Archive for the ‘Vexillology’ Category

Flag Days around the world

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Here in the United States we celebrate Flag Day today. In fact, it’s the 234th anniversary of the old Stars and Stripes. A little research shows that several other countries also celebrate their flag on a special day. Here’s a little list for you:

Italy January 7th
Mexico February 24th
Aruba March 18th
England April 23rd
Faroe Islands April 25th
Poland May 2nd
European Union May 9th
Haiti May 18th
Philippines May 28th
Sweden June 6th
Peru June 7th
United States June 14th
Argentina June 20th
Finland Midsummer’s Day
Pakistan August 11th
Russian Federation August 22nd
Australia September 3rd
Brazil November 19th
Albania November 28th
Scotland November 30th

Did we miss any? Please let us know.

Antananarivo and Lübeck and Flags

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Seriously now, how often have you heard the words Antananarivo and Lübeck mentioned – together? (Now be really honest: how many of you have ever even heard of Antananarivo and Lübeck?)

So the story begins with a friend dropping off some old magazines he thought might be interesting reading. In the July/August 2010 issue (hey, they were old) of the Atlantic Monthly, The Atlantic Logoan article entitled The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty by one Sebastian Mallaby caught my eye. Intriguing title, eh? [Say, thanks to the Atlantic for having the article in full on their website.]

Well, to be quite honest with you, Dear Reader, yours truly may have heard of Lübeck and even have a vague remembrance of the Hanseatic League, Henry the Lion and all that, but Antananarivo was just not in the ol’ knowledge bank. Thank heavens for Wikipedia. [Hope you’re getting involved with their 10th anniversary activities on the 15th of this month. Thanks, Wikipedia!]

Back on track: of course you know how easy it is to be side-tracked whilst crusin’ the web – even with all the best intentions of doing focused (ha!) research. Anything with the word “flag” always sidetracks us, as you might suspect. Well the flag of Lübeck, albeit traditional, is frankly, a bit quotidian.Flag of Lübeck Not bad, mind you, just like a lot of many North German cities.

Antananarivo’s flag however, really knocks some serious socks – so to speak. Flag of AntananarivoEven in heraldic terms (the way coats of arms and such are described) it rocks: “quartered, one and four or a zebu head sable, two and three azure a fleur de lis or.” That means something like: it’s divided in four parts – the top left and bottom right sections are gold (“or”) and show the black basically (sable) head of a zebu (yes! really! a zebu head. How cool is that?); the top right and bottom left sections are blue (“azure”) and show a gold fleur de lis (showing Madagascar’s history with France). [Boy, don’t those heralds have a way with words?] Bet that’s one of a very few flags that sport a zebu head on it.

Oh yes, did we mention that Antananarivo (the name means “the City of the Thousands”) is the capital city of Madagascar? [You probably knew that the adjective for Madagascar is Malagasy. France – French; Germany – German; Madagascar – Malagasy. Go figure. It’s fun to say.] ‘Way back in the day, as they say, pre-smALL FLAGs, we ran a business called Other Lands and sold ethnic music CD’s from all over; a personal favorite was A World Out of Time: Henry Kaiser & David Lindley in Madagascar – both volumes. Love that Malagasy music. [There, see, it can be used in a sentence.]

Now to be fair, these are flags of cities and we don’t do (haven’t done yet anyway) too much with city flags. Of course Washington, DC (in a few products) and our newest embroidered  Mini Patch of New York City.Mini Patch of New York City

Say, I’ve heard that NYC has some pretty rockin’ music of its own.

A flag made of Turbans?

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
Funk and Wagnalls 1935 Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge

Funk and Wagnalls 1935 Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge

And there we were, minding our own business in the local used book store, when this beauty practically jumped off the shelf as we walked by; and what an impressive title: an “Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge”! Fighting all temptations, we left this one-of-a-kind treasure available for you to purchase by contacting the book store.

What a Deal!

Naturally, Dear Reader, our eyes fell upon Volume XII:  Fichte – Franklin which included entries beginning with “Flag”. (You knew it was going to get around to this, didn’t you?) Lo and behold, we discovered an entry entitled, “Flag of the Prophet”.

We did take a picture of the text for you (hoping the copyrights from 1935 had expired), but this may be a bit small for you to read. So, just for the love of the game, we have painstakingly transcribed the text for you by hand (so to speak). So here, for your entertainment pleasure and edification, is that transcription:

Flag of the Prophet text

Tiny huh?

Flag of the Prophet, the sacred banner of the Mohammedans. It was originally of a white color, and was composed of the turbans of the Koreish, captured by Mohammed. A black flag was, however, soon substituted in its place, consisting of the curtain that hung before the door of Ayesha, the favorite wife of the Prophet.

This flag, regarded by the Mohammedans as their most sacred relic, was first held by the successors of Omar at Camascus; it afterward fell into the hands of the Abbassides, caliphs of Bagdad, and at a later period was brought into Europe by Amurath III. It was covered with 42 wrappings of silk, deposited in a costly casket, and preserved in a chapel in the interior of the seraglio, where it is guarded by several emirs, with constant prayers. The banner unfolded at the commencement of a war, and likewise carefully preserved, is not the same, altho it is believed by the people to be so.

Fascinating, eh? There are a (very) few references to the “Flag of the Prophet” on the Internet, but none so quaintly concise as this. We just thought we’d share. Let us know what you think.

Two #39’s?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010
38 star US flag

38 star US flag

So you know how it goes: you don’t think of something for a while, then – wham! – you get a double or sometime triple dose of it.

After our last posting riveting you, Dear Reader, with the fascinating story about how a star gets added to the US flag on the July 4th after a State is admitted to the Union, a casual search on Twitter socked me right in the eye – figuratively, of course.

43 Star US flag

43 Star US flag

Yesterday, one Bryan LaPlace, a columnist for, wrote an article about an obscure occurrence of some US flags that were found in 1970: seems they had 39 stars each. Well, you’ll just have to read the article to realize that there never was an actual 39 star US flag, even though two states could claim the right to that star.

What was frustrating was that the flags were discovered “in Upsala College’s newly acquired art center”. Then the article goes on to say a) “The college closed in 1995.” and b) “the flags would be displayed in a glass case in Upsala’s library.” Kind of leaves you hanging doesn’t it? Where are these flags? Why were no images provided? Who will solve this mystery? Inquiring vexillologists demand answers!

American Civil War flags – 150 years

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Civil War Preservation Trust logoYesterday, November 6th, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States. (Of course there’s lots of information to be found on the web about this, but the Civil War Preservation Trust here offers an objective synopsis.) Seemed like it was about time we wrote a little about the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, a tragic page of our nation’s history.

A few months ago, we joined a couple of groups discussing the subject on LinkedIn  LinkedIn logo : the American Civil War (1861-1865) Living Historians and the Civil War Sesquicentennial Network. The latter is more frequently posted to and from it we found a post entitled “Irish in the American Civil War & Commemoration Outside the US” and a link to an interesting blog about that spin on the subject.  Almost a year ago we posted the following to both of these groups: “Due to its place in time, Oregon’s 33 star flag was the first flag fired upon by the Confederate army in the Civil War. 2009 is Oregon’s sesquicentennial.” (You knew this was going to get around to flags, didn’t you?)

So, here’s the back story:

“By law, a new star is added to the US flag on July 4th, following the admission of a new state into the Union. Oregon was the 33rd State, being granted Statehood on February 14th, 1859. Hence the 33 star flag was adopted and flown until 1861.33 star US flag

Then Kansas was admitted and the flag had 34 stars up until 1863 when West Virginia joined the Union and the US flag had 35 stars until 1865. Etc., etc., etc.”

Of course as we’re based in Oregon, this seemed particularly relevant. Then, as we’re doing a little research for this blog, we discovered an interesting tidbit from the Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Historic Flag Page: “… at the time of the Civil War, there was no standard arrangement for the stars in the union of the flag, thus many different arrangements were used.” (Note the word “union” – lower case – here refers to the “canton” or upper left quadrant of the flag, not the Union side of the war. That’s just Flag Terminology 101 for you.)

So here’s an alternate arrangement called the “Fort Sumter” flag, namedFort Sumter flag because “… the garrison at Fort Sumter was still flying this 33 star flag at the time of the bombardment in April 1861.”

Fascinating stuff this vexillology – study of flags. Adding a layer of history to it, just makes it all the more so. In that light, Dear Reader, we thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the flags relevant to the Civil War:

Confederate 1st National

Confederate 1st National

Confederate 2nd National

Confederate 2nd National

Confederate 3rd National

Confederate 3rd National

Confederate Bonnie Blue

Confederate Bonnie Blue

Confederate Navy Jack

Confederate Navy Jack

General Lee's Headquarters

General Lee's Headquarters

Of course we would be remiss if we didn’t let you know that we can get all of these flags and more for you. They’re not all on our website, but we would certainly be responsive if you were to contact us regarding their availability.

Regardless, we hope you liked this little flag sojourn into American history and would greatly appreciate your comments below. Thanks!

More Flags, Soccer and Languages?

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The flag of Slovenia

The flag of Slovakia

Thank goodness for Google alerts. We just discovered a delightful blog site written by someone with apparently similar views about some subjects that are near and dear to our hearts. Yes: Flags, Soccer and Languages. (Warning: The site may be considered by some as rated somewhat “mature”.) Also, the author seems to have a bit of a bias towards Slovenia. 🙂 That said, it’s really a well-written explanation about the differences between the two countries depicted above.

After all those caveats, here’s the link.

A couple of interesting points: he mentions the capital of Slovenia is Ljubljana. We actually have a customer from Ljubljana. He also mentions the upcoming World Cup match between Slovenia and the United States. Go USA! That’s our bias.

The Observer’s Book of Flags

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

A moth-eaten rag on a worm-eaten pole –

It does not seem likely to stir a man’s soul.

‘Tis the deeds that were done ‘neath that moth-eaten rag

When the pole was a staff and the rag was a flag.

This quote from Sir Edward Hamley’s the Old Colours of the Forty-third begins the introduction of “The Observer’s Book of Flags”.  Published by Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd, London, England, 1959, this gem is chocked full of curiosities.

What vexillologist could resist (that almost rhymes) such a quaint oddity? As could be expected, as it was published over half a century ago, some of the information is dated. For example, regarding the US (they dedicated pp 72-99 out of 204 pages to the US), the author, one “I. O. Evans, F.R.G.S.” (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society – I Googled it), quotes the “Pledge to the Flags” without the words “under God”.

The Observer's Book of FlagsAlso regarding the flag of the United States, it reads, “… at the time of going to press it has been announced that the arrangement [of the stars] will be altered to seven rows of seven, following the admission of Alaska as the forty-ninth state.” Gee, if they’d only waited another year for Hawaii, …

Of course there are lots of outdated flags, but the symbolism of even those old flags remains inspiring. and of course the rules of “Heraldry – or, more properly, Armory” (hmm, wonder why they don’t spell it “Armoury” – those Brits!), anyway, the rules of Heraldry haven’t changed. These paragraphs particularly tickled me:

The hues employed in an heraldic device are called tinctures. They include two heraldic metals, or and argent (gold and silver); several furs or conventional mottled patterns of which one, white with black mottlings, is called ermine ; and colours British heraldry recognises five colours only: gules (red, perhaps from the Arabic word for ” rose “), azure (from the Arabic name of an ornamental stone), vert (green, from the French), sable (black), and purpure (purple); Continental heraldry also recognises tenné (orange or ” tawny “). An emblem depicted in its natural colours is said to be proper.

It is a strict rule of heraldry that colours and metals must alternate: colour must not touch colour; nor metal, metal. If necessary they must be separated by a fimbriation (from the Latin fimbria, a fringe) a narrow border of metal or colour, as in the British Union Flag.

Whew! That’s a lot of italics! We’ll make no guarantees about some of that etymology or the punctuation (shown above as written – honest!), but the information does seem solid for an introduction to the subject. (I did have to slap the old spell checker around a bit blogging this: but what the heck.) And, speaking of fimbriation, didn’t we cover that in our Newsletter Volume 8 Number 2? Of course we did.

And just how ever did we get a copy of this little [5 3/4 x 3 3/4″ (14.5×9.5cm)] book, Dear Reader? Our good friends Bob (not the Robert mentioned in our post of April 2nd) and his wife Pat found it and thought we’d enjoy it. Of course! We’re flag lovers! Thanks, Bob and Pat!

Olden Flags

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
Mini Patch of the saltire, the St Andrew's flag of Scotland

Mini Patch of the Saltire, the St Andrew's flag of Scotland.

Mini Patch of the Dannebrog (the flag of Denmark)

Mini Patch of the Dannebrog (the flag of Denmark)

So we’ve been busy adding new designs of our popular Mini Patches; putting up images of some that we hadn’t scanned yet; updating others, as we’ve greatly improved the quality of some. Of the five new images we put up today, (also, Italy, Mexico and the Netherlands), these two have some things in common that gave me pause to consider.

The Saltire, Scotland’s national flag – not to be confused with the Lion Rampant, but more about that some other day – is considered one of the oldest flags in the world. Long story about why it’s called the Cross of St Andrew. Another long story about a vision of this cross in the sky (not Skye) and how it turned the tide for a battle against whom, Dear Reader? Why the Vikings of course. Which is a nice segue to our next patch, that of the Dannebrog – the national flag of Denmark. That’s of course where a lot of those pesky (depending on your persuasion) Vikings originated.

Of course those lusty fellows weren’t flying this flag – more about their Raven flag some other day – but that’s the one that most Danes fly today – most of the time. Not much talk today about the story behind the cross on this one, like other Scandinavian (and one some consider almost Scandinavian) flags; or of the rather different shaped flags those northern folk sometimes fly. The point we’re trying hard to get to today is that Denmark is probably the oldest continuing reigning monarchy in the world, going all the way back to good old king Canute or Knut or Cnut Sweynsson.

Think Canute ever crossed paths with the Saltire? Probably not, but it’s fun to speculate. Ah, vexillology! Ya gotta love it. Well, we do.