1 October Is World Vexillology Day

By Scott Mainwaring
Vexilloid Tabloid #60

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.

Since then, 14 FIAV member associations around the world, including just last month the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), have followed suit.

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 info@vexiday.org.

For more information on Vexiday, visit www.vexiday.org. On social media, follow Vexiday on Facebook at facebook.com/vexillologyday, on Twitter at twitter.com/vexiday, on Instagram at instagram.com/vexiday, and on Tumblr at vexiday.tumblr.com.

Let’s take one day a year to celebrate flags, flag studies, and flag design, every October 1st!


El Quince de Septiembre

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.


Vexilloid Tabloid #60

The October 2016 edition of the PFA club newsletter, The Vexilloid Tabloid #60, is here, featuring:

  • 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)

Editor’s note:

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 Vexiday for 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 info@vexiday.orgHow will you be celebrating?




Memories from a Flag Store on the Morning of 9/11

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.

Elmer’s Flag & Banner, Portland’s iconic flag store—founded by Mike Hale’s stepfather Elmer Reider in 1963, and now owned by Dave Anchel.

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.

Ice Cream Flags

by David Koski, Vexilloid Tabloid #59

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.

Neapolitan Ice Cream

margheritaThat 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?

Flag of Naples

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.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Flag

I soon recalled the other multi-colored Italian ice cream (which I always sample when I eat at The Spaghetti Factory): spumoni (singular: spumone), which typically combines three flavors with a fruit/nut layer in between.

Spumoni Ice Cream

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?

Flag of Sicily

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.

Spumoni Ice Cream Flag

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.

Editor’s Note:  It turns out that there is prior art regarding the Neapolitan Ice Cream flag. (The internet is indeed vast.) The blogger Benjamin Weber aka Lairor posted “The Unveiling of the Ice Cream Flag” in July 2009.  He was inspired by the Newfoundland Tricolor.

Bruce Weber’s Neapolitan Ice Cream flag, 2009.
The Newfoundland Tricolor.


The image at the top of this post, of a US flag with scoops of ice cream in the canton, is from a sewing project at craftsy.com/project/view/ice-cream-flag/12834

Fijian PM Cancels Plans To Change Flag

The long wait for news about Fiji’s long-delayed plans to change its flag is over.  Yesterday Prime Minister JV Bainimarama cancelled any such plans “for the foreseeable future”.

He released the following short statement:

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.

Voting Ends 8/8 for Albany Flag Contest

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.

Bree Henderson Spurs Laconia, NH To Redesign Its Flag

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”.

According to city code this is Laconia’s current flag:

1965 design by high school student Frank Decoster. The top triangle is “International green”, the bottom “International blue”, and the side triangles are white. The city seal in black on gold is centered over a map of Lake Winnipesaukee in dark blue. Lettering is in gold with a black outline.

The “facsimile flag” on display in council chambers is a bit different:

The flag as rendered for display differs from how it is specified in code: the seal is in brown and gold, the shape of the lake is different, and the lettering is missing its black outline. “Winnipesaukee” starts on the lake but extends far off to the right in difficult-to-read gold-on-white. (Photo by Ed Pierce,  The Citizen.)

In fact, the facsimile flag does not appear to be a flag at all, but more of a poster.  With a bit more digging, we found evidence that at least one actual flag had been made:

A flag displayed as part of a history exhibit at the public library more closely matches the specifications, though purple has replaced “international blue”. (From a photo by Ed Pierce, The Citizen.)

The obscurity of the Laconian flag is coming to an end, however. Local vexillonaire and entrepreneur Bree Henderson (of the Polished & Proper Barbershop & Shave Parlor), inspired by Roman Mars’ TED Talk, asked the city to sponsor a redesign contest late last year:

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)

Bree Henderson, from a photo on Facebook.

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 laconiacityflag2016@gmail.com. For more information, visit the City Flag of Laconia Facebook page.

If all goes well, Laconia should have a fine laconic flag by the end of the year — particularly if designers make use of the guidelines in the itself laconic Good Flag, Bad Flag.

In Limbo, Waiting For Approval

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?

Portland, Maine

Newspaper group BDN Maine announced just yesterday that Matthew Morey’s design “Portland Beacon” had won their redesign contest.

06 Portland Beacon by Matthew Moray of South Portland

But the announcement ends with a question, rather than a plan for moving forward:

Congrats to Matthew. Next question: Who wants to take the next step and make this Portland’s next flag?

Bellingham, Washington

Brad Lockhart’s design won a contest organized by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership in March 2016.


There is an ongoing effort to support this flag, with a the BellinghamFlag Facebook page having over 1,200 supporters. 175 people purchased 194 flags for $7672 through Kickstarter, which attracted enthusiastic participation (and publicity) from Roman Mars.

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.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As we reported earlier this month “Sunrise Over the Lake” by Robert Lenz won a flag redesign contest organized by vexillonaire Steve Kodis’s group People’s Flag of Milwaukee Design Initiative and a local non-profit.


Part of the strategy for drumming up support for the flag is the merchandising of Sunrise Over the Lake products, including the People’s Sock of Milwaukee.


We salute Matt Wild of the Milwaukee Record for possibly the funniest vexillological lede seen so far:

On June 14, following a highly publicized contest that drew more than 1,000 entries, a group called “The People’s Flag of Milwaukee” unveiled, well, the“People’s Flag of Milwaukee.” The new flag was meant to replace the current Milwaukee flag, which, as we all know, violates the five rules of good flag design that Christ preached to his disciples, and was deemed highly odious by podcast host Roman Mars. And when Roman Fucking Mars says change your flag, you change your flag.

But are Milwaukee aldermen listening?

Joplin, Missouri Flag Redesign Contest

Joplin, Missouri has a flag, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an image of it. Online, the best available would appear to be this photograph from blogspot.com.

Joplin’s flag is rightmost, and lowest. (The difference in height of these flags reflects a common misconception regarding flag etiquette.)

[UPDATE: Jonathan Souder (@dadgif) helpfully provided this much better image.]


Joplin Code 1977, § 1-22 explains the various features of the flag, from 24 stars (for Missouri’s rank as the 24th state) within a wavy red, white, and blue stripe overlay in the upper fly, to the latin motto Ad Omnia Parata (Ready for All Things) at the bottom. If one motto isn’t enough, the flag also contains another motto Zinc Is King in the seal. (Zinc  — a.k.a. “Jack” — was, historically, king though its reign in Joplin’s economy is long over.) The code goes on to prohibit any use of the flag without “express authorization of the city” — pretty much making impossible widespread use by Jopliners.

A private group naming itself #joplinflag is seeking to change this. Starting today (if it goes as scheduled) and through 8 September they are accepting design proposals on their website at joplinflag.com/submit.  After finalists are announced on 15 September, and voting on them ends 15 October, the winning design will be announced on 20 October and designated “the people’s flag of Joplin”.