Discussion in 'Other US Flag Etiquette' started by TMHowlett, Jul 6, 2007.

  1. TMHowlett

    TMHowlett Guest

    My son has asked me to find out what the meanings are behind the 13 folds in the American flag in a funeral service are. I have checked several different resources, and none of them agree on anything. Can someone help me.
    He is scheduled to ship out to Irac on the 8Th of August, and has not asked much of me, and I would like to be able to do this one small thing for him.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks Everyone!
  2. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hello, welcome to the forum!

    First of all, there is no inherent meaning in the folds of the flag. The fact that there are 13 folds (more or less; it depends on which ones you count) is just an accident of geometry. However, at some point somebody came up with a litany of what each fold is supposed to stand for. It is not part of the flag code, and has no official standing of any kind. You can find one version of it on the web site of the American Legion, here:

    Symbols for the folds of the Flag

    Personally, I find parts of this somewhat inappropriate, but many people seem to like it. I'm always amused, however, by the fifth fold, which misquotes Stephen Decatur:

    "The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.""

    This is not exactly what Decatur said. The correct quotation is:

    "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong." (The source is a biography of Decatur written by Alexander S. Mackenzie in 1846. Decatur was making a toast, so Mackenzie probably wrote it from memory.)

    I guess whoever wrote this didn't think the we should talk about intercourse while folding the flag!

    Anyway, hope that this information is useful. Best wishes to you, and especially to your son.

    Peter Ansoff
  3. CultureGeek

    CultureGeek Member

    Well, considers it "false" but I sort of disagree. I would call it "multiple truth values" or an "other" type of truth value. These meanings aren't original to the flag or part of the flag code or anything. However, rightly allows that these meanings are now "real" even though they are relatively recent, because they have meaning to people now:
    Urban Legends Reference Pages: Military (Grand Fold Flag)

    The page contains another (relatively similar) version of the poem and a link to a flag-folding ceremony that incorporates it.
  4. TMHowlett

    TMHowlett Guest

    Thank you very much Mr. Schurz, that is the one that my son wanted.
  5. a flag of proportions 1-1.9 will fold 13 times...
    but if your ever folded a 5x3 flag - ie one which flew over the capitol- you will find you can only fold it 11 times! this is because the width - length ratio is smaller

    alnd also when folding larger flags of post flag size (8ft 11in 3/8x 17ft) or bigger you may need to fold the lengh 3 or more times before you stand your triangles- making the number bigger than 13.
  6. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Folding the Flag

    As far as I know, no one has been able to determine how and when the flag-folding procedure originated. The earliest reference that I've seen was from about 1930, I think, and it seems to have started in the US Army. A good guess is that it was simply a practical way that a small number of soldiers could fold a large flag without allowing it to touch the ground. It also brings the top and bottom grommets together, and makes them easily accessible. That way, when it's time to raise it again, the grommets can be attached to the halyard without entirely unfolding the flag.

    Here's a great topic for some research!

    Peter Ansoff

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