Modern United States Flag Design Protocol

1959 United States Flag Design Protocol, August 21, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

Established August 21, 1959

In 1959, the year that Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union as the 49th and 50th states, it was time for an update to the design of the American flag… twice.

Fortunately, President Eisenhower had put plenty of forethought into the situation and new designs were ready to roll out.

Knowing that the flag had changed numerous times since 1776, Eisenhower reviewed the history of those changes and decided that a plan for reviewing and accepting the new flag design would be necessary for such a wide-scale undertaking. So in 1953, he preemptively assembled a team and the process began.

Eisenhower also found that, in the past, conflicts or confusion often arose over which design would be accepted and used nationally. Thus, he determined that an executive order could provide the necessary clarification.

First, following the admission of Alaska in January, Executive Order 10798 on January 3, 1959 established the standards for the 49-star flag and provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.

That order was revoked by Executive Order 10834’s entry to the Code of Federal Regulations on August 21, 1959, which set the standards for the 50-star flag that we have today.

You can read Executive Order 10834 here, and see the specifications illustrated below.

United States Flag Design Specifications

1959 United States Flag Design Protocol, August 21, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

The basic design of the current flag is specified as follows.

  • Hoist (height) of the flag: A = 1.0
  • Fly (width) of the flag: B = 1.9
  • Hoist (height) of the canton ("union"): C = 0.5385 (A × 7/13, spanning seven stripes)
  • Fly (width) of the canton: D = 0.76 (B × 2/5, two-fifths of the flag width)
  • E = F = 0.0538 (C/10, One-tenth of the height of the canton)
  • G = H = 0.0633 (D/12, One twelfth of the width of the canton)
  • Diameter of star: K = 0.0616 (L × 4/5, four-fifths of the stripe width, the calculation only gives 0.0616 if L is first rounded to 0.077)
  • Width of stripe: L = 0.0769 (A/13, One thirteenth of the flag height

Keep in mind that, strictly speaking, Executive Order 10834 only governs flags made for or by the federal government. Most flags made for the public (including flags flown over the Capitol) have a slightly different height to width ratio. American flags that are made to these exact specifications are called "G-Spec" (government specifications) flags.

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