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About American Flags

The entire month of July will be dedicated to American History as told through American flags.  Before 1912, there was no specific design for the American flag.  Neither the placement of stars on the blue field was not set, nor the shape of the stars were set.  The stars could be, and were, placed in a variety of patterns (particularly circles) and designed in several shapes.  The flags became unique works of art that today are very collectible. 

 Politicians for over a century used the flag with their personal logos, portraits and text. As the flag became regarded as an American symbol, the public demanded that the alteration of the flag be banned.  In 1905, the US Congress banned the alteration of the American flag.

Since flags were designed for use outside, damage was not uncommon.  Many of our older flags will have rips, tears and stains.  Each flag is different, yet that are commonalities. There are two types of flags.  Sewn flags are generally hand- or machine-sewn and can vary in size but averaged about seven feet, decreasing in size over time.  They are generally designed for flying on for prolonged periods of time on staffs or masts or carried into battle.  Parade flags (known as hand-wavers) are smaller in size and were printed on wool, cotton, silk, or paper.  They are often placed on sticks and used for waving at parades or rallies and such. Flags generally have 13 stripes, representing the thirteen original colonies.  The exceptions will be featured later — as will star shapes and canton configurations.  Finally, all flags whether hung horizontally or vertically should be hung with the canton (blue field) in the upper left hand corner.

Throughout July, we’ll check out many American flags and their history.  Flags have their own etiquette (which we will do tomorrow) and their own vocabulary.  For example, the canton (or union) refers to the blue quadrant. Grommets are the metal reinforcements through which rope could be tied for flying a flag.  Gussets are square or rectangular reinforcements sewn onto in the corners of flags, to increase the amount of fabric and stitching in the places where they receive the most stress during use

Tomorrow, Flag Etiquette and a particularly historical flag.   Rita Bay

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