In the British colonies of North America before the Revolution, each of the 13 colonies had its flag. On Jan. 2, 1776, the first flag of the United States was raised at Cambridge, Mass., by George Washington. Known as the Grand Union flag, it consisted of 13 stripes, alternate red and white, with a blue canton bearing the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew. Congress, on June 14, 1777, enacted a resolution "that the Flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation." The story of Betsy Ross and the first flag is now somewhat discredited; official records have not confirmed that she was responsible for the design and making of the first flag.
On Jan. 13, 1794, Vermont and Kentucky having been admitted to the Union, Congress added a stripe and a star for each state. Congress in 1818 enacted that the 13 stripes, denoting the 13 original colonies, be restored and a star added to the blue canton for each state after its admission to the Union. All of the states and territories of the United States also have their own flags.Rules for Display
In 1942 a law was passed by the U.S. Congress establishing specific rules for the display of the U.S. flag by civilians or groups previously not subject to U.S. governmental regulations. The intent of the law was to ensure that the U.S. flag be given a position of honor. In a procession the U.S. flag is carried on the military right of the column; in procession with other flags it is carried in front; with another flag on a wall, both flags with staffs, the U.S. flag is to the right with the U.S. flagstaff in front of the other; with other flags on the same halyard, the U.S. flag is on top, although an exception is made when the church pennant of the services is flown from the same staff; with two or more flags in line, the U.S. flag is at right; with a group of other flags on display where the bottoms of the staffs touch in fanlike fashion, the U.S. flag is displayed in the center. Although the U.S. flag is usually displayed from sunrise to sunset, through law or presidential proclamation it is flown both day and night at the following patriotic sites: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historical Shrine, Md.; Flag House Square, Baltimore, Md.; United States Marine Corps (Iwo Jima) Memorial, Va.; and Battle Green, Lexington, Mass.
The International Code flags and pennants enable mariners to communicate regardless of differences of language. In the armies and navies of the various nations of the world, flags are used for signaling. The white flag is used universally for truce; the black in early times was a symbol for piracy; the red symbolizes mutiny or revolution; the yellow is a sign of infectious diseases. Shipping lines have their own flags. Striking a flag signifies surrender, and the flag of a victor is hoisted above that of the vanquished. A flag flown at half-mast is the symbol of mourning. The inverted national ensign is a signal of distress.
Symbolical standards were used by the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Jews. Biblical references to standards, ensigns, and banners are numerous. Early flags usually had a religious significance. The Dannebrog of Denmark, a red ensign that is swallow-tailed and bears a white cross, is no doubt the oldest flag design still in use. In France the Cape de St. Martin, originally kept in Marmoutier abbey, was borne upon the standards of the early kings, but this was succeeded by the oriflamme, the ancient banner of the abbey of St. Denis. The oriflamme was later replaced by the Bourbon white flag sprinkled with fleurs-de-lis, which in turn was succeeded by the tricolor at the time of the Revolution. William the Conqueror received his banner from the pope, and the ensign of Great Britain, the Union Jack (or Union Flag), is formed by the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick, the national saints, respectively, of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
In medieval times there were numerous flags in use—banners, banderoles, gonfalons, gonfanons, pennons, pennoncells, standards, streamers, and guidons. The banner, usually quadrangular in shape, was a battle flag bearing the arms of the person entitled to carry it. The banderole was smaller in size than the banner. The gonfalon and the gonfanon, also battle flags, were hung from a crosspiece attached to a staff or spear. The pennon was a long triangular flag, generally swallow-tailed, used as a knight bachelor's ensign. The pennoncell was a small pennon used for ceremonial purposes. The standard, used by nobles on ceremonial occasions, was a long, narrow flag, tapering toward the free end and richly decorated. The royal standard of today is derived from the medieval banner; it bears the royal arms and is smaller than the national flag, or ensign. The streamer was a long, narrow flag, tapering toward the fly, and generally carried at the masthead of a vessel. It has been replaced by the present-day pennant (or pendant, as it was earlier called and is still called in the British navy). The guidon was carried by cavalry; today it is used by the U.S. army for practically all units in dress parade and as a distinguishing flag.
See G. Campbell and I. O. Evans, The Book of Flags (5th ed. 1965); M. Talocci, Guide to the Flags of the World (1982).
A flag is a piece of cloth, often flown from a pole or mast, generally used symbolically for signaling or identification. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.
The first flags were used to assist military coordination on battlefields, and flags have since evolved into a general tool for rudimentary signaling and identification, This was especially used in environments where communication is similarly challenging (such as the maritime environment where semaphore is used). National flags are potent patriotic symbols with varied wide-ranging interpretations, often including strong military associations due to their original and ongoing military uses. Flags are also used in messaging, advertising, or for other decorative purposes. The study of flags is known as vexillology, from the Latin vexillum meaning flag or banner.
The Persians used Drafsch e Kavian as the flag, at the time of Achaemenian dynasty at 550–330 B.C. Afterwards it was used in different look by the late Sassanid era (224-651). It was also representative of the Sassanid state - Ērānshāhr, the "Kingdom of Iran" - and may so be considered to have been the first "national flag" of Iran.
Originally, the standards of the Roman legions were not flags, but symbols such as the eagle of Augustus Caesar's Xth legion; this graphic of the eagle would be placed on a staff for the standard-bearer to hold up during battle. But a military unit from Dacia had for a standard a dragon with a flexible tail which would move in the wind; the legions copied this, and eventually all the legions had physically flexible standards–the modern-day flag.
During the Middle Ages, flags were used mainly during battles to identify individual leaders: in Europe, the knights; in Japan, the samurai; in China, the generals under the imperial army; and in Mexico, the Aztec alliances.
From the time of Christopher Columbus onwards, it has been customary (and later a legal requirement) for ships to carry flags designating their nationality; these flags eventually evolved into the national flags and maritime flags of today. Flags also became the preferred means of communications at sea, resulting in various systems of flag signals; see, International maritime signal flags.
As European knights were replaced by centralized armies, flags became the means to identify not just nationalities but also individual military units. Flags became objects to be captured or defended. Eventually these flags posed too much of a practical danger to those carrying them, and by World War I these were withdrawn from the battlefields, and have since been used only at ceremonial occasions.
One of the most popular uses of a flag is to symbolize a nation or country. Some national flags have been particularly inspirational to other nations, countries, or subnational entities in the design of their own flags. Some prominent examples include:
National flag designs are often used to signify nationality in other forms, such as flag patches.
Other countries' armed forces (such as those of the United States or Switzerland) use their standard national flag. The Philippines' armed forces may use their standard national flag, but during times of war the flag is turned upside down - the only known case where an upside down national flag signifies a state of war (and not merely distress.) These are also considered war flags, though the terminology only applies to the flag's military usage.
In some countries yacht ensigns are different from merchant ensigns in order to signal that the yacht is not carrying cargo that requires a customs declaration. Carrying commercial cargo on a boat with a yacht ensign is deemed to be smuggling in many jurisdictions.
There is a system of international maritime signal flags for numerals and letters of the alphabet. Each flag or pennant has a specific meaning when flown individually.
As well, semaphore flags can be used to communicate on an ad hoc basis from ship to ship over short distances.
Some complex flag designs are not intended for through and through implementation, requiring separate obverse and reverse sides if made correctly. In these cases there is a design element (usually text) which is not symmetric and should be read in the same direction, regardless of whether the hoist is to the viewer's left or right. These cases can be divided into two types:
Common designs on flags include crosses, stripes, and divisions of the surface, or field, into bands or quarters — patterns and principles mainly derived from heraldry. A heraldic coat of arms may also be flown as a banner of arms, as is done on both the state flag of Maryland and the flag of Kiribati.
The flag of Libya, which consists of a rectangular field of green, is the only national flag using a single color and no design or insignia.
The largest flag, as adjudicated by Guinness World Records, is an flag of Israel made by Filipina Grace Galindez-Gupana and unfurled at Masada Airfield in November 2007. This flag plus 3 other gigantic national flags and 180 smaller flags of other countries were later sewn together by Gupana's multinational team to form the world's largest banner, covering an area of .
The largest flag regularly hoisted in the world is the Brazilian national flag flown in the Square of the Three Powers in Brasilia, Brazilian capital. This flag weights about 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds) and has 7,000 square meters (70×100 m = 230×330 feet) and had never went down since the capital inauguration.
Other large flags, in excess of that have been constructed, appear in the following list.
|United States ("Superflag")||Long Beach, California, USA|
|Central Tibetan Administration||Calais, France|
|APEC (largest flag ever flown)||Hanoi, Vietnam|
See also: Religion in national symbols.
Though this can be done in an uncontroversial manner in some cases, this can easily lead to some problems for certain languages:
In this second case, common solutions include symbolising these languages by:
Thus, on the Internet, it is most common to see the English language associated to the flag of the United Kingdom, but sometimes to the flag of England, the flag of the United States or a US-UK mixed flag, usually divided diagonally.
Because of their ease of signaling and identification, flags are often used in sports.
In Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, and the United Kingdom a pair of red/yellow flags is used to mark the limits of the bathing area on a beach, usually guarded by surf lifesavers. If the beach is closed, the poles of the flags are crossed. The flags are colored with a red triangle and a yellow triangle making a rectangular flag, or a red rectangle over a yellow rectangle. On many Australian beaches there is a slight variation with beach condition signaling. A red flag signifies a closed beach (or, in the UK, some other danger), yellow signifies strong current or difficult swimming conditions, and green represents a beach safe for general swimming. In Ireland, a red and yellow flag indicates that it is safe to swim; a red flag that it is unsafe; and no flag indicates that there are no lifeguards on duty. Blue flags may also be used away from the yellow-red lifesaver area to designate a zone for surfboarding and other small, non-motorised watercraft.
Reasons for closing the beach include:
A surf flag exists, divided into four quadrants. The top left and bottom right quadrants are black, and the remaining area is white.
Signal flag "India" (a black circle on a yellow square) is frequently used to denote a "blackball" zone where surfboards cannot be used but other water activities are permitted.
At night, the flags are replaced with lanterns showing the same colors.
Flags displayed on the front of a moving locomotive are an acceptable replacement for classification lights and usually have the following meanings (exact meanings are set by the individual railroad company):
Additionally, a railroad brakeman will typically carry a red flag to make his or her hand signals more visible to the engineer. Railway signals are a development of railway flags.
The socialist movement uses red flags to represent their cause. The anarchism movement has a variety of different flags, but the primary flag associated with them is the black flag. In the 1970s, the rainbow flag was adopted as a symbol of the LGBT social movements. Bisexual and transgender pride flags were later designed, in an attempt to emulate the rainbow flag's success. Some of these political flags have become national flags; such as the red flag of the Soviet Union and national socialist banners for Nazi Germany.
A flagpole or flagstaff can be a simple support made of wood or metal. If it is taller than can be easily reached to raise the flag, a cord is used, looping around a pulley at the top of the pole with the ends tied at the bottom. The flag is fixed to one lower end of the cord, and is then raised by pulling on the other end. The cord is then tightened and tied to the pole at the bottom. The pole is usually topped by a flat plate called a "truck" (originally meant to keep a wooden pole from splitting) or by a ball or a finial in a more complex shape.
Very high flagpoles may require more complex support structures than a simple pole, such as guy wires, or need be built as a mast. The highest flagpole in the world, at 160 metres (525 ft), is that at Gijeong-dong in North Korea, the flag weighing about 270 kilograms (600 pounds) when dry.
Since 2008 with 133m (436ft) the tallest free-standing flagpole in the world is the Ashgabat Flagpole in Turkmenistan, beating the formerly record holding Aqaba Flagpole in Jordan (size: 132m; 433ft). It will however be outrivaled by the Baku Flagpole in Azerbaijan, which is currently under construction and will reach a height of 162m (531ft). The Raghadan Flagpole in Amman is currently the third tallest free-standing flagpole in the world. It reaches a height of 126 meters (410 ft) and hoists a flag that measures 60 by 40 meters (200 by 130 feet); it is illuminated at night and can be seen from 25 km (16 miles) away.
The world's biggest regularly hoisted flag, however, is the Brazilian national flag flown in the Square of the Three Powers in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. This flag weighs about 600 kilograms (1300 pounds) when dry and measures 70×100 metres (230x330 feet). It can be seen from all parts of Brasilia and its flagpole is the tallest structure in the city.
Semaphore Flag Signally System is a form of communication that utilizes flags. The signaling is created by an individual using two flags of lighted wands. The individual positions the flags or wands within their hands. the person who holds the flags is known as the signalman. The signalman positions the flags into a direction equivalent to a particular character that the signalman is trying to create. For more on characters and flag positioning, please refer to Flag Semaphore. This form of communication is primarily used by the Naval Services. The technique of signaling was adopted in the early 1800s and is still used in various forms today. Morse code is another form of communication that relies upon signaling. Created by Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Morse code is still widely used today.