When shopping for a flagpole on which to display the American flag — or to display a state flag — you may notice that many of them are affixed with a ball. It’s a common feature of most flagpoles. Whether it’s an aluminum, steel or even plastic flagpole, it may feature a ball on top. What’s the purpose of this ball exactly, and is it really necessary?
One of the reasons why so many flagpoles have a ball on top is for aesthetics. It offers a more attractive design that complements the flag with which it’s used. Some flagpoles have a brass-colored ball on top, whereas others have a silver-colored ball on top. Regardless, the ball helps to create a more attractive design. It introduces a smooth geometric shape and a new color. Aesthetics, however, isn’t the only reason why flagpoles have a ball on top.
Holds the Flag in Place
The main purpose of the ball is to hold the flag in place. More specifically, it prevents the flag from sliding off the top of the flagpole. Many flags feature a tube-like section of fabric that runs vertically along the left-hand side of the flag. You can slide this tube-like section fabric through a flagpole to secure it in place. Without a ball on top of the flagpole, though, the flag may slide off the top. This is particularly true if you display the flagpole at an angle. When displayed fully vertical and upright, the flag shouldn’t fall off the top. When displayed at an angle, conversely, gravity may pull it off the top.
Flagpoles with a ball prevent this from happening. The ball acts as a “stopper” for the flag. You won’t be able to slide the flag off the top of the flagpole if it features a ball. The ball will extend over the flagpole’s shaft, and because it’s wider than the tube-like section of fabric on the flag, it will prevent the flag from sliding off.
Hoisting and Lowering the Flag
For some flagpoles, the ball is used for hoisting and lowering the flag. Military flagpoles, for instance, feature a pulley system that’s hidden within the ball. Using this pulley system, service members can quickly hoist and lower the flag. With that said, most flagpoles don’t feature a pulley system within the ball. This feature is typically exclusive to military flagpoles.