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Flying flags from poles

Last modified: 2003-08-16 by phil nelson
Keywords: flag | flag pole |
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The "temporary" flagpole is very popular here (United States), consisting of a relatively short aluminum or wood pole (6-8 feet) and a bracket mounted on the outside of the building usually at a 45 degree angle to the vertical, into which the pole, with the flag usually somewhat permanently mounted to it, is inserted.
Dave Martucci, 14 February 2000

If what you describe is (or could be in one of its "incarnations") "just" a pipe mounted at some angle to the house wall, then it is certainly the most common way of displaying flag in my part of the world, at least on private (and company and government) houses in cities, where there is no place (read: gardens) to plant a flag pole.

The flag mounted by such device is no different to a parade flag, unless being the material used for the flag itself and possibly less ornate (and expensive) material used for the staff.

I would hardly call that "thing" a flag pole (i.e. a mast), if you know what I mean. But, yes, it has sence in counting it in when making studies like the one mentioned.

For most of the people over here, "a flag" is the whole thing one puts in such device - i.e. the textile part as well as the staff. But I never heard that anyone have "special feelings" to the staff as they might have to the textile part.
Zeljko Heimer, 19 February 2000

It's may be difficult to try and explain this type of flagpole. The temporary one to which David referred is often sold as part of a package. It consists of a lightweight aluminium pole in two or three sections which slide over each other. This is then placed into a mounting bracket which has been screwed onto a house, or a deck attached to the house. The quality of the flag is not the best, usually being a lightweight all-weather synthetic fabric. The pole/staff is usually around 5-7 feet in length.

I would not call this a parade flag, rather just a display flag.

The typical parade flag that I have seen, and had to even purchase for an organization to which I belong, is a heavier weight material, fringed, and adorned with tassels, rarely used outdoors. The staffs to which these are attached are usually wood, but I have seen a few that are metal with a wood venier over the metal.

Down here in Calvert County, Maryland, there are usually two types of exterior poles that I have seen. The first is a residential type pole, generally 20 feet in length. These are permanently in the ground. The second type is the yardarm type with, depending upon the location, three to four flags main mast and the halyards. While the aluminium pole that David mentioned may be in larger number here, it is rare to see them on a regular basis, probably because of the fact that they don't stand up to the wind conditions here if put out daily, most likely seen on holidays and patiotic occassions.

National flag with subnationals from a yardarm

National flag with other national flags from a yardarm

Half Mast Example

[Flying flags from a halyard]

[Flying flags from a halyard]

[Flying flags from a halyard]

images by Phil Nelson

Now, I don't want to imply that these observations are hard and fast. When I lived in a more urban area, it was rare to see the "residential" flagpole permanently in the ground, a much larger number of those were the temporary pole that was discussed in Dave's post, and they were displayed more frequently than noted earlier in this post. And the yardarm type pole was not used frequently there, reflecting the more aquatic background of the area where I now live.

Now there are other types of flagpoles which I have noticed as well. In downtown Washington, DC, a few of the federal buildings have permanent poles attached to the side of the building at 45 degree angles, of high grade metal. Many of these are permanent display, the flag being replaced when it becomes worn. This is obviously due to space available for an external pole.

And at Solomons, Maryland, the visitor center's has a flagpole that is more in keeping with those of naval vessels (of course, the Navy Department does have a base there, as well as a maritime museum run by the county).
Phil Nelson, 19 February 2000

Something I've been meaning to raise, of which my notes on Sao Paulo flags reminded me.

I noticed when I was in Brazil a few years back that many if not most official flagpoles--by which I mean the poles in front of government office buildings--are painted with spiral stripes in the predominant colors of the flag hoisted on them. Thus, poles flying the national flag are striped green and yellow; those flying the Rio de Janeiro state flag blue and white; etc. In Belo Horizonte, the poles in front of the governor's palace were green and yellow for the national flag and plain white for the state flag. If I recollect, in Manaus the Amazonas state flag flew from a red and white striped pole. Many pictures of the Sao Paulo flag from 1932 and since show it on a black and white striped pole or staff.

The use of similar staffs is prescribed by regulation for parade standards carried by Brazilian army units: green and yellow for the national flag, blue and red for the army flag or unit flags.

I wonder how common this practice is and whether any country prescribes colors or patterns for painting flagpoles. Is there a Japanese practice of using a pole painted with black and white rings.

Here in the U.S., it's likely that anyone painting a flagpole with red, white, and blue stripes would be taken to be showing disrespect for the flag, especially since a red-white-blue spiral pole is the traditional symbol for a barber shop in this country.
Joe McMillan, 17 September 2002

The original symbol, of course, was red and white stripes. It dates back several centuries to European usage, when barbers were also surgeons --- presumaably because they had the sharp tools --- and the red and white represented blood and bandages. This from an era that lasted until the early 1900s, in which surgeons were considered mere craftsmen, not the professionals that doctors were.

The R-W-B (actually, usually R-W-B-W ...) seems to be a patriotic Americanism. My impression is that it sneaked into usage during World War II, in the 1940's --- can anyone refine this information?
Bill Dunning, 26 September 2002

To add to your list: the Sikh flag is flown from a pole covered in orange (saffron) cloth. I think one source said that the flag is part of this fabric, not separate.
Dean McGee, 17 September 2002 Smith notes:

On land it is customarly since last [19th] century to paint the flag pole hoisting he Monagese flag spirally red and white.

Judging from the scarce reports of the practice, I would guess that it is not very customarily around the world. It seems that most of the world has the poles in "proper" colour, i.e. they are of the colour as they come...

However, it may well be that in Northern Italy the practice is also spread (I say also, meaning as in Monaco). I might be wrong, though.

Also, I might be wrong, but I somehow connect the practice more with the oblique staff rising from the walls of the buildings rather then to the vertical flag poles... Zeljko Heimer, 17 September 2002