7 Common Misconceptions About the American Flag

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7 Misconceptions About the American Flag

From Paul Revere's ride to the ringing of the Liberty Bell, from the actual date of America's independence to George Washington's wooden teeth... the legends developed in the course of our nation's 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 during the American Revolution. The only troublesome issue with this knowledge is that, 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 propagating the legend some 100+ years later. However, a grandson's claim and a nation's willingness to believe are what keep this legend alive.

That is because, while many historians agree that Betsy Ross was very likely to have been involved, there is no first-hand account of the story as we know it. However, women in general are proven to have been crucial to the design, manufacture, and maintenance of the American flag since its inception — and there is plenty of evidence of that!

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Misconception 2:
Old Flag 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 U.S. 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 made based upon the condition and material of the flag, and the owner's prerogative.

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Misconception 4:
The Flag Code is Enforceable, and Violations Carry Penalties

Again, this is not true. There are many reasons 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

The 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.

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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 the American Flag to Half-Staff

Unlike many of the myths in our list, this one 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 communal nature of the action, the responsibility of ordering flags to half-staff falls only to the sitting U.S. President or to state governors. This is in accordance with section 7 of the U.S. Flag Code.

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Have You Witnessed a Misconception Play Out in Real Life?

We would love to hear about your encounters with American flag myths! Send us your photos of American flags, flagpoles, ropes, or other accessories! We would be honored to feature your story and photography in our blog or on Facebook. Remember, photos of damaged flags and accessories help to tell a story, too!

Do you have suggestions for information you'd like to see here? If so, please send them our way!

Please send all of your suggestions or questions to service@LibertyFlags.com. We want to hear from you!

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

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