Flag Wavers Work Fast at U.S. Capitol
Hand over hand, William Warley hoists an American flag up a rooftop pole at the U.S. Capitol. It flaps in the breeze for a few seconds and then Warley runs it back down, folds it and boxes it.
Hand over hand--up, then down. Fold. Box. Repeat.
Since the program started in 1937, more than 2.4 million flags have been flown over the Capitol and then sold or given away as souvenirs. Each comes with a certificate marking the date that it flew in the Capitol breeze--however briefly--and the name of the person for whom it was flown.
“We just send it up, let it blow three or four seconds and then bring it down,” said Warley, one of several workers who together hoist an average of 250 to 300 flags a day except in rain or snow. “This is priority, so if we’re doing another job and emergency [orders for] flags come up, we have to stop what we’re doing and come do this.”
The banner year was 1991, when 154,224 flags were flown. Maybe Americans were feeling patriotic because of the Persian Gulf War. Nobody knows for sure.
The biggest single day for flag-flying was July 4, 1976, the U.S. bicentennial.
“We did 10,471 that day,” said Christine Benza, who has worked in the flag office for 38 years. “We worked round the clock to make sure all those flags were flown.”