By Madison Monroe
The Capitol Flag Program began in 1937 when a Member of Congress requested a flag that had flown over the Capitol. Over the years, the focus of the program gradually expanded to encompass the commemoration of national holidays and various special events, as well as to honor the work of groups such as schools and civic organizations. Requests for Capitol flags rapidly outgrew the supply; hence, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) instituted a program of flying smaller flags that may be purchased through Members’ offices.
The AOC fulfills all flag requests from Members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. Flags are flown daily year-round, weather permitting, excluding Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Currently, the AOC fulfills on average more than 100,000 flag requests from Members of Congress annually, with the number of requests and the popularity of the Capitol Flag Program growing steadily each year. There are special flag poles where all flags are flown. After it is flown over the U.S. Capitol, each flag is issued a keepsake Certificate of Authenticity by the AOC.
To obtain a flag flown over the Capitol, the general public must contact their Representative or Senator. The average wait time before receiving your flag is two weeks.
According to an article from 2002 in The Telegraph, the Capitol Flag Program has 20 employees whose job revolves around hoisting flags up and down on the roof of the Capitol. On the one-year anniversary of September 11, the team met on the Capitol roof at midnight “in a vain attempt to meet the demand for flags that flew on September 11” and raised and lowered 8,000 flags over the next 21 hours.
Conversely, our Canadian neighbors must wait a whopping 99 years for a Canadian flag flown over the Peace Tower and 86 years if flown over Parliament. Both these waits exceed the average lifespan of Canadians. Their flag program began in 1994 and there are more than 36,000 people on the waiting list. Since most Canadians will not receive a requested flag in their lifetime, they include instructions in their wills about the flag.