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  • 1897—Adoption of State Flag Desecration Statutes
  • 1907—The Supreme Court ruled States have the authority to enforce U.S. flag Desecration Statutes
  • June 14, 1923—National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference, Washington, D.C.
  • June 22, 1942—President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved HJR 303 codifying U.S. Flag rules
  • December 22, 1942—Congress passed Public Law 77-826; Chapter 806—the U.S. Flag Code
  • 1953—Section 7(c) amended with:

No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or 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 or any Territory or 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 position of superior prominence or 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.

  • 1976—Section 8(j) amended with:

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. 

To amend title 4, United States Code, to authorize the Governor of a State, territory, or possession of the United States to order that the National flag be flown at half-staff in that State, territory, or possession in the event of the death of a member of the Armed Forces from that State, territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty.

1897

A perception of commercial and political misuse of the American flag led to a movement to protect the flag. Failing to pass a law at the federal level, states began enacting Flag Desecration Statutes, beginning with Illinois, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. All the states adopted the law by 1932.

1907

The Supreme Court rules for the States in Halter vs. Nebraska. The decision reinforced the rights of states to enact Flag Desecration laws. The case pitted two businessmen selling Stars and Stripes beer, whose label contained an American flag. The commercial use of the U.S. flag was specifically denied in the State Flag Desecration Statutes. This protection of the flag is now part of the U.S. Flag Code.

June 14, 1923

A real effort to codify flag law took place in Washington, D.C. in June 1923, and a second National Flag Conference was held in 1924. From these we have the foundation of what is today our U.S. Flag Code. Marc Leepson gives some insight into the conference in his book, Flag: An American Biography.

… The conferees did, indeed agree on the nation’s first Flag Code. They based it heavily on a War Department Flag Circular that had been published earlier in the year. …

… The code also included the Pledge of Allegiance and the proper ways to render it, as well as a section on the proper ways to respect the flag. …

… There was, however, an antisocialist, anticommunist, political dimension to the conference. Harding administration secretary of labor James J. Davis expressed the gist of that feeling when he warned the conference that “disrespect for the flag” was one of the “first steps” toward communist revolution.

June 22, 1942

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Flag Code, solidifying the uniform guidelines, and paving the way for Congressional action later that same year.

December 22, 1942

Congress passed Public Law 77-826; Chapter 806, making the Unites States Flag Code the law of the land. Since there is no stipulation for enforcement, the law is voluntary and ruled by respect for the flag and our country.

Since 1942

Several additions have been added to the Flag Code as noted above, with the latest in 2007 by President George W. Bush.

6 Responses to “Brief History of the United States Flag Code”

  1. [...] though the U.S. Flag Code wasn’t passed by Congress until 1942, it was codified in 1923 by the National Flag [...]

  2. [...] U.S. Flag Code was made law by Congress December 22, 1942, codifying what President Roosevelt had signed in June of the same year. The code [...]

  3. [...] is a dramatization. The U.S. Flag Code was a compilation from many different sources—State Flag Desecration Laws, Military Flag Codes, and more, compiled in 1923 by the National [...]

  4. Tatiana says:

    very interesting info, thanks for posting it here…

  5. Cappi says:

    I am looking for a copy – real or electronic – of the 1923 Flag Code. And anything from the 1924 conference. Do you have any ideas where I could get this information?

  6. Cappi, my reference materials are not available to me at present, so I will have to rely on my memory card which is a little slow :)
    1.The 1923 National Americanism Commission was sponsored by the American Legion, so they are your first resource. Their website is very large so be patient, and you can always try to reach one of their historians by telephone.
    2.Marc Leepson’s book “Flag” is loaded with detail so look for it: http://www.marcleepson.com/
    3. The National Archives are not easy to navigate, but I’m sure you can find the text of the original documents there. http://www.archives.gov/
    Thank you for writing, Cappi.
    Good luck and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

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