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In the US, there's a proper way to fold the flag. From what I can tell, there is no equivalent method in the UK.

When did the US adopt this special method for folding the flag?

  • While not answering your question, this wikihow link shows how to fold several national flags. I would expect that every country has such a procedure. – andy256 Oct 16 '14 at 4:38
  • I expect that that wikihow page is stuff you shouldn't believe on the internet. – David Hammen Oct 16 '14 at 20:27
  • Not long enough to be an answer, but we Americans place a lot of symbolic meaning on our flag. Our national anthem is a pean to our flag. The absolutely best way to dispose of a tattered US flag? Burn it, ceremoniously. You can find lots of ceremonious flag burning celebrations across the country on Flag Day. The absolutely worst way to dispose of a US flag (tattered or not)? Burn it, ceremoniously. You can find celebrations of US flag burnings on random days around the country, and around the world. The two kinds of ceremonies do differ, just a bit. – David Hammen Oct 16 '14 at 21:09
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This answer contains some conjecture. Perhaps somebody else will be able to provide better information.

The first piece of evidence comes from the Flag Institute (The UK’s National Flag Charity). It provides a guide to Flying Flags in the United Kingdom. On page 6, under the heading As a Pall for a Coffin it says

If the flag is to be retained by the next of kin it can be folded using the Royal Navy’s method shown here ...

The diagrams shown are very similar to the US procedure.

The next piece of evidence comes from researching the British ensign, the flag flown by the British Navy. There are actually three: the White Ensign, the Blue Ensign, and the Red Ensign. Wikipedia says

Prior to 1864, red, white, and blue were the colours of the three squadrons of the Royal Navy, which were created as a result of the reorganisation of the navy in 1652 by Admiral Robert Blake. Each squadron flew one of the three ensigns.

and goes on to say

early flags of the American Revolution were modified Red Ensigns. ... the Union Flag in the corner was replaced by the current stars in 1777.

So my conjecture is that the current method was adopted from the British Navy, along with the Red Ensign. So, to answer the question, identifying "the flag" to mean the Flag of the United States adopted in 1777, the date would be 1777.

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