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Hanging Flags

Last modified: 2011-12-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: inglefield clips | grommets | rope and toggle |
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There are three means to attach a flag to the rope to hoist it up the pole.

  1. Rope & toggle (with variations on the hardware used)
  2. Grommets
  3. Cloth tabs on the flag to tie to the rope or pole.

From my observation it seems that rope & toggle is the most used worldwide. I have only seen grommets on American-made flags, or for flags used in America. Are these observations correct? Do other countries use grommets as the normal method of attachment?
Nathan Bliss, 9 October 1996

I collect flags made in the country they represent. Rope and toggle or sleeved/tabbed headings are found on the following flags: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Peoples Republic of China, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Finland, France, Germany, India, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Sierra Leone, Solomon Is (these last two are probably UK made), South Africa, South Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland (metal clips attached to each end of rope), Turkey, Turkmenistan, USSR, Zimbabwe.

Grommets are found on the following: USA, Israel, Jordan (and I suspect the grommets on the latter two may have been added by the person who owned both of them before me, though I cannot confirm that.) It looks like grommets are definitely a US idea. I'm not sure why. With this system, the halyard is a closed loop and the snaps are tied at the correct interval(s). This means you cannot easily use flags of different sizes without rearranging the clips. With the systems using Inglefield clips or beckets and toggle, the halyard is cut at the point where the flag(s) is (are) attached. Any size flag is easy to accommodate. Perhaps we are afraid of letting go of the halyard and having the loose end run up to the truck! That is impossible with a closed loop halyard.

US Government specification flags for the Navy, among others, call for a roped heading with brass snaps at either end.
Nick Artimovich, 9 October 1996

New Zealand flag makers offer a choice of either rope and toggle or ovoid plastic split rings which engage with similar split rings on the halyard. If these split rings are grommets, then we use them (though less commonly than the toggle method).
Stuart Park, 10 October 1996

Only US flags have grommets (usually brass flat rings which are smashed together, one on top of the hoist canvas, the other directly underneath on the other side of the canvas). Israel and Jordan have also been mentioned. A friend of mine brought me back 3 Chinese flags from various points he visited in China. One flag is about 3x4 ft. It has a canvas heading and brass-looking grommets.

I have long wonder why the US does it differently. It really doesn't look as good, because no matter what color on the flag is next to the hoist, we always have this natural canvas heading as the last color we see when these flags are draped on walls, for instance.

Canadian and others make the header as a continuation of the color from the flag by the hoist, if possible, or make it white. But, it is of the same fabric (usually) and does not have two holes at either end with shiny brass rings around them, as we see on US flags even of other countries but made in the US.
Steve Stringfellow, 10 October 1996

-When brass grommets are used, what attaches them to the halyard?

-With toggles, is there a gap in the halyard? That is, do you disconnect the two halves and fit the flag into the space? Are there versions where they are simply attached to a rope which runs along outside the hoist?

-Is there always a rope inside the hoist when there are toggles?
Nathan Lamm,
27 July 2004

Sometimes, or sometimes the kind with a spring-loaded catch, like you use to fasten a dog's leash to its collar, if you have a dog. Probably lots of other designs as well.

In the US, at least, the clips are usually--or perhaps I should say "correctly"--tied to the halyard with the distance between them approximately equal to the hoist of the flag to be hoisted. If more than one flag is flown, then more than two clips are attached; if different sizes of flag are flown at different times, then additional clips are attached to match the hoists of the different flags.

(I say "in the US" because American flagpoles are the only ones I'm familiar with; other arrangements may well be used elsewhere.)

Another way of doing it, common in maritime applications and possibly elsewhere, is for the flag itself to have a length of rope, called a distance line, stitched into the heading (i.e., the heavy fabric at the hoist). At one end of this rope is a clip, at the other a ring. The halyard is equipped with a ring at one end and a clip at the other; the flag is attached by fastening the clip on the distance line to the ring on the halyard and vice versa. Multiple flags can be hoisted by fastening the clip of the lower to the ring of the higher.

The Royal Navy, its offspring, and perhaps others (not the USN) use something called an Inglefield clip, which I believe doesn't have any moving parts and is held by its supporters to be more efficient than the kind used by the USN. I couldn't hope to describe them. However, the Inglefield also presupposes the use of a distance line.
Joe McMillan, 28 July 2004