Expert: Many U.S. flags don't comply with code
Share with others:
While most Americans know how to properly pledge allegiance to their country's flag, it's likely many don't realize that the flag they're saluting probably isn't fabricated to correct specifications.
Richard Gideon, 64, a Greene County native who lives in Mt. Lebanon and is a vexillologist, said the majority of correctly made flags flown today are only found in the military.
"When you see a code flag up against a commercial flag, you get a completely different feeling," he said.
He'll point out the differences between a flag that complies with code and one that most of us commonly see during a free lecture at 2 p.m. Sunday in historic Old St. Luke's Church in the Woodville section of Scott.
He plans to give a 15-20 minute lecture followed by a question-and-answer period.
Commercial flags will have the proper appearance in terms of pattern and design, they often lack the right aspect ratio, or correct proportional relationship between width and height, he said. The flag's length should be 1.9 times its width.
A stickler for detail and a history lover who became interested in vexillology -- the study of flags -- while researching his family's genealogy, Mr. Gideon's lecture is timely: 100 years ago this month that President William Howard Taft signed Executive Order 1556, which set uniform specifications and a pattern for the U.S. flag.
"That was the first time in history that the U.S. flag got some specifications," Mr. Gideon said, adding that the nation's rapid growth from 13 to 50 states was starting to make the flag "look like a bed sheet."
Although Taft amended his June 12, 1912, executive order four months later to explain his reasons for the first order, the next and last executive orders involving the flag occurred when Alaska and Hawaii joined the union in 1959 and 1960 during President Dwight D. Eisenhower's term. But, there have never been any penalties placed into the Flag Code, which is why Mr. Gideon believes differently proportioned flags are flying today.
When questions arose about proportion during the Eisenhower Administration, the president indicated that he was more concerned with "the spirit of the law" than strict adherence to specifications.
Although he understands why no one wants to penalize demonstrations of patriotism, Mr. Gideon believes correctly proportioned flags should be displayed at least in some specific places.
"I think public and government buildings ought to fly code flags," he said.
A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Gideon started reproducing historic flags in 1994 as a hobby, but turned it into a business, Richard R. Gideon Flags, a year later.
He has authored 37 articles about flags and collaborated on flag books. Information: www.gideonflags.com.
First Published June 21, 2012 5:02 am