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Universal flag etiquette dictates that you should display the American flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. 

This rule, and many others, guide Americans in the proper flag etiquette for how to hang the American flag. Display guidelines follow a few general rules, such as hanging the American flag in a specific and prominent position relevant to other flags, and the direction the flag should face. 

Read on to learn more, or download a free, printable PDF of the American flag rules.

How do you want to display your American Flag?

General Flag Display and American Flag Etiquette


When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window, the American flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. No other flag or pennant should be placed above, or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea...for personnel of the Navy...when the church pennant may be flown above the flag.

No person shall display the flag of the United Nations of any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory of possession thereof; provided, that nothing in this section shall make unlawful the continuance of the practice heretofore followed of displaying the flag of the United Nations in a positions of equal prominence of honor, and other national flags in positions of equal prominence or honor, with that of the flag of the United States at the headquarters of the United Nations.

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How to Hang State Flags with the American Flag


When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak with six inches between each flag displayed.

Shop State flags here

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How to Hang State or Company Flags with the American Flag


When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the American flag should always be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag's right (or the observers left).

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The American flag, when displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right (the flag's own right) and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

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How to Hang Military Flags with the American Flag

The Order of Precedence

For military displays, from the viewer's left to right, when displaying flags together in a military context is to display the United States Flag (also known as the "colors" or "national colors"), is followed by the flags of the U.S. ArmyU.S. Marine CorpsU.S. NavyU.S. Air ForceU.S. Space Force, and U.S. Coast Guard.

American Flag Rules for POW/MIA Flag Display

On Thursday, November 7, 2019, the President signed into law: S. 693, the National POW/MIA Flag Act which honors service members who are Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA) by increasing frequency of POW/MIA flag display on specified Federal properties.

The National POW/MIA Flag Act will ensure that the POW/MIA Flag is displayed whenever the U.S. flag is displayed, effectively ensuring that both flags are displayed concurrently and every day at federal locations already designated under existing law. Those locations include the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, every national cemetery, the buildings containing the official offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, the office of the Director of the Selective Service System, each major military installation (as designated by the Secretary of Defense), each Department of Veterans Affairs medical center, and each United States Postal Service post office.

New Jersey KIA (Killed In Action) Flag Display Rules

Effective August 7, 2017, Bill #S1497 requires all municipal buildings to fly the KIA Flag. "The flag shall be displayed during normal business hours at the State House in Trenton, the principal municipal building in each municipality, and the principal county building in each county seat." 

For more information on how to hang your flag, click here to read the entire bill.


How to Hang Multiple Flags with the American Flag


The American flag should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

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How to Hang International Country Flags with the American Flag


When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

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Hanging the American Flag around a Speaker's Platform


When used on a speaker's platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker. This will make the flag on the right of the audience. Our presentation sets include all U.S. states, American Flag, all world flags, historic flags, military flags, province and territory flags and city and district flags plus religious flags. We can also create any presentation flag you want, just visit our custom flag page for details.

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How to Hang the American Flag at Half-Staff


The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. On Memorial Day, the American flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of the State, territory or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory.

In the event of the death of other officials of foreign dignitaries, the American flag etiquette rules state the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to presidential instructions of orders, or in accordance with recognized customs practices not inconsistent with law. In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory or possession of the United States, the Governor of that State, territory or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff.

The flag shall be flown at half-staff thirty days from the death of the President or a former President; ten days from the death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until internment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress. The flag shall be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day, unless that day is also Armed Forces Day.

Flags flown on poles affixed to a home or building are not to be flown at half staff but a memorial streamer may be affixed to the top of the flagpole. Check the American Flag Status on our site or sign up for our half-staff notices too and we will inform you of national half-staff alerts. 

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 Displaying a US Flag during Maritime


For the most part, the provisions of the Flag Code are manifest in the traditions and customs for the display of the U.S. Ensign (flag) by seamen. The following provisions are made for the display of the flag on a mast located on yacht club grounds. (Chapman Piloting: Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, American Book-Stratford Press, Inc., New York, NY)

1. Single Mast (no Yard or Gaff)
• U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at the truck (#1).
• All other flags are pennants flown below U.S. Ensign.

2. Mast with Yard:
• U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at the truck (#1).
• Club burgee (flag) is flown at the starboard (right) yard arm (#3).

3. Mast with a Yard and Gaff:
• U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at the gaff (#2).
• Club burgee (flag) is flown at the truck (#1).
• Flags at #3 and #4 vary depending on the activity at the club.

It is display #3 that causes the most confusion. This puts the club burgee in a higher position physically, but not above that of the U.S. Ensign (flag) symbolically. By the normal Flag Code provisions, this would seem to be an incorrect display. The tradition of the seas, however, is to hold the gaff as the position of honor; thus, the intent of this tradition and display is to give proper respect to the flag.

Where a yard is involved, rules provide that when a foreign ensign is displayed, the U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at #3; the foreign ensign at #4; the club burgee at #1; and other flags at #2.

The gaff extends aft (to the rear), and a mast on yacht club grounds is faced seaward. Therefore the gaff will (or should) be directed toward the land. The observation point then becomes a point somewhere on the sea side of the mast. This then makes the placement of the U.S. Ensign (flag) in regard to the foreign ensign conform to Flag Code provisions.

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 Displaying a US Flag on a Vehicle

- Motorcycles and American Flags

When the US flag is flown alone, it needs be centered on the back of the motorcycle, or to its "marching right." The "marching right" is on the right side of the motorcycle to the rider's perspective when facing forward. If the US Flag is on your bike with another, it should be to its "marching right." All flags flown with the US Flag are the same size and at the same height of the US Flag. While the US Flag is on your bike with several other flags the US flag is placed at the center and highest. Other flags should be arranged in alphabetical order and in decreasing importance - Nations first, states (in order of admittance) and territories second, military third (in order of establishment), and then any others.

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- Vehicle

The orientation of the flag on vehicle decals should be treated the same as arm patches. The National Flag Foundation suggests "The decals or paintings on a vehicle would also be placed so that the union on the driver's side of the vehicle would be to the viewer's left while the union on the passenger side of the vehicle would be to the viewer's right." Read more about the National Flag Foundation by visiting their Web site at www.AmericanFlags.org.

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Other American Flag Rules

- Display on Arm Patches

"No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart."

U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(j)

The National Flag Foundation suggests "...we recommend that the flag patch on the left sleeve of a uniform should have the union to the viewer's left while a patch on the right sleeve should be displayed with the union to the viewer's right so that, in both cases, the flag is facing forward and is streaming to the back as the person moves forward." Read more about the National Flag Foundation by visiting their Web site at www.AmericanFlags.org.

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