FIAV, the International Federation of Vexillological Associations, has called 1 October 1961 the “birth-day of modern vexillology” as it marks the debut of the world’s first journal of flag studies: Gerhard Grahl and Whitney Smith’s Flag Bulletin. This birthday, I think, calls for an annual celebration of all things vexillological: World Vexillology Day; Vexiday for short.
Heraldists have International Heraldry Day (June 10th), pirates have International Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19th)—is it not time that flag enthusiasts got their day in the sun? This April I pitched this idea to my colleagues in the Portland Flag Association, who thought it had potential for expanding public awareness of vexillology, especially among young people—and generally having fun with flags. With a unanimous vote, the PFA became the first member of FIAV to support the idea and to agree to celebrate the inaugural Vexiday this Saturday, 1 October.
The PFA will be marking Vexiday with a flag show-and-tell event in a public space here in Portland. Scholars in Eastern Europe will observe it at the First Georgian National Conference of Vexillology and Heraldry. Italian vexillologists are organizing a public event at Sforza Castle in Milan. How will you be celebrating? You might consider joining a flag association, displaying your favorite flag at your home, submitting a design to a flag contest, praising vexillology online (use hashtag #vexiday), or just raising a toast to Whitney Smith or another flag luminary. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today marks the 195th year of independence for the Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. An excellent day to learn to distinguish this close-knit family of flags. To make this a bit more challenging, here are the versions of the flags for civilian use (“civil flags”), and in random order.
1 October Is World Vexillology Day (Scott Mainwaring)
How Albany, Oregon, Got a Flag (Cole Pouliot)
The Flag of Null Island (Ted Kaye)
1993 Proposals for Macau’s Flag (Patrick Genna)
Powell Boulevard’s Flag Parade (Ted Kaye)
In this issue, Scott Mainwaring tells us about his idea for an annual celebration of flags, flag studies, and flag design every 1 October: World Vexillology Day (or Vexidayfor short). So far, he has gotten buy-in from 15 flag associations around the world, including the PFA and NAVA. Other sponsoring associations include: Vexillology Ireland, the Croatian Heraldic and Vexillological Association, Bandiere Storiche (Italy), the New England Vexillological Association, the New Zealand Flag Association, the Southern African Vexillological Association, the Burgee Data Archives (Canada), the Greater Unified Albany Vexillological Association (Oregon), the Heraldry Society of Slovenia, the Catalan Association of Vexillology, the Flag Data Center (Czech Republic), the Italian Center of Vexillological Studies, and the Breton Vexillological Society. All of these will be celebrating in some manner on Saturday, 1 October (see www.vexiday.org for details). If you are part of another association, please join in and let Scott know at email@example.com. How will you be celebrating?
By Michael Hale Owner Emeritus, Elmer’s Flag & Banner
The line began forming even before our store opened on the morning of 11 September 2001.
We were still stunned by what we’d seen on TV—the twin towers collapsing, the thousands of people who died. But we had to proceed.
We had begun sending massive orders for U.S. flags to our multiple flag manufacturers/suppliers early that fateful morning. Our experience during Operation Desert Storm told us we had better order big and hope we would get a ration of the total available.
We ordered a year’s supply of flags that morning. It would not be nearly enough…
When we opened our doors, 75 people or more poured inside—we could not move through the store. All ten phone lines were ringing. Every available sales clerk, two outside salesmen, the shipping clerk, the two bookkeepers, and the three sewers all came to help. Soon the line went down the block.
There was a quiet solemnity, and every customer was patient and polite. There were some who said it was the first U.S. flag they had ever owned. Others spoke of loved ones or friends whom they could communicate with who were in the towers. My own daughter was visiting in New York and planned to visit the World Trade Center that day. I saw tears as people held their flag.
Now the line wrapped around the block. My wife tried to call the store; not getting through she left work and came to help. She stood at the door and metered the flow of people, letting in only 20 or so at a time. Who would have imagined a flag store with a bouncer, and a pretty one at that? We set up an express line leading directly from the front door to the counter and the three cash registers. But some people didn’t want that. Some said they had waited two hours—they wanted the full experience of shopping in a flag store.
I walked the line outside several times and talked to people as the day wore on. They were making friends, some exchanging phone numbers, others leaving and buying lunch and water for those near them in line. Others, who had to leave the line to pick up kids from preschool or other errands, left money—even credit cards—so that total strangers might buy them a flag.
We limited people to one 3×5-foot flag per family, rationing the flags in the hope they would last the week. As one of the largest flag stores in America, we had a large supply. But it was dwindling quickly.
On Day Two we again had a line down the block. As expected, our U.S. flag manufacturers responded that they would only ship us a fraction of our orders. We found a local fabric outlet with a stock of roll goods of printed U.S. flags needing to be cut, sewn, and grommeted. We set our sewers to work. But they could only make 200 a day. We needed double that number.
Then someone checked our on-line orders, forgotten in the previous day’s mêlée. Thousands of orders were still pouring in from all over the country.
Across the U.S., most flag stores had closed after that first day. Still other stores’ Internet sites crashed. We sent the roll goods to the sewing staff at Jansen Knitting Mills, who were seeing all their swimsuit orders cancelled. They could sew thousands a day! We bought broom handles for poles and air freighted in heavy metal wall brackets.
The line continued each day and would for over a week. This was patriotism, but not the kind where you wave a flag on a pole at a soccer game. It was a kind of quiet determination, a kind of solidarity, a badge of courage—that we were Americans, united, and we wanted to show our pride.
We stopped everything in the store to observe the moment of silence decreed by the president. You could have heard a pin drop if it were not for the weeping. Tears fell again. Our emotions were raw.
So it would continue for weeks on end. We sold every U.S. flag, every sticker, flag pin, flag patch, car flag, and flagpole in the store. We sold two and a half years’ supply of U.S. flags in two months.
More flags arrived in time to fill the thousands of on-line orders. Everything had been shipped in overnight air. We paid tens of thousands of dollars in overtime pay and temporary help. Our phone bill was staggering.
Customers wore out the carpet, and some staffers developed foot problems from so much time on their feet. But not one staff member called in sick for two months. At year’s end we gave them bonuses and matched their 401K contributions to the maximum.
We had sold everything at normal, everyday prices. No one in Portland could have missed the news broadcasts of the lines, the groovy close-ups of the flags being made by our sewers, the interviews with customers. For a brief while, the U.S. flag was at the top of the charts, the star attraction.
One of the results of the millions of U.S. flags sold by all the flag stores across the nation was an increased awareness of the meaning and power of the flag.
Also, the next spring we saw an interesting by-product of the millions of people mounting flag brackets on their homes: many would buy and place decorative house flags on these poles.
That week a new star was born.
Mike Hale retired from Elmer’s in 2011 and remains an active member of the Portland Flag Association.
Dave Anchel (owner of Elmer’s Flag and Banner) will host the next meeting of the Portland Flag Association at 7 PM, Thursday, 8 September 2016 in his home in SW Portland. For details, see our Next Meeting page.
We look forward to seeing those of you who have missed recent meetings, and hear some new stories, see some different flags, and engage in provocative flag-related discussion. Newcomers welcome!
When I was young I would often see half-gallon cartons of ice cream packed with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors. It was called “Neapolitan”, a good item for a big family like ours, because we needed our choices.
That came to mind recently when reading an article about the history of pizza, recounting the legendary origin of the Margherita pizza around 1889. A baker made three different pizzas for a visit by King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The queen favored a one evoking the Italian flag’s colors—green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes).
The story reminded me that the carton of Neapolitan ice cream revealed a tricolor pattern when opened. I wondered, does Neapolitan ice cream have any connection to the city of Naples? What does the flag of Naples look like?
Hmm, that can’t be right—mustard and catsup?
Well, there is still a presumed connection to Naples, or at least to late-19th-century Neapolitan immigrants to the U.S., so I see no reason why there can’t be a Neapolitan Ice Cream Flag, something to which ice cream eaters can pledge summertime allegiance. Done! The colors are Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry—unfortunately not standard flag fabric colors.
Where did it come from? The story is that it was created in a Sicilian pasticceria run by the Lo Monaco family. What does the flag of Sicily look like? More mustard and catsup?
No, there needs to be a Spumoni Ice Cream Flag. Done! The colors are Cherry, Chocolate, and Pistachio. Again, not standard flag fabric colors, but very tasty! I tried a version with bits of cherry and pistachio on their respective fields, but that was too much.
So here they are: two ice cream flags for your summertime enjoyment. I’m stopping here, but there are almost unlimited opportunities for other ice cream flags, as well as pizza flags, cookie flags, and so on. The day may come when all of us will be able to express pride in our favorite foods by flying their flags.
It has been deeply moving for me as Prime Minister to witness the way Fijians have rallied around the national flag as our Rugby Sevens team brought home Olympic Gold for Fiji. And I know this sentiment is shared by most Fijians.
While I remain convinced personally that we need to replace some of the flag’s colonial symbols with a genuinely indigenous expression of our present and our future, it has been apparent to the Government since February that the flag should not be changed for the foreseeable future.
It is a question of resetting national priorities as our people continue to recover from Tropical Cyclone Winston. The cost of any flag change is better spent at the present time assisting Fijians back on their feet.
I urge every Fijian to display our flag when our victorious Sevens team returns to Fiji on Sunday and during our special national holiday on Monday. It is a time to celebrate not only their remarkable achievement but our collective unity and national sense of purpose.
Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest and costliest storm in Southern Pacific history, hit Fiji last February killing 44 and causing $1.4 billion in damage.
This month Fiji won its first Olympic gold medal ever by beating its former colonial master Great Britain 43 to 7 in Men’s Rugby Sevens. There was dancing in the streets – and much flag waving.
In June we announced the launch of a process to find a flag for Albany, Oregon initiated by our fellow Oregonians at GUAVA (Greater Unified Albany Vexillological Association). Five finalists have been chosen and the public has been rating each on a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high) at cityofalbany.net/flag. This phase ends this Monday (8 August), so if you want to weigh in on the five contenders and haven’t yet, please do so soon!
Here renditions by graphic designer Steve Kodis (of People’s Flag of Milwaukee fame) of what the flag designs would look like in flight, along with the “artist’s statement” for each.
The two green triangles represent Agriculture and Timber, their combined shape is a tree which represents Albany’s status as a tree city. The two blue stripes represent the Calapooia and Willamette rivers. The gray background represents rare metals and roads.
The triangle wedge on the hoist symbolizes the three names Albany has been called: Takena, New Albany and Albany, with the color green representing the nature and agriculture of Albany.
The 12 pointed star within a circle represents both how the 12 neighborhoods of Albany come together as one community, but it creates 12 white arrows that look inwards towards Albany for guidance as county seat and the Hub City.
The purple stripe is a symbol of Albany’s uniqueness as no current country or American state flag uses purple.
The blue stripe is a symbol of the Willamette River, upon which Albany was founded, and provided the bulk of Albany’s economy during the early years.
The grey stripe is the symbol of Albany being the rare metals capital of the world, upon which much of the current economy is based. The gray stripe also enforces Albany’s uniqueness, as it is a color used rarely in country and American state flags.
Title, ‘Confluence and Crossroads.’ The blue portions represent the confluence of the Calapooia and Willamette rivers. The gray portion represents Interstate 5 and Hwy 20 intersecting, a nod to our Hub City nickname; the gray is also representative of our metal industry. The green portion represents our agriculture, timber, and Tree City designation. The overall design forms an A representing Albany as well.
This flag has a Northwest color scheme of green, blue and black.
Green symbolized Albany’s place as the grass seed capital and its emerging filbert tree market.
Blue symbolizes the importance of the Willamette River and Calapoolia River in their role in establishing Albany and Kalapuya Tribe.
Black represents metal because Albany is the “rare metals capital of the world.”
The white bridge give this flag a landmark and ties in with other symbols currently in use throughout Albany.
The angle at the front of the flag symbolizes Albany’s location within the valley and looks like the slope of a roof of one of Albany’s many historic homes.
Drawing inspiration from the flag of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, in which the Kalapuya tribe was associated, this design silhouettes our city’s background. Using the colors yellow, reflecting wheat or grain, and blue, resembling our Willamette River, the logo is placed on a green background that represents the forests our state is known for.
Situated between lakes Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam, the small New Hampshire city of Laconia has technically had a flag since 1965. Technically, but not really in practice, as the Laconia Daily Sun notes, “a facsimile flag is encased and hangs on the wall in the Laconia City Council chambers, but that really is the extent of the functionality of the city’s current flag”.
Bree Hendersen [sic], a resident in Ward 4, addressed the Council regarding the lack of exposure of the City flag within the City. The City flag is 50 years old, adopted by the City Council in 1965, and has not been raised on flag poles throughout the City as it should be. B. Hendersen reviewed some historical information about the flag and questioned if the City flag is useful to the meaning of the City and suggested that a well-designed and used City flag could assist with the identification of the City. The elements of a flag, such as that of the City of Chicago, is a great example of what a well-designed flag can do. B. Hendersen proposed the idea to have a contest to redesign the City flag to be a better tool for the community. Councilor Lipman noted that this is a great idea and thanked B Hendersen for coming forward. (From the city council meeting minutes of 9 November 2015)
Less than a year later, the contest to redesign the flag was launched today. Prizes of $500, $300, and $200 will be awarded the top three designs. You have until Labor Day (5 September) to submit your proposed design at the Laconia Public Libary or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the City Flag of Laconia Facebook page.
If all goes well, Laconia should have a fine laconicflag by the end of the year — particularly if designers make use of the guidelines in the itself laconic Good Flag, Bad Flag.
Several city flag redesign proposals have won public competitions, but have not been approved by their city governments as official city flags. Almost all contest winners find themselves in this state immediately after a contest ends, but sometimes the wait for an official decision can extend apparently indefinitely. What can be done to move these winning designs out of limbo?
Though the Kickstarter campaign ended this month, its highly entertaining video is still worth watching.
Fargo, North Dakota
In December 2015 Taylor Homoky’s unconventional design won a contest hosted by a Fargo non-profit, The Arts Partnership working with the city’s Arts and Culture Commission.
The partnership submitted the winning design, along with 15 other runners-up, to the commission and “asked for direction from the arts commission and city staff on where the flag search should go next” (see Search for Fargo flag now in hands of city staff). That news item concluded:
Dan Mahli, Fargo’s community development administrator, said he will share the flag designs with the public relations office, which is now working on a city slogan.
Mahli said he may also try to get the submitted flag designs examined by design professionals. Hopefully, they can determine which design best matches the new city slogan, Mahli said.
Fargo’s government may be making the mistake of seeing the city flag only as their flag, rather than the people of Fargo’s flag — and thus requiring coordination with the city’s professional branding efforts, and likely greatly limiting its popular adoption (see also: the case of Provo).
This month Fargo’s mayor announced that the new slogan is “Far more”. No word on the flag, though — far more deliberation is apparently needed.