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Flag Related Myths and Folklore (U.S.)

Last modified: 2002-09-28 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | myth | folklore |
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Civilian Flag

Nathaniel Hawthorn's The Scarlet Letter" contains a description of an American Customs flag erroneously described as having 13 stripes, when in fact it has 16. One stripe for each state at the time the flag was introduced. Remember, this was before limiting the stripes to 13. The story also states that this indicated a civil operation rather than military. This statement is somewhat true, but not totally accurate. Yes customs is a civil authority, but this does not mean that all civil authorities use this flag. Also let us not forget that the Scarlet letter is a work of fiction and not a research document by any means and therefore should not be used as a primary source. Primary sources would include legislation and executive orders, these are non-existent for the flag described at this site. The research for the U.S. flag legislation has been thoroughly researched by vexillologists and I think it would be safe to say that there is no legislation or executive order for the flag described.

Another erroneous source goes on to say that the Civilian flag should have Blue stars on white, not vice versa, and shows the stars arranged in a pattern identical to the current 50 star American flag established in 1960. If as he claims the Civil flag has been out of use since the 1860s, then, lacking the enabling legislation, the pattern should have been stopped at 33 or 35 stars. He also states that prior to WW II, states only flew their own flags. This is simply not true. If the states were as sovereign as he is trying to indicate, state flags would have been in use since 1776, where in truth for most states no state flag existed until the late 19th century, 100 years after The Revolution.

In short, other than as a footnote of erroneous concepts and faulty research, the flag described has no place on the FOTW website.

Nathan Bliss, 28 July 1999

Items Hidden In Ornaments Atop Flagpoles

There are some myths about ornaments used at the head of a flag pole. Some crazies started a myth in the 1950s that the round ball commonly found on the head of outdoor flag poles in the United States contained a razor, lighter, or flare to be used in the event of a Soviet takeover to destroy the flag. This is of course sheer fantasy. The balls were in use long before there was a Cold War. Besides that, getting at the ball would have required considerable effort.

Another myth is that the flat headed finials were designed to provide landing guidance for Alien space vehicles.

Phil Abbey, 7 October 1998

Fringe On The U.S. Flag

For many years rumors have been spread through the United States concerning the origin and meaning of the gold fringe which frequently decorates the Stars and Stripes. It has been claimed that such fringe is without proper authorization; that it is symbolic of the end of the gold standard as the basis for United States currency; or that it indicates the substitution of admiralty courts and martial law for common law courts and procedures, as part of a conspiracy supposedly instigated by Communists, Jews, Masons, liberals, feminists, homosexuals, or other "un-American" groups.
Click here for more about fringe on the U.S. flag.
Dave Martucci, 6 December 1996

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