The PFA Turns 20

From VexTab #49, by Ted Kaye (& John Hood)

It’s been 20 years!

The Portland Flag Association had its roots in the local organizing committee for the 28th annual meeting of the North American Vexillological Association. The organization itself was conceived at a sub-meeting of NAVA 28, held in Portland, Oregon, in October 1994. It was originally envisioned as a regional group for “Cascadia”, with quarterly meetings hosted by members in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

The flag of NAVA 28.  Design by Donald T. Healy.  Image by Clay Moss from
The flag of NAVA 28. Design by Donald T. Healy. Image by Clay Moss from FOTW.

The first regular meeting was held in Seattle in March 1995. However, as the logistics proved overwhelming, soon after that it was reduced to the “Portland Flag Group”, since all members lived in or around Portland.

Harry Oswald (1927-2008).  Photo from
Harry Oswald (1927-2008). Photo from

By 1999, the Harry Oswald (who had chaired the NAVA 28 committee and had a personalized license plate reading “NAVA 28”) was doing his best to keep the rabble in order. He kept the mailing list, recruited members, sent out meeting notices, and edited a one-page newsletter summarizing each quarterly meeting. That May, John Hood debuted a full-color two-page newsletter (Issue 1 of The Vexilloid Tabloid).

John Hood (1934-2011)
John Hood (1934-2011)

In January 2001 we agreed to identify ourselves as the “Portland Flag Association”; in 2010 we adopted a flag. In August 2013 we joined FIAV, the International Federation of Vexillological Associations.

We now have over 30 members, meet bi-monthly, and publish the Vexilloid Tabloid six times a year.

(For a more, see

Twitter, Facebook, and Beyond

We’re now carrying the flag on Twitter as well as Facebook:

And, while you’re at it, send a note to to get our bimonthly newsletter, The Vexilloid Tabloid, delivered to your inbox.

The Portland Pedalpalooza  Bike Festival uses the flag of Portland (along with Cascadia’s) to promote an eclectic mix of over 260 events. (Source: Portland Mercury 6/4/2014)
The Portland Pedalpalooza Bike Festival uses the flag of Portland (along with Cascadia’s) to promote an eclectic mix of over 260 events. (Source: Portland Mercury 6/4/2014)

The Flag of Hawaii 2

The irreverent adult game maker Cards Against Humanity has purchased an island and renamed it Hawaii 2, in order to send each of its 250,000 “Holiday Bullshit” supporters a deed for a square foot, a map, and a small paper flag as a thank-you gift. (They will need to wait until they hear someone boast of owning land in Hawaii in order to chime in “I own some land in Hawaii, two!”.)

The map is not entirely accurate, as comparison to Google’s map shows.

Map (allegedly) of Hawaii 2.
Hawaii 2, aka Birch Island, from Google Maps
Hawaii 2, aka Birch Island, from Google Maps

Also questionable are the “Hawaii 2 facts” listed on the map:

  • Named “best place to masturbate quietly” by Food and Wine magazine.
  • Paul McCartney is buried here.
  • Site of the world’s largest volcano.
  • Home of the world’s longest intestinal parasite, Eupithecia orichloris [actually a Hawaiian moth]
  • Hawaii 2’s chief export is honey mustard.
  • Maine’s ultimate party beach.
  • David Copperfield made this island disappear on live national television in 1995.

The new property owners are admonished not to harm the island, but are encouraged to plant the flag there. Alas, the flag of Hawaii 2 is of the seal-on-a-bed-sheet variety: a white field emblazoned with the crest of Hawaii 2 (a snow-covered shield depicting a pineapple impaled on an anchor, a lobster gripping what is apparently a surfboard, and a hat-wearing snowman on an island with drooping palm trees), above which, a ribbon saying HAWAII 2 (sadly missing an opportunity to call it HAWAII II) and below which, a pineapple  surrounded by leaves and rays. Although a poor design for a flag, it would make a fine page in a coloring book.
The flag design, from the twitter stream of designer Emily Haasch (@emhaasch).

But, wait! It’s double-sided! The reverse is printed with a fill-in-the-blanks template allowing the landowner to write their name and the date on which the flag was placed.
From, an image of the reverse of the flag with its fill-in-the-blank text.

Vexillologically, it is an interesting example of a flag that is designed to be incomplete, inviting alteration before it is displayed.

The flag would also rank highly in any list of Silly Flags.

Barbara Upton’s Waking Planet World Flag

After the 9/11 attacks, New Age artist Barbara Upton created this flag representing “Peace, Justice, Equality and Love”:

Waking Planet World Flag, © Barbara Upton

She describes the symbolism as follows:

The blue earth, glowing with vitality, is surrounded by colorful figures representing the beauty that is possible when people of different colors, tongues and beliefs come together in mutual respect and support. The rainbow spectrum also stands for the integrated wholeness at the core of every individual in this world flag. We access this inner peace by accepting and loving all aspects of our humanness.

The rising sun symbolizes the new millennium and the unlimited energy we are being given to be our best selves and to live our life’s purpose. The sun also represents our male aspect, which must be balanced with our inner female represented by the moon for inner peace to flourish.

The moon above also reminds us that life is cyclical and that every crisis creates a new opportunity of equal intensity—all the challenges facing us today are providing the catalyst for a massive awakening on our planet. The moon also connects us to our intuitive knowing. It whispers to us to act upon the love and wisdom of our higher selves in this precious lifetime.

The Waking Planet new world flag represents a lunar eclipse, a cosmological event in time spanning millions of miles! The symbolism of a lunar eclipse—the time when the earth travels between the sun and the moon and casts its shadow on the moon is key. By accepting and even learning to love our own shadow, with all of our human shortcomings, we experience inner peace — the foundation for peace in the world. Lunar eclipses were once feared, but now embraced, as opportunities for tremendous growth, self-awareness and spiritual awakening.

For more information, visit her website at

The Vexillum: The Original Vexilloid

Vexillology: The study of flags.  Coined by Whitney Smith in 1957, as a combination of the Latin word Vexillum and the Greek suffix -ology.

Vexillum (pl. vexilla):  In ancient Rome, a square military banner hung from a crossbeam carried on a staff.   It’s the diminutive of velum (“sail”), itself derived from Proto-Indo-European *weg- (to weave a web) or *weǵʰ- (to ride), thus “that which propels”.

Vexilloid: Another term coined by Whitney Smith, which he defined as “an object which functions as a flag but differs from it in some respect, usually appearance. Vexilloids are characteristic of traditional societies and often consist of a staff with an emblem, such as a carved animal, at the top.”  Smith derived the word from one of its primary examples, the vexillum.

(For more about flag-related terminology, check out “Let’s raise the flag to the word Vexillology” on Bill Casselman’s Words of the World blog.)

Here’s the oldest (and only) surviving vexillum:

Vexillum-Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.png
The only extant Roman vexillum, 3rd century AD. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Russia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Mayor Hales sails with the Portland flag

From the regular Portland Flag Miscellany section of Vexilloid Tabloid #49:

Portland’s mayor, Charlie Hales, reports to us: “We flew the Portland flag all summer on the s/v Elizabeth, in Puget Sound and Canada’s Gulf Islands. Lots of comments and questions. This image is from our return voyage, nearing the mouth of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.”

Portland’s mayor, Charlie Hales,  reports to us:  “We flew the Portland flag all summer on the s/v Elizabeth,      in Puget Sound and Canada’s Gulf Islands.  Lots of comments and questions.  This image is from our return voyage, nearing the mouth of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.”
The Portland flag flying on the Elizabeth.  Photograph by Charlie Hales.

Areal Density by Susan Murrell

From Ted Kaye’s report on his trip to the Bay Area in Vexilloid Tabloid  #49:

Areal Density, an installation by Susan Murrell in PDX Terminal A
Areal Density (detail).  Photograph by Ted Kaye.

In Portland Airport’s Concourse A, Susan Murrell’s installation Areal Density utilized multiple flag-shaped objects (although apparently not representing actual flags).  She teaches art at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.

From the Port of Portland News Release:

“Technology has fundamentally changed our connection to the landscape,” Murrell said. “The horizon has defined our relationship to the world; now with our expanding perspective, we feel a kinship with microscopic images and aerial views of planets. Similarly, the clean lines of grids, maps, and charts have become a cultural shorthand for quantifying, organizing and even designating ownership of new information. Within the context and tradition of abstraction, my work deals with this shift in visual knowledge.”

The installation apparently closed last month, but more information and imagery can be found on Susan Murrell’s website: Areal Density is one of many Installations; the flag-objects are a recurring motif in her work, including some of her Two-dimensional work

Ted Kaye on the air

Ted Kaye’s 15 minutes of fame—  in small portions….
Ted Kaye’s 15 minutes of fame— in small portions….

Your loquacious Vexilloid Tabloid editor has recently been interviewed on Slate (Mike Pesca’s podcast “The Gist”); 99% Invisible (the “tiny radio show about design” by Roman Mars); and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered (“What does its chosen banner say about ISIS”).  In the interviews he discussed the flags of the UK (after Scotland…), New Zealand, Ukraine (and breakaway territories), the Islamic State, and—most importantly—Portland!

To record the 4-minute NPR/ATC segment,  he visited the studios of Oregon Public Broadcasting, and spoke from there to Tess Vigeland, former OPB reporter and now a guest host of All Things Considered at NPR West in Los Angeles.

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The Vexilloid Tabloid is the bimonthly newsletter of the Portland Flag Association, edited by Ted Kaye.  Each issue features the What’s That Flag? quiz, Flags in the News (news stories featuring flags), Flutterings (highlights from the last PFA meeting), and Portland Flag Miscellany (news about Portland’s city flag), as well as feature articles on flag-related topics by PFA members and other contributors.

We announce each issue here on as a blog post, and add it to the online archive (where you can find all back issues). We also send it out to our email subscribers list as a PDF attachment.  If you would like to be added to that list, just email