Behind the scenes: getting a flag flown over the US Capitol

Jul 21, 2014 | Jared Powell •

The story goes like this: in 1937, a Member of Congress — name not listed now — asked for a flag that had been flown over the US Capitol.

Now, every year, Americans request more than 100,000 flags flown in the same way through the Capitol Flag Program.

It’s a straightforward system: you contact the office of your Representative or Senators, select the flag size you’d like, and wait for one to be flown and mailed back to you.

But what goes on behind the scenes shows the unexpected personal touches throughout the process.

Start by joining Congressman Jolly’s office on the journey to fulfill a flag request.

Here are the steps you just watched:

1. Filled out the Architect of the Capitol Flag Request Form, a long name for some brief questions.

2. Purchased the flag from the House Office Supply Store.

The store is a one-room depot for Congressional offices tucked away in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building.

The flag may be up to 8-feet by 12-feet, and it must be an official US flag. State flags are not flown over the Capitol.

3. Filled out a “pink card” (formally the Flag Flying Fee Card) to attach with the flag.

4. Walked the flag and its paperwork to the Architect of the Capitol’s Flag Office in the basement of the Capitol.

The Architect handles maintenance, operation, and preservation of the entire Capitol Hill complex. Its Flag Office is unique among the other departments, which have responsibilities from building walls to maintaining escalators.

5. Waited for the Flag Office staff fly the flag as soon as they are able. 

Flags are flown every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The average wait is two weeks; same-day flying is available only for funerals.

6. Picked up the flag and its new certificate of authenticity from the Architect’s office before mailing it back to the person who requested it.

Want a flag of your own? Contact your Representative to get started. You can tell the staff you know all about it.