The American flag is an iconic symbol that evokes deep emotions. Flags contain colors and symbols that allude to the message of the pennant, but not all adornments have any special purpose or hidden meaning behind them.
Appearance of Fringe on the Flag
According to the Army Study Guide website, gold fringe appeared on the American flag as early as 1835. Officially adopted for use on flags in 1895, the gold adornment is not original to the flag's design. The fringe is generally used on ceremonial flags for indoor use or special services, and is optional. Outdoor flags usually don't have fringe, as it would deteriorate rapidly in inclement weather.
To clarify use of the fringe, a 1925 Attorney General's opinion states: "The fringe does not appear to be regarded as an integral part of the flag, and its presence cannot be said to constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statute." There is no record of an act of Congress or executive order which requires or prohibits use of the fringe.
Custom or Meaning
It is customary to adorn a flag for ceremonial use with fringe to make it look more dramatic and official, and it has been a custom through the ages to make military flags dramatic and eye-catching. Fringe on flags has been a standard for centuries, but it doesn't denote any special meaning when added to the American flag. It is strictly for adornmnet.
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