History, Respect, Undies: Things to Know About the U.S. Flag

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Stars and Stripes, The Star Spangled Banner and Old Glory — the Fourth of July is a great opportunity to celebrate our nation's flag.

In honor of the flag that’s survived combat, inspired songs, created national debates around the president and the NFL and even been planted in outer space, these are some facts all Americans should know about our flag.

The Flag Got Its Own Holiday in 1949

History tells us that on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act establishing an official flag for the new nation. The resolution stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

On August 3, 1949, President Harry S. Truman officially declared June 14 as Flag Day.

The first photograph of the original 'Star Spangled Banner.' It survived the bombardment of Ft McHenry, inspired our National Anthem, and was on display at the Boston Navy Yard in 1873. Photo credit Smithsonian Museum of American History
The Real O.G. (Old Glory)

The National Museum of American History is currently working on The Preservation Project, where they're laboring to restore the giant flag which survived the round-the-clock bombing of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, by British troops in 1814. This is the pivotal event that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star-Spangled Banner." The preservation effort began in June 1999, and continues to this day. The flag is kept in a special low-oxygen, filtered light chamber and is periodically examined under a microscope to detect any damage.

Photo credit Smithsonian Museum of American History

To document the flag, conservators had it photographed. Because of its size and the confined space of the lab, the flag could not be photographed as a whole. The photographer took seventy-three separate images. Using computer technology, each frame was pieced together, like a puzzle, into a composite image.

Photo credit Smithsonian Museum of American History

The flag was moved to a new specially-built conservation lab museum visitors observed the conservation process through a 50-foot (15.2-m)-long glass wall. A moveable bridge (gantry) gave the conservation team a working surface above the flag. The lab was equipped with its own heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) that kept the air free of contaminants and maintained a steady temperature and humidity.

Stand or Kneel?

Photo credit Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Read deep enough into United States Flag Code (Title 4, USC Chapter 1, Sec. 8 "Respect for the Flag") and you'll find it addresses the issue. While it does not speak directly to conduct related to the national anthem ceremony at a football game, the text is pretty specific for the ceremonies usually observed at sunrise and sunset.

"During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, those present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes."

However, it does state that fans like this are clearly violating the code. "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

Photo credit Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK

John Towles, Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Security & Foreign Affairs Director shared some inspring words about respecting the flag: “Our nation's flag serves as a beacon of freedom and prosperity for people all over the world. On this day, we honor a moment in history that played a tremendous part in establishing our own sovereignty as a nation, and to pay tribute to a symbol that means so much to so many.”

We Laid an Astronomical Stake With Our Flag

Photo credit Getty Images

In July 1969, Neil Armstrong placed Old Glory on the moon. Flags were also placed there on each of the Apollo program's six manned landings. We’re not exactly sure what position space lawyers would take on the ownership of our moon, but we’d like to think that as long as our flag is flying there — its ours!

How to Really Raise a Flag

According to Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1 here are some rules to follow:

—The flag is usually displayed from sunrise to sunset.—It should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.—In inclement weather the flag weather should not be flown.—The flag should be displayed on all holidays, weather permitting, on or near the main administration buildings of all public institutions, polling places on election days and on every schoolhouse.—When displayed flat against a wall or window, the union field of stars should be to the uppermost left of the observer.—The U.S. flag should never be dipped toward any person or object, nor should the flag ever touch anything beneath it.

Are Flag Underpants Legal?

Photo credit Getty Images

No. According to United States Code, Chapter 1, Section 8 (d) "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free."

So, now you know. Whether you're saluting it, admiring it or you've got patriotism in your pants, we hope you have a happy Flag Day!

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