Have you ever wondered why some American flags have gold fringe on the edges? While most American flags feature a traditional design consisting of 13 stripes and 50 stars, some are embellished with gold fringe. The edges are essentially covered with braided, gold-colored material or fabric, resulting in a unique appearance that’s not found in traditional American flags. So, what’s the reason behind this gold fringe exactly?
According to The American Legion, gold fringe has been used in American flags since the 1830s. In the late 1800s, it was adopted for use in the Army. All regiments of the U.S. Army soon began using them. The U.S. Army Regulation Code even includes a section about the gold fringe. According to the Code, gold fringe should be used in American flags that are displayed either indoors or outdoors.
Of course, if you look through the U.S. Flag Code – the federal law governing the display, maintenance and retirement of the American flag – you won’t find any mention of gold fringe. Neither older versions of the U.S. Flag Code nor the current version mention anything about gold fringe. Considering that the U.S. Flag Code is designed specifically for the American flag, you might be wondering why it doesn’t mention anything about it. Unfortunately, it’s not known why the U.S. Flag Code doesn’t discuss the American flag’s gold fringe. We only know that it was originally used in American flags displayed by the U.S. Army.
While the most probable theory regarding gold fringe is that it originated in the U.S. Army, another theory is that it’s used to designate Admiralty courts. An admiralty court is a court system that operates under martial law. In other words, it’s a military court that upholds law and order for a civilian population rather than the normal government or judicial system. You’ll often discover American flags with gold fringe in courtrooms throughout the United States. However, that doesn’t mean the gold fringe designates Admiralty courts in particular. There have been lawsuits filed in the past claiming the gold fringe designates them, but all of these lawsuits have been shot down.
The bottom line is that, officially, gold fringe on the American flag doesn’t indicate anything specifically; however, it is most commonly used for special decoration on flags on display indoors, such as in churches, courtrooms, and other public places. Fringe can either be added to the American flag or left off depending on the setting. What we do know for sure is that it was originally used by the U.S. Army, though you can now find gold-fringed American flags in many other places.