no mention of any requirement for the number of stars and stripes that an American flag must bear. According to the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, the United States flag will never become obsolete. Furthermore, they submit that any officially approved American flag, regardless of the number and arrangement of stars and/or stripes may continue to be displayed until it is no longer serviceable.

Misconception # 3:
The Flag Code prohibits washing the flag.

Say what? This, of course, is not true. There are no provisions in the Flag Code for washing the flag. This decision would derive from the condition and material of the flag, and the owner's prerogative.

Misconception # 4:
The Flag Code is enforceable, and violations carry penalties.

Again, this is not true. Many reasons abound for the spread of this myth, ranging from capitalistic abuse, to white lies with patriotic intent. However, the opening paragraphs of the Flag Code include the following text:
"Thus, the Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include enforcement provisions; rather the Code functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups."

Misconception # 5:
A flag that touches the ground must be destroyed.

Concern here is that the act of the flag touching the ground somehow besmirches the flag and dishonors the United States if it is displayed afterward. Rest assured that this is not true. As stated previously, American flags can be cleaned and, as long as they remain serviceable, displayed.

Misconception # 6:
Flags used to cover caskets must be retired.

The Flag Code does not state that flags used to cover caskets must be retired or that they cannot be displayed. This decision, of course, would be left to the sole discretion of the family of the deceased. Often, such flags are folded and stored in presentation cases.

Misconception # 7:
Elected officials or post commanders can order flags to half staff.

Unlike many of the myths in our list, this is one myth that is specifically addressed in the Flag Code. The gesture of placing the flag at half staff represents a state or national solidarity in mourning a highly regarded state or national figure. As such, out of reverence for the collective nature of the action, the responsibility of ordering flags to half staff falls only to the U.S. President or to state governors. This is in accordance with section 7 of the U.S. Flag Code.

Do you have suggestions for flag flying resolutions this year? If so, we would love to share them! 

Contact Liberty Flags, America's premier flag and flagpole store if we can be of assistance. Call us or write service@libertyflags.com. 

Have a great day, from your friends at LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®.

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