{ subscribe_url: '/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/law.php' }

Flag Day and the Flag Code

As a reference librarian working on the reference desk in the Law Library Reading Room, I answer a whole range of questions on state and federal law and some days it feels as though every question is on a new topic.  But in fact, there are some topics which are of continuing interest to our patrons, and one of them is flag etiquette.  Since June 14th is celebrated as Flag Day, I thought it would be useful to provide some information about the origin of Flag Day as well as direct our readers to federal and state flag codes and other resources on flag etiquette.

140th flag day, 1777-1917 The birthday of the stars and stripes, June 14th, 1917.

On June 14, 1777 the second Continental Congress adopted a resolution establishing the flag of the United States.  Over a hundred years later a Wisconsin school teacher began to advocate for recognizing June 14 as the Flag’s Birthday or Flag Day.  Then in 1916, President Wilson issued Presidential Proclamation 1335 in which he “suggested” and “requested” that every community in the United States should observe June 14 as Flag Day.  Congress subsequently passed a law in 1949 which established June 14 as Flag Day and requested the President to issue an annual proclamation for Flag Day.  This proclamation instructs U.S. government officials to display the flag on all Government buildings and asks the people of the United States to observe the day in honor of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.  The current law can be found in the United States Code, Title 36, section 110.

As well as law establishing the official flag and Flag Day, Congress has also passed laws regarding the design of the flag as well as laws regarding the time, occasions, position and manner of display. These laws can be found in Title 4 of the United States Code, sections 1-10.

  • Section 5 of this Title states that this law pertains to the display and use of the flag for use by civilians or civilian groups.
  • Section 6 lays out the “Time and occasions for display.”
  • Section 7 gives information about the position and manner of display.

Despite two pages of information on the position and manner of display, going from subsection a-o, people often have additional questions relating to flag displays and flag etiquette and the American Legion has put together a helpful Flag Display FAQ which provides what might be termed an exegesis on flag displays.

In addition to Federal law on state displays, many states also have laws governing the display of state flags and of state flags in conjunction with the U.S. flag.  In Massachusetts, where I was born, Title 1, Chapter 2, section 6 of the Massachusetts code directs that the U.S. flag and the Massachusetts commonwealth flag shall be displayed on every public institution of the state.  The Texas state Government Code, section 443.024 provides detailed instructions about the display of the U.S. and Texas state flags at the Capitol building.  You can do research for your own state laws through the Law Library’s Guide to Law Online.  Just select the U.S. States & Territories option, then select your state and within a state search the first option under the heading “Legislative.”

Update: redirected U.S. Code links to House of Representatives Office of Law Revision Counsel new website.


  1. Elizabeth Brown
    June 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Also on the Library of Congress Web site, Today in History has an entry for Flag Day, June 14: //memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/jun14.html .

  2. giacomo l
    June 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Ho 70 anni sono innamorato della storia degli Stati Uniti D’America,leggo tutto sugli usa:
    Grande Nazione
    Dio Benedica L’America:

  3. Stephen
    July 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Lots of people never take the time to look at the FLAG CODE. They just take someones word for what and how to display it.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.