What Is in the Ball Atop a U.S. Flag Pole?

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High up on a flag pole is a decorative topper, called a finial. Legends abound about finials being used to store emergency supplies for use in the event of invasion by a foreign power. The truth, however, is much more mundane.

1 Urban Legends

Urban legends claim the ball atop flag poles contains such things as razors, lighters and flares to destroy the flag and thus prevent foreign invaders from desecrating a national symbol. Another claim is that it contains a knife, a pistol and a single bullet as emergency armaments against invaders.

2 Reality

There actually isn’t anything inside a finial. Because the finial serves as decoration rather than as a secret container, they are solid all the way through.

3 Mistaken Identity

The ball-shaped finial is often erroneously called the "truck." The truck is actually the mechanism that connects the finial to the pole.

4 Finial Variations

While many finials are ball shaped, they may take many forms. Flag poles at government buildings in the United States are just as often topped with a metallic bald eagle.

5 Why a Ball?

A ball is often used on outdoor flag poles because the round shape prevents tangling with the flag or halyard in high winds.

Brian Westover is a freelance writer, editor and publication designer. He has been writing professionally since 2006, and has written for businesses, blogs, newsletters, and individuals. He is currently studying communications and journalism at Brigham Young University - Idaho.