Randall Gray’s Flag for Oregon

By Ted Kaye; revised by Scott Mainwaring
Originally published in The Vexilloid Tabloid #30, October 2011

The PFA has honored Randall Gray of West Linn for his re-design of the Oregon State Flag, which received the most votes in The Oregonian‘s contest in 2008-09.

In a celebration hosted in February by Mike Hale at Elmer’s Flag & Banner, the mapmaker for Clackamas County was given a 3’ x 5’ version of his winning design.

Mike Hale presents designer Randall Gray with his “new” Oregon Flag
Mike Hale presents designer Randall Gray with his “new” Oregon Flag

Most members of the Portland Flag Association came for the ceremony.  At the end of the event, Mike Hale took us all on a behind-the-scenes tour of the flag store.

Mike Hale talks flag fabrication in the sewing loft at Elmer’s Flag & Banner.
Mike Hale talks flag fabrication in the sewing loft at Elmer’s Flag & Banner.

The story of the flag contest is reported in NAVA News No. 205 January-March 2010, including designs of ten finalists.  A more detailed case study calls out 12 lessons learned for would-be vexillonaires.

Interestingly, two PFA members (out of over 2,000 entrants) had designs in that top ten.  (Doug Lynch was one, and we invited Randall Gray to join the PFA  after the contest.)

The Oregonian had sponsored an effort to redesign the state’s flag in anticipation of Oregon’s 150th birthday in February 2009.

The quality of the entries was stunning—hundreds of them would have made a successful state flag.  While professional graphic artists participated and submitted spectacular designs, so did amateurs and schoolchildren.

Mike Hale and Ted Kaye helped  with an initial culling process. In two weekend sessions of 2-3 hours each, they selected about 240 entries for further consideration by the flag jury.

After that jury selected the 10  finalists, newspaper readers gave Randall’s beaver design top votes.  However, without a legislative plan and no support from the governor, the effort to update the official flag went nowhere.

The Oregonian described Randall’s design process:  “Always interested in flags and design, Gray was unimpressed with the front of the Oregon flag.  But the back, with the beaver, was another matter.  ‘The backside is the start of something good.’”  The meaning:  “Blue and gold for the state colors with green to represent trees and wilderness Oregon was blessed with.  White contrasts between the dark blue and green.  The beaver from the current flag links us with the past.  The star represents Oregon’s place in the Union.”

Elmer’s Flag and Banner generously made up the flag, using the beaver image from another entrant, Tom Lincoln.  It is likely the only such flag extant in that design!

Related links

Sure, we’ve heard from about 100 people who don’t want to give up on the current flag. They told us to go back to California! But actually, we don’t want to give up on the current flag, even though its history is not all that storied. Reporter Michael Milstein wrote about how the design was whipped up in a hurry by the Legislature in 1925 without any community input. And not to put Michael back into the crosshairs of people who like the flag just as it is, but the contest was his notion. He wanted an event, to help launch the 150th anniversary of statehood in February, that would knit together the community. That’s exactly what happened. And, we’ve gotten some very cool, innovative flag designs from readers that reflect our iconic landscape.

United Nations Flag Project

By Michael Orelove
Originally published in The Vexilloid Tabloid #30, October 2011

I have all 50 state flags, different historical American flags, some city flags, and various other flags, but very few national flags.  I give flag presentations in schools and various community organizations and wanted to have additional national flags.

Rather than purchase a full set of all the national flags I decided to write letters to all the nations and request the donation of a flag for educational purposes.  In January I sent out 192 letters to all the nations of the United Nations and waited.  In the following months I received a total of 15 flags.

The flags were all different sizes from 4 x 6 inches to 3 x 5 feet.  Some countries included information about their flag and country.  The Maldives sent one large flag and two smaller flag.  Lebanon sent one cloth flag and 10 paper flags.  Some flags were mounted on sticks and some included bases.  Three nations sent letters stating that they did not have any flag to send me.

I took all the flags I received to the Troutdale Elementary School in Troutdale, Oregon, and gave a flag presentation.  I took a group picture of the kids holding the flags.

Students at Troutdale Elementary School with Michael’s flags.
Students at Troutdale Elementary School with Michael’s flags.

The flags shown in the photo are:

  • Back wall:  Poland, Maldives, Kuwait, Nicaragua, and Lebanon.
  • Also on the wall is a map of the world with dots on the countries relating to the flags.  The students learn where all the countries are from the flags.  This is a fun way to teach world geography.
  • The boy in the back is holding both the flag of Panama and the flag of the Bahamas.
  • Front large flags:  Philippines and Slovakia.
  • For the Philippine flag I explained that the flag is flown with the blue stripe on top during times of peace and the red strip on top during times of war.  The boy in the middle of the Philippine flag recently moved here from the Philippines.
  • For the Slovakian flag I explained that there are two different versions of the flag, for when the flag is flown horizontally or vertically, so that the coat of arms is always upright.
  • Middle section:  United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Georgia, New Zealand, Saint Lucia, and Mexico.

In June I sent a second letter requesting a flag to all the nations that did not send me a flag the first time.  The letter included the photo of the kids holding the flags and a newspaper article about another flag project I was involved in.  I am again receiving flags.  To date I have received another 15 flags in different sizes.  Most are cloth flags and Namibia is a paper flag.  Many nations have sent lots of tourist information about their country.  Malaysia also included three lapel pins.

This is a fun project and each day I do not know what the mail will bring.

Editor’s note:

Michael brought many of these flags to our September meeting, and showed the binder in which he is collecting all the correspondence with the nations’ representatives and photos of himself with each flag.  More arrive each month.

Vexilloid Tabloid #30

John Hood 1934-2011

At long last, a new edition of  The Vexilloid Tabloid is here!  Ted Kaye is serving as interim editor.  The new issue features:

  • Obituary:  John Hood 1934-2011
  • In John Hood’s Footsteps (Ted Kaye)
  • United Nations Flag Project (Michael Orelove)
  • Honoring the Designer of the “new” Oregon State Flag
  • Old Glory Afghan (Michael Orelove)

and as always the “What’s That Flag?” quiz (from our new quizmaster, Max Liberman), Flags in the News, and notes from our 2011 meetings.

Click here for this latest issue (PDF, 0.7MB), or see portlandflag.org/vexilloid-tabloid for access to this and all previous issues.

Mike Hale (l) and Randall Gray (r) with Gray's winning design in The Oregonian's New Oregon Flag contest