Last modified: 2019-08-02 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | folding | triangle |
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The following question was answered by a little digging in the Betsy Ross home page - but I haven't seen this reported before. Here is the URL for your interest: www.ushistory.org/betsy/more/folds.htm - quite interesting!
submitted by: Rob Raeside, 22 October 2001
What's on the page provided by Rob is an interesting interpretation, but it's a case of people coming up with symbolism for something that existed before the explanation was invented. It is widely noted that the triangular shape resembles the cocked (or tricorn="three-cornered") hat worn at the time of the American Revolution. As I understand it, however, this was not the origin of the method of folding the flag. Instead, the system of folding the flag twice lengthwise then into a series of triangles was developed by soldiers during the 19th century as a practical means of storing large flags neatly (garrison flags of 20 feet in hoist and everyday flags of 10 feet in hoist) without requiring large numbers of men. The method yielded a manageable packet that had the additional benefit of unfolding easily when the flag was hoisted the next morning (the upper and lower grommets were right together inside the triangle--they could be attached by a two- to four-man detail and the flag then unfolded itself while being kept clear of the ground by one or two of the two men as the halyard was pulled).
The business about the symbolism of the various folds is pure invention. Nothing wrong with ascribing such meanings if one chooses, but without historic basis. The number of folds made comes inevitably from the 10:19 ratio of the flag.
Joe McMillan, 22 October 2001
To see how it is done, you can also look at this page: www.crwflags.com/folding.html
Elias Granqvist, 22 October 2001
From an official document from the U.S. Senate:
"Folding the Flag
1. Two persons, facing each other, hold the flag waist high and horizontally between them.
2. The lower striped section is folded, lengthwise, over the blue field. Hold bottom to top and edges together securely.
3. Fold the flag again, lengthwise, folded edge to open edge.
4. A triangular fold is started along the length of the flag, from the end to the heading by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to meet the open edge.
5. The outer point is turned inward parallel with the open edge, forming a second triangle.
6. Repeat the triangular folding until the entire length of the flag is folded.
7. When the flag is completely folded only the triangular blue field should be visible."
Source: "OUR FLAG, Joint Committee on Printing United States Congress, 109th Congress, 2nd Session S.Doc. 109-18, 2007, p-20, ISBN 978-0-16-076598-8, Senate Concurrent Resolution 108 (Submitted by Senator Chester Trent Lott, Sr.) July 18, 2006"(https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CDOC-109sdoc18/pdf/CDOC-109sdoc18.pdf)
Esteban Rivera, 6 October 2018
There is also a ceremonial unfolding as well, but this is only used at
funerals where there are cremated remains.
When my grandfather was laid to rest in February of 2018, the urn and funeral flag were at the church. The flag was pre-folded by the funeral home and placed in a plastic cover case. The honor guard took it in its folded shape and unfolded it in a
ceremony. Each step was careful not to lose grip or tear the flag. It was done piece by piece by two men; the rest were behind the church to do the volley and the "Taps" bugle call. After that was done, the entire team of seven focused on folding the flag in the manner presented by Esteban. Of note during this funeral, each fold was met with creasing of the completed step to firmly seal the task. Also, very few verbal cues were given.
I am not sure about how recent the tradition is, but three rounds from the volleys/gun salute were presented to my uncle, along with the flag. Some will put the rounds in the flag before the final fold is made, my uncle put one in the flag after the funeral was over (the other two were put into another flag and one with his urn before it was sealed). Also during the presentation, a script was used specifically for the Air Force was read out to the lines of "On behalf of the President of the United States, the Secretary of the Air Force and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service."
Some aspects of this procedure can be seen at
Zachary Harden, 9 October 2018