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Customs Service (U.S.)

Last modified: 2007-10-20 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | customs |
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[U.S. Customs Service flag] image by Michael P. Smuda, 22 September 1998

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Flag Description

The flag of the United States Customs Service has a field of 16 VERTICAL red and white stripes. The white canton displays the U. S. coat of arms in blue. The original design was adopted in 1799 and the canton was modified in the 20th century (previously the "arms" consisted of the eagle with outstretched wings and an arch of 13 stars across the top of the canton.) The U.S. Coast Guard places a badge in the fly of this flag.
Nick Artimovich, 23 January 1997

The Custom's service flag was designed by Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott who used 16 alternating red and white vertical stripes on the flag, with a bald eagle in the canton holding 3 arrows in his sinister claw and an olive branch in his dexter claw. On the left and right sides of the eagle are 4 stars each in an arc pattern, and above the eagle 5 stars. On the eagle is a crest representing the U.S. This flag flew as the emblem of the Custom's Service from 1782 to 1951, when replaced by the current flag pattern.
Phil Nelson, 1 October 1998

It is actually called the Revenue Ensign of the United States. It was originally authorized by Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott to be flown on Revenue Cutters of the Customs engaged in the prevention and detection of smuggling. The Revenue Cutter Service of the Customs is what later became the United States Coast Guard, hence the flag similarity.
Brian McCabe, 17 January 1999

Use and Display

The Customs flag is sometimes flown on a Coast Guard ship carrying customs officers but is more typically flown from Customs patrol/pilot boats used to transport Customs officers. It is also flown at every American customs house on land and at port of entries between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (I&NS) pennant is used much the same as the Customs flag but is less frequently seen in practice. The Coast Guard, Customs, and I&NS flags never replace the U.S. flag and are always flown in a subordinate position on a pole. In many cases the pole arrangement at a customs house is a crosstreed affair with the U.S. flag flying in the higher center position with the customs and I&NS flags on either side. Federal installations seldom, if ever, fly a local or state flag in addition to the U.S. flag. For a time locally the main port of entry between San Diego, California and Tiajuana, BC, Mexico sported the federal buildings with their three or four flags. Located on the same property was a state office building housing agricultural and highway safety inspectors. Only the state's building had a California flag. It flew below the U.S. flag on a pole erected in front of its building. The City's police station a couple of kilos up the road flew only the U.S. and California flags although the City has a perfectly acceptable flag that has been in limited use for over 50 years.
Phil Abbey, 23 September 1998