A while back, I was approached by a man I know who admonished me for my use of a particular necktie I own and quite often
wear. He had seen my picture in the local newspaper when I was wearing that necktie. The picture had been taken during the
annual “Pride in America Day” at the local Middle School.
For this event, members of the local
Veterans of Foreign Wars are invited to attend. All the veterans in attendance, including a
few teachers and other school staff, were invited to the stage and the newspaper’s picture was taken at that time
(1). As it so
happened, I was seated in the center of the group and therefore was in the center of the picture. Yes, my necktie stood out both
on the stage and in the picture.
What is a Flag?
Specifically, what is
the United States Flag?
Copyright 2009 by the Fillmore Gazette Used by their permission -
My acquaintance’s specific comment was, “I saw your picture in the newspaper and I don’t like your necktie!”  
What necktie was I wearing? It is a
depiction of the United States Flag. Notice that I said “depiction” and not an actual U.S.
Flag. There is a difference!
You can refer to the U. S. Flag Code, formally known as United States Code Title 4, Chapter 1.
(2)  Section 1 deals with the
construction of the flag: “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, white in a blue field.” Section 2 provides for the adding of additional stars: “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.”
But none of this tells you what exactly the United States Flag is but there is a hint buried in Section 5. There it says, among
other things, “The flag of the United States for the purpose of this chapter shall be defined according to sections 1 and 2 of this
title and Executive Order 10834 issued pursuant thereto."
Executive Orders (EO) of various Presidents, pertaining to the flag, start way back in 1912. The only one in effect today is EO
10834 signed 21 Aug 1959 by President Eisenhower.
A great trivia question is how long was a flag with 49 stars the “official” flag of the United States. The answer is found in EO
10834 which established the 50 star flag and its predecessor EO 10798 which established the 49 star flag. Both Alaska and
Hawaii were admitted to the United States as States in 1959. Alaska was admitted before the 4th of July and Hawaii was
admitted after the 4th of July. Therefore the Alaska star was added on July 4, 1959 (EO 10798) and the Hawaii star was added
on July 4, 1960 (EO 10834). The trivia question answer is: 1 year.
Executive Order 10834 and several of its predecessors gives the ratio of the ‘hoist’ (width) to the ‘fly’ (length) as 1 to 1.9.
Accordingly, the flags which are issued by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for use as Burial Flags are 5 feet by 9 feet 6
inches (1 to 1.9). Should you need to order a Burial Flag, the eligibility requirements and the order form are available on line.
Note: The ratio of 1 to 1.9 does not include any material added to the hoist which is necessary for a flag to be raised and
flown. The additional material is usually white canvas with two grommets and adds about three inches to the fly. This is handy
information to know when folding a Burial Flag which may or may not have this additional material.
There are diagrams included in EO 10834 showing where each item goes on the fifty star flag and the dimensions to be used.
You can find out how big the stars are to be for each size flag and where they are to be placed in the field.
Therefore, we can assume that the specifications laid out in Executive Order 10834 by President Eisenhower currently
constitute the United States Flag. We can assume that anything which conforms to EO 10834 and to the U.S. Flag Code as to
the shape, size, items, colors, placement and arrangement is a United States Flag—and nothing else is a United States Flag!
So what is my necktie? It clearly contains a blue field with white stars and red and white stripes. But it does not conform to the
dimensions and specifications in either EO 10834 or the U. S. Flag Code. It is not a United States Flag! It is a depiction of the
United States Flag but it is not a United States Flag!
Click the mouse for
"Home Page"
(1) http://www.fillmoregazette.com/school?page=24 (the page number keeps changing; May 27, 2009)
(2) http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode04/usc_sup_01_4_10_1.html
(3) http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode04/usc_sec_04_00000005----000-.html
(4) http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/more/10834.htm
(5) http://www.cem.va.gov/bbene/bflags.asp
(6) http://emblem.legion.org/Patriotic/products/150/
Click this mouse to go directly to the Site Map page directory to this site.
I have replaced the necktie I was wearing for “Pride in America Day” with another one which is almost
exactly the same (my old tie was showing signs of wear). I have an excellent comeback the next time my
acquaintance comments about not liking my necktie. “Name more patriotic organizations than the
n and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I bought my new necktie in Indianapolis, Indiana at the National
Headquarters of the
American Legion. It is item number 801.204 in their online catalog,(6)  just in case you
need a good necktie.”