The United States flag holds an important place in American history. The U.S. flag has a history as rich, and almost as long, as the United States itself! It is unknown who designed the first stars and stripes or who made it, although Betsy Ross is recognized as sewing the first flag and it is thoughts that Congressman Francis Hopkinson designed it.
The first Flag Act was passed by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. It stated, “Resolved that the flag of the United States be made of 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” The flag as we know it (apart from a few stars) was prescribed by an Executive Order of June 24, 1912, which standardized the order of the stars and the proportions of the flag.
There is much ceremony surrounding our flag, but we give little thought to flag poles, which are also known as flagstaffs. Here are answers to some of the questions you may have about flag pole height and etiquette, as well as some interesting facts your may never have considered.
Flag Pole Height
When deciding what size flagpole to buy and install, consider the following:
- How large is the flag to be flown?
- What is the flag made of?
- How many flags will be flown?
- Will the flagpole be erected in a windy area?
Make sure your flagpole is at least two feet or more than the length of the flag that you plan to fly away from other buildings, trees, power lines or other flagpoles. Consider the position of the flag in relation to other structures at full mast, half-staff and when you raise and lower it.
You could consider a decorative finial for the top. Finials come in many decorative forms, including bald eagles, arrowheads and orbs.
It is customary to display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs, but it can be displayed 24 hours a day if illuminated at night by using flagpole lights.
There are many options to illuminate your flagpole. Some options include:
- Hardwired floodlights, installed at the base of the flagpole
- Solar lights, installed at the base of the flagpole, mounted on the flagpole or attached to the top of the flagpole
- Low-voltage landscape lights, installed at the base of the flagpole
When the flag is raised, it is done swiftly. When the flag is lowered, it is done slowly and solemnly (both as a matter of ceremony and a matter of safety – nobody wants to get clunked in the head with the halyard or clips).
When the flag is flown with other flags (those of states, communities or societies) on separate flagpoles of the same height, the U.S. flag is placed to its own right, in the position of honor. It is always the first flag to be raised and the last to be lowered.
When displayed with the flags of other nations, each flag must be flown from a separate pole of the same height. The flags must be the same size, and they must be raised and lowered at the same time.
If the U.S. flag is displayed from a wall-mounted flagpole, the flagpole must be mounted horizontally or at an angle from the exterior of a building with the union of the flag at the top of the staff.
To safely install a flagpole, dig a hole! The size of the hole depends on the size of the flagpole. A flagpole should be buried at least ten percent of its height.
A 20-foot flagpole should have at least 2 feet underground. Once the proper hole has been dug, wet down the earth and fill the hole with concrete. Insert a ground sleeve (a pipe, often made of PVC) into the center of the concrete.
This is where you will insert the flagpole. Make sure the flagpole isn’t in contact with the concrete, as concrete corrodes most metals.
When landscaping around a flagpole, remember the keywords are dignity and respect. We respect the flag (otherwise, why would we fly it?) and what it stands for. Of course, you will also want to landscape in a style that fits your home or business. Here are a few landscaping ideas:
- Plant your flagpole in the middle of a flower bed (make sure you add some stepping stones so that you can raise and lower the flag).
- Plant some hedges around the flagpole, and consider how large the bushes will grow in relation to the height of the flagpole.
- Pave the area around the flagpole with interlocking pavers or brick.
- Pave the area around the flagpole with pea gravel or other decorative garden stone.
As a show of our patriotism, many Americans choose to proudly fly the United States flag. Let’s make sure we do it properly, with the taste and dignity that t deserves!