Flag History: A Short History of Flag Burning

Posted by Accent Banner on Sep 15, 2017 2:07:00 PM



A Brief History of Flag Burning Laws

Like many forms of political protest in the U.S., modern flag burning originated during the Vietnam era. (The first recorded flag burnings were by Southerners protesting Abraham Lincoln just before the Civil War, but there is no real evidence that it continued before Vietnam.) In keeping with the heightened wartime rhetoric, nearly every state made desecrating the flag a crime--sometimes with new laws, sometimes via the invocation of little-used laws already on the books. In 1968, Congress passed the first federal anti-desecration law in response to an incident in Central Park. One year later, the Supreme Court found in Street v. New York that a state law was unconstitutional in that it allowed the plaintiff, Sidney Street, to be convicted merely for speaking ill of the American flag. The Court, however, did not rule on whether or not laws against flag burning (which Street had also done) were also unconstitutional.


Free Speech and The Supreme Court

That precedent did not change for two decades, in Texas v. Johnson. In 1984, a man named Gregory Lee Johnson was arrested and convicted for burning a flag during that year's Republican National Convention. (The incident caused Congress to introduce a Constitutional amendment against flag burning, which led to a wave of new flag burnings nationwide.) Five years later, the Supreme Court decided that flag burning itself was protected speech under the Constitution; after Congress changed the anti-desecration law to fit the guidelines of Texas v. Johnson, the Court continued to overturn convictions on the basis that those convictions were still made to limit free speech.


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Flag Burning as a Form of Protest

29D806E100000578-3133597-image-a-28_1434913621415.jpgFlag burning exists, as mentioned, as a form of protest. Flags are highly recognizable symbols; blended with national pride, they evoke a powerful sense of patriotism within large majorities of people (in most countries) that love where they live. Because of this, burning one becomes one of the most powerful forms of protest possible, both in what it says about the strength of the burner's anger and in the backlash it receives from those who view desecration of the flag as a desecration of their home. This applies whether the burner is an American or a citizen of a different nation protesting something that America has done in their homeland.

Even though the United States has declared flag burning a protected form of speech, other countries have legal repercussions for those who do it. Interestingly, while many Americans would assume the strictest laws exist in the most totalitarian countries, that is not at all the case. China, for example, has sentences as short as fifteen days for flag desecration. Russia does not appear to have any law against it.

On the other hand, some of the strongest laws against flag burning are in a few of the United States' closest allies. France can fine a person up to 7,500 Euros, and throw them in jail for six months, if they burn a French flag at a large gathering. South Korea's laws can apply to flag desecration done by non-citizens outside the boundaries of South Korea. And in 2016, Israel passed a law that allowed up to three years in prison for anyone convicted of burning not just an Israeli flag, but one of an allied country as well. 

Whether you consider it acceptable or not, flag burning is a serious method of protest with a history worth knowing. If you're interested in flags, custom banners, flag repair, or how to correctly retire a flag, contact the flag specialists at Accent Banner to learn more.  


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Topics: flag facts, flag history, flag burning, flag law

U.S. Flag Facts They Never Taught You in School

Posted by Derrek Coss on Jul 20, 2017 8:09:00 AM

Did you know that the current 50 star U.S. Flagdesign of the United States flag has lasted longer than any other design in U.S. history? Essentially this is because we have not added a new state to our great country since the addition of Hawaii on August 21, 1959. Luckily, Robert Heft the designer of the 50 star U.S. flag has already designed a 51 star flag so if we ever choose to add another state we’ll be good to go! Learn more flag facts below!

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(Short on Time? Click Here to Download our FREE Guide to Maintaining Your U.S. Flag!) 


Alt colors for original U.S. flag design

In colonial America there were only 8 different dye colors that were easily produced. Light blue, indigo blue, gold, red, white, yellow, green and black. A few of these colors we’re ruled out right away as yellow was the color of quarantine and black has long been symbolic of death in western culture. That leaves just green, gold, and light blue as the colors not selected by Francis Hopkinson for use in his flag design.


flag facts

Get this! Using the flag as decorative bunting has played a major roll in U.S. history at least once. President Lincoln visited Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.  He was provided a box seat decorated with bunched flags, a common practice at the time. Later that night John Wilkes Booth crept up behind Lincoln and shot him. Booth then jumped onto the railing of Lincoln’s box seat and proclaimed “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”). He then planned to jump down to the stage to make his escape. However, as Booth went to make his move his spur caught on the decorative flag bunched along the railing causing him to loose his balance, land awkwardly and injure his leg. Booth pushed thru the pain and escaped only to be captured nearby, a few days later.

For years after this an urban legend was spread that the flag that reached up and grabbed Booth was “Old Glory” herself. However, it turns out that the actual “hero flag” was the flag of the Treasury department Regimental Unit.

*Referenced The Care and Display of the American Flag by the editors of Sharpman.com 2004 for entire blog post.

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Topics: american history, American flag, flag facts, U.S. flag, flag history

3 Strange (But Interesting) Flag Facts

Posted by Accent Banner on Apr 25, 2017 8:55:00 AM

When most people think of flags, they aren't likely to think of the word "interesting." Most people take national flags for granted, but there are many unique stories behind every flag. Here are just three of the most interesting and baffling flag stories in the world.


1) Bikini Atoll's Flag Is A Sign Of Protest

Bikini Atoll is a small island nation that was a major testing ground for nuclear bombs in the 40s and 50s. This testing was done by the United States and is now considered an act of atrocity.

The 23 small islands that make up the nation created a flag to commemorate and protest the treatment they underwent during this period, including relocation and resettlement.

The flag has the same design as the American flag but with several differences. The first is the fact that it only has 23 stars, rather than 50. These represent the islands. In the upper right of the flag, three black stars represent the islands destroyed by the explosions.

Two black stars in the lower right corner represent where residents currently live. The motto on the flag translates to “Everything is in the hands of God,” a reminder of when a general told the islanders to give up their island for the good of the world.

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(The flag of Bikini Atoll)



2) That Flag Looks Familiar...

It's hard to believe that countries could ever design the same flag. There's so many different colors that 240_F_136934712_gNRvmN5BdBNqhEvOHR1shNpiUpqj0vuW.jpgcould be used and symbols that could be integrated. However, the unthinkable happened during the 1936 Olympics.

During this event, the tiny countries of Liechtenstein and Haiti (two countries that barely knew the other existed) found that they had accidentally designed the same exact flag. To be fair, the design wasn't all that complex: split horizontally down the center, with blue on top and red on the bottom.

The odd thing was that the shades were remarkably similar. Later on, Liechtenstein changed its design by adding a small crown on the top of the flag.



3) Hawaii Celebrates A British Heritage It Never Had

flagsAs the last state to be added to the United States of America, Hawaii was always a bit left out. Not only is it literally thousands of miles from the nearest state, but it also has its own unique culture.

One of the oddest aspects of its history is its flag. It is the only state in the country that uses the British Union Jack in its design. Strangely, Hawaii was never a territory of Britain, unlike much of the rest of the United States.

The flag is partially influenced by the fact that James Cook of England “discovered” the island. With British help, the islands were unified under one constitution for the first time. Without that unification, it's unlikely the United States would have had an interest in the small island in the first place.



WOW! Who knew that flags could be so interesting? If you want to know information about custom flags (or want to make an order for one), please don't hesitate to contact us today. We always look forward to sharing interesting facts with our customers.

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Topics: flag facts, flag trivia

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