I had a fascinating phone call last week.  A man called asking if we made quilted mortuary cot covers that resembled the U.S. flag.

At first I was taken back.  “Of course we don’t,” was all I could manage, my shock at the question keeping me from saying exactly why. 

Now, I knew about the basic provision that a flag should not be used to make a piece of clothing or drapery, but I couldn’t tell him exactly where I’d heard that or how that fit into the heartfelt reason that I refuse to turn a flag, or red/blue/white fabrics that can be cut and shaped into a flag, into a quilted cot cover.

He didn’t want to hear about the beautiful “Old Glory” cover that we make, so I told him that our competitor, Quilted First-Call Covers, makes one that ‘looks’ like a flag, even thought it doesn’t have a full complement of stars and less than the regular 13 stripes.  Here’s a picture of it:


But I was still bothered by the question, so I did some research.

The U.S. Flag Code, adopted as law on December 22, 1942, lays out the manner in which a flag should be displayed, honored and destroyed.

Features that I find most telling or the following provisions:

  • (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
  • (e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
  • (g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
  • (h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • (j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
  • And while the Flag Code does not provide for penalty (further proof of our respect for free speech) it does give everyone who uses, sees or flies a U.S. flag guidelines to properly honor not only the flag, but what it stands for.

    In the Civil War, the flag bearer held an important position.  Not only was his job to keep the banner flying for pride and honor, but the other troops used the flag as a signal and a bearing point when giving and carrying out orders.  In fact, opposing sides often dedicated sharpshooters to kill the flagbearer.

    “Dying for the flag” isn’t just a metaphorical phrase; it really happened.

    Furthermore, the very people my caller wants to honor with either a real flag or a close approximation, are the ones who will know the proper way to treat the U.S. Flag. 

    And I doubt they’d cut it up and make a cot cover out of it.  Especially if it’s to be used on their own removal.

    And while no one will stop my competitor from making a cover that looks a whole lot like a U.S. flag, our company will NEVER make a cover like that.