The History of Flagpoles

Mar 4th, 2015

Since the first known fabric flags date back to approximately 2,000 years ago, it can be argued that flagpoles also date that far back since a the flag needs to be attached to a pole of some kind for it to fly freely. What we do know is that the first known flagpoles were made from wood. A woodworker would find a tree that was straight and prune the limbs and suckers from it to produce a pole. The pole was then inserted into the ground and a flag tied to the top. Over the years, the wood flagpole was improved by shaping and sanding the pole until it was straight and had a smooth finish. Once that process was complete, animal fat was applied to the entire pole over the course of several days. While the portion of these poles that was above ground would last for 50 years or more, the portion that was buried in the ground would rot.


Early 1900s

In the 1900s, steel became a common material used for flagpole construction. The poles were sectional, meaning that there were at least two steel poles and one was inserted into the other to increase the height of the pole. While steel was strong and durable, it had a tendency to rust. Often, the flagpoles were painted to give them an attractive appearance and protection from the elements. Over time, the paint would chip or crack and allow rain and other elements access to the steel and cause the flagpole to rust. During the steel era, wooden flagpoles became almost obsolete.


Mid 1900s

In the mid 1900s, aluminum was put into use for constructing flagpoles. The molecular makeup of aluminum could be changed and used to produce products for use in various applications. The most common aluminum alloy used for flagpoles today is 6063. This means that the aluminum is hardened to a point that will withstand a very high stress level. For example, a temper rating of T6 is used in most aluminum flagpoles will withstand a minimum stress level of at least 18,000 pounds per square inch.


Modern Era

Today, aluminum is still the most popular material used in the construction of flagpoles. It can be purchased in a range of finishes including satin, painted or anodized. The satin finish is accomplished by directional sanding or abrasive polishing. The result is a neat finished look that will not rust or corrode. The surface can be painted in a variety of colors or it can be anodized for a more attractive finish. Anodization is a process that results in an oxide layer on the aluminum that can be altered to produce varying shades of bronze or black.

In addition to aluminum, fiberglass is a popular choice. Fiberglass is a lightweight material that has a smooth, attractive finish and is strong and durable. These poles can be purchased in standard white or black, bronze or silver.

Flagpoles in the 1800 and early 1900s were equipped with external halyards. A halyard is the rope that extends from the top to the lower part of the flagpole that is used to raise and lower the flag. Many modern flagpoles are constructed with internal halyards. This means that the rope runs down the inside of the pole to give the flagpole a neater appearance that some prefer over the traditional external design.

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