Is there any such thing as an Authentic American flag?

Discussion in 'American Flag History' started by USA743, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. USA743

    USA743 New Member

    I guess what I mean is, is there a specific American Made company, and exact specs, materials in order for it to be a true flag?
     
  2. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Any flag made to conform to the specifications in President Eisenhower's Executive Order 10834, issued August 25, 1959, would be an authentic and official flag of the United States. Here is a link to that Executive Order along with the drawing:
    Executive Order 10834 - Wikisource

    Although the Order specifies that the flag must be in the proportions 1:1.9 most US flagmakers follow a 2:3 or 3:5 proportion. The table of standard sizes apply to flags made for the government - the 1:1.9 proportions and other details should be followed for all US National flags.

    So to answer your specific questions:
    1) "Is there any such thing as an Authentic American flag?" Yes, one that conforms to EO 10834.
    2) "...specific American Made company..." No, the flag may be made by anyone.
    3) "...materials..." No, the material it is made from is immaterial. The flag must conform to those specs whether made of cotton, silk, rayon, wool, nylon, polyester, plastic, paper, metal, wood, whatever. Some argue that a "flag" must be made of cloth and fly from a pole. Others contend that the design of 50 stars and 13 stripes is the Flag of the United States even when made of painted wood or printed on paper or metal or adhesive material like a decal.

    (Note that our flag, technically, should not be called the "American Flag." Every national flag in the Western Hemisphere from Canada to Chile is an American Flag. Because of tradition and common usage in English, we in the US and most others call it the American Flag.)
     
  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Just to expand a little on Nick's comments: A flag does not have to conform to E.O. 10834 to be a "real" American flag. The Executive Order addresses flags used by the Executive Branch of the federal government, which includes the armed forces. Flags used by other branches of the government, and by private citizens, do not have to conform to the E.O., and most of them don't. My favorite example is the flags that are flown on the US Capitol building in Washington DC -- they are 6 x 8 feet, which is different from the proportions specified in the E.O.

    The legal definition of the US flag is in 4 USC Sections 1 and 2 (with my comments in brackets):

    "1. The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars [see below], white in a blue field.
    2. On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission." [This was codified, of course, before Alaska and Hawaii became states -- their stars were added on July 4 1959 and July 4 1960, respectively, for a total of 50 stars]

    If a flag meets the above description, then it's US flag, at least as far as the law is concerned.

    Peter Ansoff
     
  4. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    I agree with Peter that the bare bones description of the flag of the United States, as codified in law, goes no further than the above sentence. However, Eisenhower's executive order establishes the size of the stars, the orientation of the points, the size of the canton (how many stripes deep it is), and the overall proportions of the flag. Absent that guidance, your flag could be square, the canton could be smaller or larger, and it could have the stars pointing in random directions and arranged in any pattern you please.

    In my opinion, then, the EO is a necessary part of the description of the flag and if you accept the arrangement of the stars in 9 rows alternating 6 and 5 as the only "official" pattern, then you need to accept the 1:1.9 ratio. The fact that flags in 2x3 and 3x5 proportions are purchased for members of congress does not violate 4USC because Members of Congress are our elected representatives, not part of government agencies.
     
  5. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    In my opinion, then, the EO is a necessary part of the description of the flag and if you accept the arrangement of the stars in 9 rows alternating 6 and 5 as the only "official" pattern, then you need to accept the 1:1.9 ratio. The fact that flags in 2x3 and 3x5 proportions are purchased for members of congress does not violate 4USC because Members of Congress are our elected representatives, not part of government agencies.

    Well . . . the problem is that we not talking about just flags that "are purchased for members of congress" -- we're talking about the overwhelming majority of all the flags that are manufactured and flown in the USA, including the ones on the east and west fronts of the Capitol building. Does this mean that the 3x5 flag that I fly on my house is not a "real" US flag?

    Amusingly, Congress itself has added to the confusion on this point, by one of their amendments to the flag code (in 1976, I think). Section 5 says:

    "The flag of the United States for the purpose of [the flag code] shall be defined according to sections 1 and 2 of this title and Executive Order 10834 issued pursuant thereto."

    Taken at face value, this says that if a flag is not in the 10:19 proportions, it's not a US flag for the purposes of the flag code! Obviously, this is not what they meant to do -- some Congressional staffer was a little to clever.

    Best,

    Peter Ansoff
     
  6. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Peter,

    You said "Taken at face value, this says that if a flag is not in the 10:19 proportions, it's not a US flag for the purposes of the flag code!"

    I agree that whether or not a flag has to be 1:1.9 to be a "real" flag is either absurd or nit-picking. Especially in light of the fact that one of the reasons that U.S. government, and most of the world's naval flags are specified to be long and narrow is so that the worn fly end can be trimmed, re-hemmed, and continue to be flown. The flag does not become "unofficial" when you repair it as intended. The obvious intent was that the basic design (for the U.S. flag) was established as the 50 stars and 13 stripes, with additional details provided to ensure manufacturing consistency.

    At least we are not arguing basic details like in the old days like in October 1778, when Benjamin Franklin and John Adams actually told the Neapolitan ambassador that "the flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen stripes, alternately red, white and blue.

    Nick
     
  7. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    when Benjamin Franklin and John Adams actually told the Neapolitan ambassador that "the flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen stripes, alternately red, white and blue.

    There are a number of Revolutionary War-era references to US flags with red, white and blue stripes. What's curious is that almost all of them come from people who were stationed in Europe, or pictures and descriptions of incidents that occured in European waters. Why? Who knows . . . another good subject for a research paper!

    Peter A.
     
  8. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    It was probably because of flag charts like this Italian one that shows some of the the USA flags with R W B stripes:

    McCanlessBandiere1.jpg
     

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