There are a lot of stories out there about the US flag, but while some of these are historically accurate, some are not. That’s not to say they’re completely false, but some of these myths do bend the truth a bit. Here are a few commonly believed myths about the flag that you may have always assumed were the truth.
The Flag Was Designed by Betsy Ross
Many people learned that George Washington asked seamstress and upholsterer Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new union. In fact, the story says that Ross convinced Washington to make changes to the ideas he had for the flag, including changing the six-pointed stars to five-pointed ones.
This is a great story, but there’s actually no historical evidence for it. Historians have traced the story back to Ross’s grandson William Canby, who wrote about this supposed meeting in the 1870s. There’s no documentation or other evidence to back up his claims. Then there’s the fact that Washington was rarely in Philadelphia, the location of Ross’s shop, during the time. Because of this, it’s likely the identity of true designer and creator of the first US flag is no longer known.
Flying the Flag is an American Tradition
This is a myth that is about half true, half false. Today, we do see the American flag flown at home and in many other locations. Many homebuyers look into flagpole installation options so they can show their love of their country.
However, this is actually fairly new. People only started displaying the US flag prominently following the Civil War. Those in the north began flying the US flag as a way of showing support for the Union. This sudden wave of patriotism continued and created the myth that the flag has always been flown at homes and other areas.
However, prior to the Civil War, the flag was typically only flown at government buildings, forts, and on naval ships. It would have been considered very odd for the average person to have the American flag flying at their private home.
The Flag Design Has Always Included Stars and Stripes
Early flag designs actually didn’t include both of these features. Some, like the 1775 flag, didn’t have any stars on it at all. In fact, it actually included the British Union Jack in the corner where the stars are today to show the country’s previous affiliation with England. This flag was typically flown on naval vessels to distinguish friend from foe. There were a few other designs used during this time, but the earliest to feature the stars and stripes we know today wasn’t used until 1777. This flag features 13 stars in a circle design to represent the 13 colonies.
The Flag Should Never Touch the Ground and Should Be Destroyed if it Does
This is another half-true myth. It is true that the US Flag Code does state that the flag shouldn’t touch anything below it, including other flags and the ground. This is meant to meant that when placed on a short flag pole, the pole needs to be long enough to prevent the edge of the flag from dragging on the ground.
The myth part to this is there is no rule about destroying a flag that has touched the ground. The Flag Code states that any flag that is in disrepair and can no longer be properly displayed should be destroyed, preferably by burning. If a flag touches the ground and is not damaged or permanently discolored, there’s no need to destroy it.
You Should Always Fold the Flag into a Triangle
While it’s become tradition to fold the flag into a triangle with the stars on top, this isn’t part of the Flag Code. You can fold a flag into a square for storage without violating any rule. If your flag is attached to a staff, the flag should be rolled around it. These flags typically come with a cover that is then put over the flag to protect it and prevent it from unrolling.
You Should Never Fly the Flag at Night
This myth is a case of only reading half of a sentence. The US Flag Code does state that the flag should not be flown at night, but it also states that flags that are illuminated are an exception to this role. So if you have lights near the base of your flagpole that shine upwards, it’s perfectly fine to fly the flag 24 hours a day. How much light is required? The code doesn’t say, but most people agree that it needs to be sufficient enough that someone on the ground can identify the flag as the US flag.
These are just a few of the myths surrounding the flag of the United States. Thinking about flying a flag at your home? AC Flag & Banner has a great selection of flags and can help with flagpole installation.