National Woman’s Party Flag

Today is the 102nd anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment when the United States officially recognized women’s right to vote. In August we usually do something to commemorate this. We flew a “19th Amendment Victory Flag” in 2019 and 2020. The story about how the amendment finally passed is mind-boggling. Women’s suffrage is unequivocally righteous yet its passage came down to a single vote in a single state. It’s a great story which you can find in our 2019 article, 19th Amendment Victory Flag.

This year, because of recent events, we wanted something broader, so we’re flying the flag of the National Woman’s Party, as a way to not merely recognize suffrage but to stand for all rights for all women. The NWP was founded in 1913 during the final push to achieve suffrage and has been fighting for women’s rights ever since.

The flag is a gold, white and purple horizontal tri-color; those are the official colors of the NWP. The meanings of the colors were explained in the Suffragist in December 1913.

“Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose; and gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.”

The Victory Flag incidentally is quite similar, it’s merely the NWP flag with 36 stars added for the thirty-six states that approved the amendment.

But for the main part of this article, we want to go back a bit farther than that and simultaneously closer to the present.

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony voted illegally; she was arrested and fined $100.

On the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, she was granted a pardon in what can only be described as a cynical attempt to court the women’s vote. The pardon was rejected by Deborah L. Hughes, President & CEO of The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. She wrote,

Anthony wrote in her diary in 1873 that her trial for voting was “The greatest outrage History ever witnessed.”  She was not allowed to speak as a witness in her own defense, because she was a woman. At the conclusion of arguments, Judge Hunt dismissed the jury and pronounced her guilty.  She was outraged to be denied a trial by jury. She proclaimed, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” To pay would have been to validate the proceedings. To pardon Susan B. Anthony does the same.

She was right. If you’ve violated an unjust law, you don’t accept a pardon. Accepting a pardon acknowledges wrongdoing. Scream it from the rooftops, put it on your resume, or have t-shirts printed up but don’t accept a pardon.

Here’s what Susan B. Anthony said at the time.

Is it a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?

Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus doing, I not only committed no crime but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny. 

Our democratic-republican government is based on the idea of the natural right of every individual member thereof to a voice and a vote in making and executing the laws. We assert the province of government to be to secure the people in the enjoyment of their inalienable rights. We throw to the winds the old dogma that governments can give rights. No one denies that before governments were organized each individual possessed the right to protect his own life, liberty, and property. When 100 to 1,000,000 people enter into a free government, they do not barter away their natural rights; they simply pledge themselves to protect each other in the enjoyment of them through prescribed judicial and legislative tribunals. They agree to abandon the methods of brute force in the adjustment of their differences and adopt those of civilization.  

Nor can you find a word in any of the grand documents left us by the fathers that assumes for government the power to create or to confer rights. The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the several States and the organic laws of the Territories, all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise of their God-given rights. Not one of them pretends to bestow rights.

“All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Here is no shadow of government authority over rights, or exclusion of any class from their full and equal enjoyment. Here is pronounced the right of all men, and “consequently,” as the Quaker preacher said, “of all women,” to a voice in the government. And here, in this first paragraph of the Declaration, is the assertion of the natural right of all to the ballot; for how can “the consent of the governed” be given, if the right to vote be denied? The women, dissatisfied as they are with this form of government, that enforces taxation without representation – that compels them to obey laws to which they have never given their consent – that imprisons and hangs them without a trial by a jury of their peers – that robs them, in marriage, of the custody of their own persons, wages and children – are this half of the people who are left wholly at the mercy of the other half, in direct violation of the spirit and the letter of the declarations of the framers of this government, every one of which was based on the immutable principles of equal rights to all. By these declarations, kings, popes, priests, aristocrats, all were alike dethroned and placed on a common level, politically, with the lowliest born subject or serf. By them, too, men. as such, were deprived of their divine right to rule and placed on a political level with women. By the practice of these declarations all class and caste distinctions would be abolished, and slave, serf, plebeian, wife, woman, all alike rise from their subject position to the broader platform of equality.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says: 

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.

The early journals of Congress show that, when the committee reported to that body the original articles of confederation, the very first one which became the subject of discussion was that respecting the equality of suffrage . . . 

James Madison said:

Under every view of the subject, it seems indispensable that the mass of the citizens should not be without a voice in making the laws which they are to obey, and in choosing the magistrates who are to administer them . . . Let it be remembered, finally, that it has ever been the pride and the boast of America that the rights for which she contended were the rights of human nature. 

These assertions by the framers of the United States Constitution of the equal and natural right of all the people to a voice in the government, have been affirmed and reaffirmed by the leading statesmen of the nation throughout the entire history of our government. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, said in 1866:

I have made up my mind that the elective franchise is one of the inalienable rights meant to be secured by the Declaration of Independence.” . . .

Charles Sumner, in his brave protests against the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, insisted that so soon as by the Thirteenth Amendment the slaves became free men, the original powers of the United States Constitution guaranteed to them equal rights – the right to vote and to be voted for . . . 

The preamble of the constitution of the State of New York declares the same purposes. It says: “We the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, do establish this constitution.” Here is not the slightest intimation either of receiving freedom from the United States Constitution or of the State’s conferring the blessings of liberty upon the people; and the same is true of every other State constitution. Each and all declare rights God-given, and that to secure the people in the enjoyment of their inalienable rights is their one and only object in ordaining and establishing government. All of the State constitutions are equally emphatic in their recognition of the ballot as the means of securing the people in the enjoyment of these rights . . . 

I submit that in the view of the explicit assertions of the equal right of the whole people, both in the preamble and previous article of the constitution, this omission of the adjective “female” should not be construed into a denial; but instead should be considered as of no effect . . . No barriers whatever stand today between women and the exercise of their right to vote save those of precedent and prejudice, which refuse to expunge the word “male” from the constitution.

. . . When, in 1871, I asked that senator to declare the power of the United States Constitution to protect women in their right to vote – as he had done for black men – he handed me a copy of all his speeches during that reconstruction period, and said:

Put “sex” where I have “race” or “color,” and you have here the best and strongest argument I can make for woman. There is not a doubt but women have the constitutional right to vote, and I will never vote for a Sixteenth Amendment to guarantee it to them. I voted for both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth under protest; would have insisted that the power of the original Constitution to protect all citizens in the equal enjoyment of their rights should have been vindicated through the courts. But the newly-made freedmen had neither the intelligence, wealth nor time to await that slow process. Women do possess all these in an eminent degree, and I insist that they shall appeal to the courts, and through them establish the powers of our American magna charta to protect every citizen of the republic.

But, friends, when in accordance with Senator Sumner’s counsel I went to the ballot box last November, and exercised my citizen’s right to vote, the courts did not wait for me to appeal to them – they appealed to me, and indicted me on the charge of having voted illegally. Putting sex where he did color, Senator Sumner would have said:

Qualifications can be in their nature permanent or insurmountable. Sex can not be a qualification any more than size, race, color or previous condition of servitude. A permanent or insurmountable qualification is equivalent to a deprivation of the suffrage. In other words, it is the tyranny of taxation without representation, against which our Revolutionary mothers, as well as fathers, rebelled.

For any State to make sex a qualification, which must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, an ex post facto law, and is, therefore, a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it, the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity. For them, this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. For them this government is not a democracy; it is not a republic. It is the most odious aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe. An oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor; an oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant; or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household; which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects – carries discord and rebellion into every home of the nation. This most odious aristocracy exists, too, in the face of Section 4, Article IV, which says: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government.” . . . 

It is urged that the use of the masculine pronouns he, his and him in all the constitutions and laws, is proof that only men were meant to be included in their provisions. If you insist on this version of the letter of the law, we shall insist that you be consistent and accept the other horn of the dilemma, which would compel you to exempt women from taxation for the support of the government and from penalties for the violation of laws. There is no she or her or hers in the tax laws, and this is equally true of all the criminal laws.

Take for example the civil rights law which I am charged with having violated; not only are all the pronouns in it masculine, but everybody knows that it was intended expressly to hinder the rebel men from voting. It reads, “If any person shall knowingly vote without his having a lawful right.” . . . I insist if government officials may thus manipulate the pronouns to tax, fine, imprison and hang women, it is their duty to thus change them in order to protect us in our right to vote . . .

Though the words persons, people, inhabitants, electors, citizens, are all used indiscriminately in the national and state constitutions, there was always a conflict of opinion, prior to the war, as to whether they were synonymous terms, but whatever room there was for doubt, under the old regime, the adoption of the Fourteenth amendment settled that question forever in its first sentence:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State wherein they reside.

The second settles the equal status of all citizens:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? I scarcely believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens, and no State has a right to make any new law or to enforce any old law, which shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several States is today null and void, precisely as is everyone against negroes.

References:

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July! We’ve made it a tradition to begin flying a historic American flag each July 4th. In 2018, it was the “Betsy Ross” flag. In 2019 we flew the Bennington Flag. Then came the Star-Spangled Banner and the Bunker Hill flag. This year we’re flying the flag that flew over Fort Sumter in 1961.

The Fort Sumter flag is a 33-star variant with the stars in a striking pattern. Twenty-five stars are arranged in a diamond centered in the canton with the remaining 8 placed in the four corners in pairs.

The historical significance of the flag is, of course, obvious. Two flags of this type flew over Fort Sumter during the bombardment marking the Civil War’s first engagement, the Garrison Flag and the smaller storm flag.

Major Robert Anderson was allowed to lower the flags and take them with him when he surrendered the fort on 13 April 1861. The stripes of the garrison flag were in tatters but in an impressive happenstance of symbolism, the canton, representing the union of the then 33 states, remained virtually untouched. The coincidence defies belief but certainly foreshadows the end of the war; that the union would persevere.

The storm flag, in better condition, became a patriotic symbol. Major Anderson brought the flag to a rally in New York City on 20 April. With more than 100,000 people in attendance, it was the largest gathering in the U.S. up until that time.

This flag was brought from city to city after this and used, not just to inspire patriotic fervor but as a fundraising tool. The flag was “auctioned” to raise money for the war with the understanding that the winner would donate the flag back to the country so the process could repeat itself in the next town. The storm flag became a famous and salient patriotic symbol for the Union over the course of the war.

Almost exactly 4 years after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson, now a Major General, raised the flag over the fort once again. Henry Ward Beecher, the main speaker at the event, expressed a hope now embodied in the flag.

…Terrible in battle, may it be beneficent in peace [and] as long as the sun endures, or the stars, may it wave over a nation neither enslaved nor enslaving…. We lift up our banner, and dedicate it to peace, Union, and liberty, now and forevermore.”

Rev. Henry Ward Beecher

Both flags are in the care of the National Park Service and the Storm Flag is on display at the Fort Sumter Museum.

References:

Picture Credits:

Happy Juneteenth!

Happy Juneteenth! We’re flying the Juneteenth flag for the second time and I’m happy to report that this year Elmira College has designated the day as an official college holiday.

“Juneteenth,” also known as “America’s second independence day,” is a recognized holiday in all 50 states since South Dakota recognized it this February. It’s an official state holiday in 24 states and the District of Columbia. It commemorates the end of slavery in the US after the Civil War.

The name “Juneteenth” is a contraction of “June nineteenth” or a “portmanteau” if you want to be all fancy about it. It’s been a national holiday since President Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law on 17 June 2021. That was long overdue; we should be celebrating the moments when we actually got closer to the ideals the US is supposed to represent.

Some History

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and it took effect on 1 January 1863. It proclaims that “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” This changed the character of the war, transforming it from a conflict that could be perceived as an internecine squabble to a quest to expand basic human rights, Of course, it wasn’t that simple. But it meant that the tide of freedom advanced as the Union gained territory.

The Army of the Trans-Mississippi was the last major Confederate force to surrender. On 19 June 1895, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to take command of the Army forces there, one of his first actions was to issue General Order 3, which informed the citizens of Texas that slavery there was ended. It read in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Juneteenth_general_order3.jpg

Celebrations erupted as Granger’s men traveled forth announcing the order. A few months later, slavery finally ended throughout the US on 18 December 1865 when the 13th Amendment officially became part of the Constitution. One year after General Order 3, the first commemoration took place in Galveston as “Jubilee Day.” That became an annual tradition.

The Flag and its Symbolism

The Juneteenth flag is stunning! it was originally designed by Ben Haith in 1997 and refined by graphic designer Lisa Jeanne Graf. The symbolism of the flag is profound.

The colors are an intentional callback to the American flag emphasizing that the people freed that day and their descendants were, are, and remain Americans.

The central five-pointed star not only represents the freedom of African-Americans in all 50 states but also symbolizes Texas, the Lone Star State, where the celebration originated.

The burst that surrounds the star is a nova, a new star that represents a new freedom, a new people, and a new beginning for African Americans.

Finally, the arc depicts the horizon; a new horizon representing the promise and opportunities that lie ahead.

References:

State Flags: Missouri

Happy (belated now) Flag Day 2022! We’re flying the Missouri state flag for the occasion.

Columns. They seem like a good idea at the time, but then things get busy and you start to feel self-consciously like Doctor Who (the program). It’s been altogether too long since your last episode and you’re hoping that people are going to lose interest. But you have a season of Sherlock to do, or whatever it is that Chris Chibnall did in between seasons. You get the idea.

Without further ado, here’s our latest installment on State Flags. If you recall our first installment, we’re dividing the US state flags into four categories

  1. Flags that need no changes
  2. Flags that only need very slight changes
  3. Flags that have well-established and aesthetic alternatives and
  4. Flags that require significant changes.
The Great Seal of Missouri

We’ve run through the top category in our first two installments but today we’re jumping ahead to category four because we’re flying the Missouri flag as we did for the Bicentennial of Missouri becoming a state last August when I started this post.

You might recall that Missouri was admitted to the union as part of the Compromise of 1820. It was a very similar situation to today. Today a potential state can’t become a state, even if it makes perfect sense for it to be one because it’s likely to elect Senators and Representatives from the wrong party. It was the same deal in 1819 except we cared about whether a state would support slavery or not. The Compromise of 1820 allowed Missouri and Maine to enter the union together one as a free state, the other as a slave state.

The Union Civil War Banner

It took nearly a century for Missouri to adopt a state flag although there were many unofficial flags flown by Missouri regiments fighting on both sides of the Civil War. These included flags with the state’s Great Seal in gold on a blue background, which is a quintessential seal on a bedsheet. The confederate version of this flag has the cloud of stars reduced to just a single star to symbolize Missouri as an independent state.

The creation of the official state flag started in 1908 when the Daughters of the American Revolution in Cape Girardeau noticed the need for a state flag. They set up a committee and appointed Marie Elizabeth Oliver its chair. Oliver researched state flags extensively, especially the methods for their design and adoption. She came up with her own design starting with the state coat of arms with the cloud of stars recycled as a blue circle with white stars surrounding the rest of the design. This was then superimposed on a red, white, and blue horizontal tri-color. This design was proposed to the state legislature in 1909 and 1911 before finally being adopted in 1913.

The Flag inherits a lot of symbolism from the Great Seal. The cloud of stars signifies that Missouri was the twenty-fourth state to join the union while two bears on either side of the central shield represent courage and strength. The belt buckle is an interesting element; it’s part of the circle that proclaims “United We Stand Divided We Fall.” That a belt with that motto could be unbuckled seems like a bit of a mixed message. One source I consulted suggests that the buckle combined with the helmet stand for the idea that Missouri is a strong state that must be free to solve its own problems while another explicitly ties the buckle to the possibility of secession. The crescent moon holds out hope for the future.

The additional elements of the flag enhanced the symbolism. As quoted by US Flag Supply:

“…The Oliver flag embraced national pride and at the same time expressed characteristics of Missouri and Missourians. The three large stripes were symbolic of the people of the state was the blue stripe represented vigilance, permanency and justice, the red represented valor, and the white stripe symbolized purity. The Missouri coat-of-arms appeared in the center of the flag, signifying both Missouri’s independence as a state, and its place as a part of the whole United States. Having the coat-of-arms in the center of the national colors represents Missouri, as she had the geographical center of the nation. By mingling the state coat-of-arms with the national colors of red, white and blue, the flag signified the harmony existing between the two. Twenty-four stars surrounded the coat-of-arms, representative of Missouri’s position as the 24th state admitted to the Union.”

Using the tricolored background makes Missouri’s flag more attractive than the typical state flag that just utilizes a seal on a solid background. Still, it’s far from ideal. The seal with its small sections and text is too detailed to be discernible from any distance.

In considering a redesign of the flag, it makes sense to maintain the best elements of the flag while using them in a simplified design and incorporating some more modern symbols. I started with the wavy blue and white lines from the flag of St. Louis to represent the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The arch, as it does for St. Louis, can represent Missouri’s importance in the exploration and settlement of the American West. As I was writing this I encountered a claim that not only is St. Louis the westernmost eastern city in the US, Kansas City is the easternmost western city in the nation. The colors, the bear, and the crescent can maintain their original meanings.

Full disclosure here: I’ve seen similar proposed flags, lots of which predate this one, on the Facebook group U.S. State Flags – Current, Historical, and Proposed. That group is worth checking out if you’re interested in state flags and/or flag design.

My wife, Joanne was born and raised in Missouri and her favorite element of the state flag is the bears, particularly the two larger ones. Here’s an earlier attempt including one. Unfortunately, I don’t have the skill that I would need to have the bear hug the arch like it does the disk. As an interesting side note, the bears on the Missouri flag are described as Grizzlies even though the only species of bear that is native to Missouri is the American Black Bear. The use of Grizzlies may have been inspired by encounters that Missourians Hugh Glass and Jed Smith had with the creatures. Those harrowing stories can be found here.

Finally, you might think that a less radical redesign is in order, in which case I would suggest something like this, cleaning up the design by replacing the seal with a single element contained within it. Again I’m sure that there are many proposals similar to this one and I’ve seen one with a fleur de lis. There are many potential options for that central element. I’m deferring to the Missouri native in the family; we’re going with the bear.

References:

Image Credits:

We Came in Peace…

Each year, on 20 July, we fly a flag to commemorate when the first humans landed on the Moon. Two years ago was the 50th Anniversary. That was a lot of fun and also a good day for the blog. We flew the NASA flag, wrote about the probable state of the flags still on the Moon, and watched a lot of the coverage in real-time, just 50 years removed. I’ll share those posts below.

This year, we are flying an Apollo 11 flag. Well, kind of. We’re flying a flag that was marketed as an Apollo 11 flag. But it’s probably something that was cooked up for the semicentennial. It’s just the Apollo 11 mission patch on a black background. Vexillologists would call this a seal on a bedsheet like most of the state flags in the US.

But honestly, it’s better than those for a few reasons. First, the background is black, while most seals on a bedsheet have a blue background. Most predominantly black flags are black-and-white, so this one is distinctive in both of those groups.

The “seal,” as noted, was a mission patch, and unlike most state seals, patches are designed to be visible on clothing from across a room. That gives the design a simplicity that’s missing from most state seals. It’s clear what you’re looking at even from a distance. That makes it work much better as a flag.

Thirdly, the symbolism is clear and straightforward. The black background represents space, while the meanings of the Earth in the background and the lunar landscape in the foreground are self-evident. The eagle carries an olive branch in his talons to denote the spirit of peaceful exploration. The plaque left behind in the Sea of Tranquility is moving, “We came in peace for all mankind.” The eagle itself can be seen as a representation of its namesake, the lunar lander. Of course, the eagle, a national symbol of the United States, also proclaims that it’s the United States that got there first. Peaceful exploration is all well and good, but it’s impossible to deny the underlying motivation; the US had a Cold War to win.

There’s a lovely article on the NASA Website about the design of the patch.

There are also a couple of things that would mark this flag down according to the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) standards from Good Flag, Bad Flag. and so, I decided to play with the image.

The first is that there’s text. The NAVA standards point out that text is problematic on Flags. It’s both notable and gracious that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins declined to have their names incorporated into the patch. That allowed it to represent all of the thousands of people who had a part in the endeavor. But it still says “Apollo 11.” How does the flag look without it? Pretty damn good. We don’t need the text to tell us what this is about; that’s undeniable.

The other place that this doesn’t meet the NAVA standards is in the colors. NAVA recommends no more than 4, but this flag has at least ten. That presents a question. Do we need the circles? Here’s a version without them.

I replaced the moonscape and background with part of one of the photos from the mission. This looks a little bland. I think I would be inclined to enlarge the Earth and eagle. And I’d make the background either a black and light grey bi-color or an extended drawing of the Lunar surface from the patch.

The other thing that I did on the 20th was to watch this again, the CBS interview with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. It’s always a treat.

My initial plan for this article was to transcribe this video and annotate it. There’s some great stuff there, but that turned out to be a time-consuming process. That might be the plan for next year.

For now I’ll leave you with this portion of the interview:

At about 3 minutes into the video, Cronkite muses, “I can’t imagine a moment to equal this. The only thing I could imagine is if some fella came forward and could say, positively, that we’re not going to have any more war.” “I think this is a step in that direction,” Clarke responds, “because this sort of thing is making our stupidities here on Earth seem more and more intolerable. And I think this might be the greatest result of the Space Program.”

Let’s hope that he was right.

Here are the posts from 20 July 2019.

References:

A Flag for the Fourth

Happy Independence Day!

We’ll begin in our usual way. To mark the occasion this year, we’re flying the “Bunker Hill Flag” which is a bit different from our usual July 4th flag; its not one of the variations of the stars and stripes. It’s famous for flying at the Battle of Bunker Hill the first major conflict of the Revolutionary War, except that it isn’t. I’ll explain. It’s a story reminiscent of the history of the Bennington Flag.

The Bunker Hill Flag, so named because many believe it was flown by the colonists at its eponymous battle, has a blue field with the red St. George Cross on a white background in the canton. In the upper left hand corner of the canton is a pine tree which to the colonists symbolized liberty.

There are no contemporary accounts of this flag being flown at the battle and most likely the colonists flew what is known as the colonial flag; a red ensign with a pine tree shown in the canton. Both of these flags are modeled on British flags with only the addition of a pine tree because at the time, many colonists still believed that reconciliation with Great Britain was possible.

The evidence that the blue Bunker Hill flag was flown at Bunker Hill consists entirely of a painting done by Jonathan Trumbull, an eye witness to the battle, and an interview of the daughter of a veteran of the battle.

But the daughter’s account only said that her father claimed to have raised a blue flag at the battle while an earlier version of Trumbull’s painting showed the blue flag colored red; that painting is considered to be evidence that the Continental Flag was used.

https://imgc.allpostersimages.com/img/print/u-g-PC9CCH0.jpg?w=550&h=550&p=0

There’s one piece of direct evidence that the Bunker Hill Flag was actually flown at the battle, a book published early in the 19th century. The book contained a picture of the flag but the description described it as red rather than blue. This is generally considered to be a printing error.

Despite it’s questionable origins, the Bunker Hill Flag became a symbol of both the Revolution and of New England. It remains in use as a flag of New England today.

This seems fitting. Despite Bunker Hill being the original objective of both the Americans and the British, most of the fighting occurred a third of a mile south on Breed’s Hill. Some even cal it “The Battle of Breed’s Hill.”

References

Juneteenth and Pride Month!

Two Flags for June

The Juneteenth Flag

Happy Juneteenth! I’ve been wanting to fly a Juneteenth flag for a couple of years now but I found an affordable one just this year.

You might be wondering what “Juneteenth” is. Also known as “America’s second independence day,” it’s been a state holiday in 49 states and commemorates the end of slavery in the US after the Civil War.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and it took effect on 1 January 1863. It proclaims “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” This changed the character of the war, transforming it from a conflict that could be perceived as an internecine squabble to a quest to expand basic human rights, Of course, it wasn’t that simple. But it meant that the tide of freedom advanced as the Union gained territory.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Juneteenth_general_order3.jpg

The Army of the Trans-Mississippi was the last major Confederate force to surrender. On 19 June 1895, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to take command of the Army forces there, one of his first actions was to issue General Order 3, which informed the citizens of Texas that slavery there was ended. It read in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

Celebrations erupted as Granger’s men traveled forth announcing the order. A few months later, slavery finally ended throughout the US on 6 December 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. One year after General Order 3, the first commemoration took place in Galveston as “Jubilee Day.” That became an annual tradition.

The name “Juneteenth” is a contraction of “June nineteenth.” Actually, it’s a “portmanteau” if you want to be all fancy about it. In a nice bit of synergy, Juneteenth became a national holiday two days ago, as President Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law. That was long overdue; we should celebrate the moments when we actually got closer to the ideals the US is supposed to represent.

The Juneteenth flag is stunning! it was originally designed by Ben Haith in 1997 and refined by graphic designer Lisa Jeanne Graf. The symbolism of the flag is profound.

The colors are an intentional callback to the American flag emphasizing that the people freed that day and their descendants were, are, and remain Americans.

The central five-pointed star not only represents the freedom of African-Americans in all 50 states but also symbolizes Texas, the Lone Star State, where the celebration originated.

The burst that surrounds the star is a nova, a new star which represents a new freedom, a new people and a new beginning for African Americans.

Finally, the arc depicts the horizon; a new horizon representing the promise and opportunities that lie ahead.

The Ally Flag

Also, Happy Pride Month! Until yesterday we’d been flying the Ally flag in honor of Pride Month. I didn’t have much new to say about it since I wrote about it last time we flew the flag.

My previous Ally Flag Post

At the time I’d written about an alternative version that I liked a bit better and wished had been available. It’s still not available, but I’ve recreated it so you can see it here. In retrospect, I had some mixed feelings about this version as I realized that the background was initially a “Straight Pride Flag.” Frequently, things like that are a reactionary backlash to some new group looking for equality.

But the standard ally flag has the same problem; the black-and-white striped flag has a similar origin and it’s time to reclaim those images in any event. Having either as the background of an ally flag does nothing but decrease its salience as a reactionary symbol. And aesthetically I still like the shades-of-gray better. I’m not completely happy with this recreation though. The contrast between the pure black on top and pure white on the bottom is too stark. I’ll probably go back and try a version with shades of gray throughout.

References:

Happy Earth Day 2021!

Good morning everyone, and Happy Earth Day! Today, for Earth Day, we’ve finally gotten a copy of “the Flag of Earth” that was designed by James W. Cadel in 1970. I’ve been wanting one of these for a while. It’s a beautiful flag with clear symbolism, showing a simple representation of the Earth, Moon and the Sun. As it is stated on the Flag of Earth Website, “The Earth and its most important celestial neighbors – the Sun and Moon – are overlaid on a backdrop of the darkness of space.”

The origins of Cadel’s flag trace back to the Apollo 11 moon landing and a movement to plant, not the American Flag on the Moon, but one that represented all of humanity. The United Nations flag was proposed as an alternative, but that, it was pointed out, does not represent all of Earth, but merely a particular organization. This was “one giant leap for Mankind” but that sentiment was marred by an ostentatious display of nationalism. Surely if politics can end at the water’s edge, then nationalism can end at the edge of the atmosphere.

The following year Cadel designed this flag, hoping it would be used on future space missions in the spirit of the message that the Apollo 11 astronauts left on the Moon, “We came in peace for all Mankind.”

NASA never warmed to that idea, but the Flag of Earth became popular in astronomical circles and was flown at observatories and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) installations worldwide. It was lowered to half-staff to mark the passing of Carl Sagan. The North American AstroPhysical Observatory, which runs the ARGUS Array, is now entrusted with the Flag of Earth’s legacy and its website. You can find a lot more information there and you can also purchase merchandise, the proceedes of which support the Observatory’s projects including the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

One unrelated note: we had been flying the 1901 Maine flag prior to today although I did not have time to post about it at the time. It worked nicely for the holiday season and it did, in fact, fly for a part of 2020, Maine’s bicentennial year. While we were flying the 1901 flag, there was a welcome proposal to restore it as the official state flag that sadly failed. It would have been a big improvement. More on that when we continue our series on state flags.

References:

Two Flags for Election Day

Happy Election Day 2020! I hope every one who hasn’t is planning to vote. More on that later. Here are two flag related things about this year’s elections.

48 Star American Flag 3x5 Feet 1912-1959 Old Glory US USA for sale online |  eBay

We’ve decided to fly a 48-Star American Flag to mark the day of one of our most important patriotic duties. Why the 48-star flag? Well, the 48-star flag had the second-longest tenure as the nation’s official flag, from 1912 to 1959, and not once in that time did we suffer an electoral inversion where the Electoral College failed to elect the winner of the popular vote.

The 48-star flag was also the flag for the 1936 Election which is notable for two reasons. It’s the election where Literary Digest predicted a landslide victory for Republican Alf Landon. Don’t recall President Landon? There’s a good reason for that. The Literary Digest poll is literally a textbook example of how not to predict the winner of an election. Predicting that Landon would win 57% to 43%, they were off by a whopping 19 points! That’s the largest error ever in an important opinion poll. Don’t worry though, we’re a lot better at it now.

File:ElectoralCollege1936.svg

The other reason that the 1936 election is noteworthy is that it holds the record for the largest electoral-vote landslide in American History. President Roosevelt won 527 electoral-votes to Landon’s 8. That, to borrow a joke from Barbara Holland, was the start of that old saying, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”

There’s one other flag with a connection to Election Day this year because Joanne and I actually cast our ballots on the 24th of October, the first day of early voting. It took us just over an hour standing in line and chatting with some friendly people. Toward the front of the line, in front of the Board of elections, I finally got a good look at a Chemung County flag. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen in the wild and it’s pretty good. It’s got an eagle and a wreath and some stars and it only uses three colors. It ticks off some of the NAVA standards. It could do without all the text and I have no clue about the symbolism but as a municipal flag, it’s above average.

Have a great day and don’t forget to vote!

Happy Star Trek Day!

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On 8 September 1966, after two years in development, Star Trek finally debuted on the teevee. Fans have celebrated this date as “Star Trek Day” unofficially for a while now, but the producers of the show have now gotten on board and today, 2020.09.08 is the first Official Star Trek Day with events like marathons, cast reunions and more. “Encounter at Farpoint” is airing on StarTrek.com as I write this.

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In our little corner of the Alpha Quadrant, we’re marking the occasion by flying the flag of the United Federation of Planets. We’ve flown the UFP flag before and you can read my original post about the flag here.

The UFP Flag and Beginning Vexillology

That post contains my thoughts on the flag. For today I thought we’d look at two precursors of the UFP flag and a proposed redesign. The UFP apparently had no flag in the Original Series. The Star Fleet Technical Manual (Joseph, 1975) had a Banner, which can be seen in “And The Children Shall Lead” and it had a seal shown here, possibly designed for the book cover. This seal would make a passable flag itself.

The first place we see an image similar to the “current” UFP flag is on a view screen in Star Trek the Motion Picture when Kirk addresses the crew. This same image is seen as a flag, draped across the Torpedo Tube at Spock’s funeral in The Wrath of Khan.

This clearly looks like a hybrid of the Tech Manual’s seal and the current flag design. There are two advantages over the current design for me. There’s no text and the wreath looks less like something of terrestrial origin.

The last image we’ll look at today is a proposed redesign of the UFP flag that I found on Reddit, created by Doliam13.

This fixes a lot of the issues with the current UFP flag. The text is gone and the star field is more symbolic, looking less like a literal map of our local piece of the Milky Way. This also fixes some of the symbolism in the current design. There are four stars to represent the four founding civilizations of the Federation where the current flag highlights only three. The notion that the three stars represent three of the founding worlds as seen by an observer standing on the fourth is an inane retcon contrivance. Better to just fix the flag and not try to explain it.

A few last things to mark the day. Science Officer Leonard (named for McCoy, Leonard H. Son of David) is properly attired and ready to face the day while I have two different pairs of let’s call them “Spocky socks” that I’ll wear throughout the occasion. The blue, black, and gold pair were made by my lovely wife, Joanne while the pair with the Vulcan salute was a gift from my sisters-in-law.

Also: Tea. Peppermint. Hot.