Each of the fifty white stars indicates a state in the present United States. The thirteen horizontal red and white stripes symbolize the thirteen colonies represented in the Continental Congress in 1777. A book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives states:
"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."
The placing of gold fringe on the flag is optional. No act of Congress or executive order prohibits the practice. Gold fringe is generally used as a "honorable enrichment" on ceremonial indoor flags that are used for special services. Fringe is used on indoor flags that are used for special services and is believed to have been first used in a military setting. According to the book So Proudly We Hail, The History of the United States Flag, Smithsonian Institute Press (1981), by Furlong and McCandless:
"The placing of a fringe on Our Flag is optional with the person of organization, and no Act of Congress or Executive Order either prohibits the practice, according to the Institute of Heraldry. Fringe is used on indoor flags only, as fringe on flags on outdoor flags would deteriorate rapidly. The fringe on a Flag is considered and 'honorable enrichment only', and its official use by the US Army dates from 1895. 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. An external fringe is to be distinguished from letters, words, or emblematic designs printed or superimposed upon the body of the flag itself. Under law, such additions might be open to objection as unauthorized; but the same is not necessarily true of the fringe.'"
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