How to Flag Down a Train – Apparently

July 22nd, 2012

Oftentimes we ask our domestic manufacturers to ship us goods via Air. Here’s what happened to one we had them ship via Ground just last week:

Train Derailment

Our flags are somewhere in here!

Yes, we realize this could possibly have just as easily been a plane accident, but the result was the same – a big delay for us and our customers. So, rather than trying to imagine the insurance issues and further delays, we just re-ordered the lot and expect to receive it all soon.

It was interesting to note that the Billings Gazette article referred to the incident as a “derailment”. Guess “train crash” might be a little inaccurate: it didn’t appear that they ran into anything out there in that “remote part of northeast Montana”. On the good side, it appeared that, amazingly, there were no no environmental threats or injuries.

Also, according to the BNSF spokesperson, “The containers were transporting everything from A to Z: Frozen food products, rubber materials and tissue paper, to name a few.” WHAT? No mention of flags? Imagine.

What’s Right about the US Flag? What’s Left?

April 29th, 2012

Harper's April 2012 cover - detailWhat’s wrong with this picture? OK. Let me back up. The above image is from the cover of the April issue of the second-oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States. (Scientific American is the oldest, but it’s not as likely they have a flag on their cover often.) That said, this artwork by one Michael Mitra really shocked us. [Yes, we cropped out the part the editors and artist thought was controversial.] No, what torqued our jaws was the alignment of the flag backdrop. It even inspired us to add a new question regarding Flag Etiquette on our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. It, in turn, offers a link to the CRS Report for Congress entitled The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions. In that document, §7 (i) clearly states:

When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

Well, to be fair, the image does show the proper use of the little Lapel Pin. (Of course we sell those.) The CRS Report states:

… the Code recognized the wearing of a flag patch or pin on the left side (near the heart) …

So is all this much ado about nothing? We think not, but would enjoy your comments.

The ‘strait’ scoop on Detroit’s flag

March 31st, 2012

Found another rabbit hole to explore. A short while back, and perhaps still going on, there were some TV commercials touting a particular Motown (as in “Motor Town”) manufacturer of automobiles. While, most likely, other viewers were admiring the styling of the commercial, yours truly noticed the tiniest fluttering of a then-unfamiliar flag down in the corner of perhaps a frame or two of the commercial.

Flag of Detroit

Pretty isn’t it?

Turns out, this is the flag of the city of Detroit, Michigan (surprise!) and was designed in 1907 by one David E. Heineman; it wasn’t officially adopted as the city’s flag until 1948. The original design had the seal as an oval. Apparently sometime in the early 1970s, the design was redone and the seal was made into a circle. Don’t ask. Ever wanting to tinker with things, those Detroiters (Anyone know the correct demonym? Remember last post talking about that?) changed the seal again around a dozen years ago to reduce the number of colors. Again, don’t ask.

The background is what we vexillologists call “quartered”. (Pretty tricky technical term there, eh?) The sections represent the countries that controlled the city at various times. Actually, there were only three countries (France – from 1701, Britain – 1760-96 and the US), but dividing it into three sections didn’t seem to be an option. So, France is shown on the bottom left (the “lower hoist” – to us geeks) with five of their cute little fleurs-de-lis (yes, that’s correct; they’re cute). Britain gets the upper right (oops; the “upper fly”. Got it?) with three of their little lions. And the Stars and Stripes (well thirteen of each of course – for the original colonies) take over the other two quadrants (You got it: the “upper hoist” and the “lower fly”. That wasn’t so hard, was it?).

Now about that seal. Back in 1805 the entire town, as it was then, burned to the ground – save one building. (Do your own research on that.) So the woman on the left is looking at the charred rubble, pretty bummed. Under the rubble is the Latin (always has to be Latin doesn’t it – makes it classier) Speramus Meliora meaning “We hope for better things.” The woman on the right is saying, “Buck up, sis” and gesturing to the new city that will be built. Under that is the Latin Resurget Cineribus, “It will rise from the ashes.” Nice attitude.

So why is ‘strait’ in quotes in the title of this post? Please excuse the little pun. The straitsYou see, in French the words ‘Détroit’ and ‘Détroits’ mean strait or straits. (Remember, the French were the ones who established the first (European) fort there.) Check out the straights between Lake Erie, Lake St. Claire and Lake Huron. So Detroit was a pretty good name for the place. Don’t you think?

By the way, this little picture is shown on the right, or in French, á droite. Don’t confuse that with Detroit. Now you know about those tinkerers – and their flag.

Princess Grace and the Monégasque – and Poland?

January 16th, 2012

Grace KelleyA few nights ago, Oregon Public Broadcasting showed an olde (1987) video about the lovely, late Princess Grace of Monaco. Thank you, OPB. During the show the word Monégasque was mentioned – more than a few times. Well it turns out that Monégasque is the demonym or gentilic for those folks who live in Monaco; it also refers to their language, etc. (For a related issue, research the difference between the words Toponymy and Ethnonym.) Note: this is driving spell check crazy too. For your edification, there’s a lovely reference to the Monégasque language on

Although fascinated by the language, we were of course, Dear Reader, all ready to apply it to the national flag of Monaco. So, first a little background: Grace Kelley married into the Grimaldi family. Their heraldic colors of red and white are attested as far back as 1339. The national flag was adopted on April 4th, in that palindromic year of 1881. So far, so good. They, well not Grace, of course, selected the proportions of 4:5, so, it looks like this:

Flag of Monaco

Flag of Monaco - proportions 4:5

Nice. Simple. However, on August 1st of that not quite palindromic year 1919, the Polish Parliament, of all folks, adopted the national flag of Poland.

Flag of Poland

Flag of Poland - proportions 8:5

Fairly similar, would you say? Ah, but notice the proportions: 5:8 is so different from 4:5. Right? Well, to be fair, Poland had been using those same red and white colors since the XVII-XIX centuries. Still not as long as the Monégasque, but quite a while. Yet, the location of those colors was not always fixed. That is, sometimes the red was on the top! Furthermore, sometimes the flag includes an Eagle from the state seal. (No eagle-seal animal jokes here now.) Lots of controversy about the length and color of the bird’s talons, arrangement of feathers, crown or no crown, etc. (No worries, we carry flags and patches of Poland’s flag both with and without the eagle.)

End of controversy? Oh, no, Dear Reader. On the 17th of August, 1947 (no jokes), Indonesia – yes that nation on the other side of the globe from both Monaco and Poland – decided to adopt their flag.

Flag of Indonesia

Flag of Indonesia - proportions 3:2

Now the Indonesian national flag is called “Sang Saka Merah Putih”. (Guess that’s because “Merah-Poetih” means “Red-White”. Go figure.) At least no eagles or suchlike.

Let’s all just cross our fingers that Monaco, Poland and Indonesia never go to war against each other. Field identification might be a little tricky. Not to mention that time-honored tradition of flying ones flag upside-down to indicate distress. Goodness.

All that from a public television show? My, how the mind can travel.

Frozen fog on Old Glory

December 28th, 2011

Returning (a little late) from a Solstice fire gathering, I noticed that the flag out front hadn’t been brought in yet. Approaching to furl it up for this longest night, this outdoor flag illumined only by the interior Christmas tree lights, it seemed as though the flag was covered in glitter! Indeed, the frozen fog had clung to the nylon surface of the flag and was truly sparkling. It is certainly beyond my ken, how to produce this effect artificially; I just stood in awe, then tried to capture the moment to share with you all, Dear Readers. Happy New Year!

Atop Astoria during her Bicentennial

December 11th, 2011

Astoria ColumnOf course it only happens once, so Bicentennials should be big deals. Hopefully it was for Astoria, Oregon. Yes, it’s been going on all year and now we’re just getting around to telling you about it – or, maybe you knew. Here’s the story:

We were spending a few days at the Oregon Coast earlier this year and decided to stop by Astoria. There’s a lot to see in Astoria, the earliest permanent settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Our favorite spot is the Astoria Column.

Here’s a 360° view from the top:

Before ascending the 164 internal steps to the top, we noticed a couple of balsa wood airplanes at the base. (They sell these at the gift shop.) They were in pretty good shape, except one was missing its vertical stabilizer. No worries. Once atop the column, I took a post card and snipped a little off, plus a bit for a wedge. Here’s the postcard (the original plus the cut up one):

Astoria Postcard - obverse Astoria Postcard - reverse

The end result was our little intrepid flyer:

Our intrepid flyer

Of course the proof of the pudding is in the flying, to mix metaphors, so we had to try it out. Of course it flew like a little champion – for 24 seconds:

Here’s the funny part: we had resumed our gawking at the beautiful scenery and frankly weren’t in any hurry to take those 164 steps back down. As luck would have it, more tourists arrived at the top – including a woman who had found our little flyer and brought it up with her! I showed her the postcard from which I had cut the stabilizer and she was gracious enough to offer it back. Its second voyage was every bit as successful as its first. But wait – there’s more.

When we finally got back to the ground, guess what we found just in front of the entrance, waiting for us? Of course, our little flyer. This time we took it home for a souvenir – and the postcards naturally. All so we could (eventually) write this little post for your entertainment pleasure.

Remember, Dear Reader, perhaps you weren’t able to climb the Astoria Column during Astoria’s Bicentennial and perhaps you can’t always fly a plane, but you can always fly your flag!

smALL FLAGs for Small Countries

August 27th, 2011

Wedding BellsWhat a clever notion: a customer in the UK came up with the idea that, rather than have “name cards” identifying seating arrangements at a wedding reception, he wanted to use flags to show folks where to sit. Guests will be given a country and then they find their seat – identified by a flag of that country. What fun!

However, and here was a little rub, to mitigate or minimize any biases which guests might have, he asked us for flags for the 52 least populated countries. Well, as the old advertising jingle used to put it, “special orders don’t upset us.” display of smALL FLAGsWe went right to our old friend Wikipedia to get a list of countries showing their population; downloaded that, sorted it in inverse sequence by population and voila! We had our list. Shipping to the UK? No problem. We do it all the time.

Speaking of small county flags, please be aware that we’re now offering flags of the one which Libya used from 1951 to 1969 – and some still do. Flag of Libya - 1951-1969Just now, it’s available in 3×5′ polyester; but you can bet that if the “insurgents” have their way, it will soon be available in many other sizes as well. By the way, politics aside,  most would have to agree that, esthetically at least, this design is certainly more interesting than the one that Gaddafi introduced in 1977. Gaddafi's Libyan flag of 1977Your call. It was/is the only national flag with just one color and no design, insignia, or other details. (Oddly perhaps, we carry this design – if it could be called that – in a wide variety of sizes.)

You were further aware, of course, that Lybia is most certainly not one of those “least populated countries” mentioned above with a whopping 6,355,000 souls calling it home.

Well as long as you’ve read this far, we may as well mention yet another new flag from (sort of) that region of the world. Flag of South SudanThe newest country in the world is now considered to be South Sudan. They were admitted into the United Nations on July 14th of this year. We’re proud to now be able to offer this newest flag in a variety of sizes. However, our 4×6″ versions won’t be available until mid-September. Sigh. Your collection may have to wait just a bit longer.

Oh yes, also not one of those “least populated countries”. 8,260,490 people here. smALL planet indeed!

The Census, Computer and, of course, Flags

July 2nd, 2011

Recently, a friend of ours, Blane Meier of Meier Wealth Management, sent us a little something having to do with flags. But more about that later. Tracking down its source got us to thinking about the US Census, and the results compiled from last year’s efforts.

Census logoAs you well may know, Dear Reader, the United States conducts a census of its people every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution. We’ve been doing this ever since 1790. What you may not be quite as familiar with is that, prior to the advent of the computer, this took a really, really long time to tabulate. What with a growing population and increases in the type of information collected, the 1880 census took nearly 10 years to count. Well, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that this couldn’t keep up. So, one bright fellow, Herman Hollerith, figured out a way to punch holes in paper cards so that they could be read by a machine.

Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith in 1888

Tabulation (Census-ese for adding up) for 1890 only took about 2½ years. Clever guy, ol’ Herman. The rest, as they say, is history. Oh, wait. Guess that was history as well. In any event, kindly fast forward to this century and there appear to be a few applications  of electronic computers in our daily lives. And as for the Census Bureau? And what about that curious item our friend Blane sent? Well. It seems those clever folks at the Census are a bit more than (human) being counters after all. Seems they figured (small pun intended) that folks might want to know more than just how many people live in, say, Oregon. So, after “enumeration” (Census-ese for counting) and “tabulation” , they’ve been producing some clever little service – almost blog-like – since what looks like 2006. They call the service “Facts for Features & Special Editions“. Facts for FeaturesCatchy, eh? And, get this, they further explain that these posts “consist of collections of statistics from the Census Bureau’s demographic and economic subject areas intended to commemorate anniversaries or observances or to provide background information for topics in the news.” Thorough. Couldn’t have said it any better.

So which “commemorate anniversary or observance” is immediately upcoming? Yes! The Fourth of July! (Which incidentally and for reasons we don’t fully understand, is celebrated with nearly as much enthusiasm in Denmark as it is in the States. Great, Danes!) Flag of Denmark

Back to the Facts, M’am. The “Facts for Features” to which Blane had drawn our attention (ah, it’s all connecting now, right?) is their entry for “The Fourth of July 2011”. Surprise!


Well, in addition to fascinating tidbits regarding such things as “Fireworks”, “Patriotic-Sounding Place Names” and “Fourth of July Cookouts” (Florida led the nation in watermelon production last year with 750 million pounds), there were also some spicy stats regarding flags. (It always comes to this, doesn’t it?) Specifically:

$3.2 million

In 2010, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($2.8 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics <>


Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2010. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $256,407 worth.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics <>

$302.7 million

Annual dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation’s manufacturers, according to the latest published economic census data.
Source: 2007 Economic Census, Series EC0731SP1, Products and Services Code 3149998231

Not exactly a multi-billion dollar industry, would you say? But we do it because we love it. And, by the way, all of our best quality flags of any country are made right here in the good ol’ U S of A.

Waving US flag

Alter lingua, alter persona.

June 18th, 2011

Now we understand some of the principles of business and we understand some of the principles of the concept of Freedom of Speech, but spam … ? Whadda gonna do? Filter as much as you can and deal with the rest. Call it peculiar, but we keep separate folders for spam that sneaks through in foreign languages – it’s amusing to study. OK. It’s peculiar.

One spam got through our filters that did catch our eye; it was an “opportunity” to learn to speak English – supposedly from Cambridge (University, we assume) – and it was written all in Spanish. Well that’s a fine notion.  We all need to learn a few more languages. Seems that the Romans (who had a saying for just about everything apparently) said, “Alter lingua, alter persona.” (“Another language, another person.”) Meaning that one can’t learn a language without becoming in some sense another person; that is, to learn a language, one must also learn the history, the humor, the literature, the religion, the politics, etc. of the people who speak that language as a native tongue. More about that later, back to this spam. Included was one beautiful (to our eye) image:

Learn English language flags

Not really too colorful – mostly red, white and blue – but very “active” looking. Let’s look a little deeper. Of course there’s the largest flag of the UK, the US waving into Canada, and subtly below are (left to right) images of Northern Ireland, the Scottish Saltire, (perhaps that’s the tip of the tail of the Welsh dragon – Y Ddraig Goch) and Guernsey.

Conspicuously missing are flags of, perhaps, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland; heck, why not throw in India and a few others? Perhaps it would be to “cluttered”. There are a lot of countries that speak English as a major language. It might be an interesting exercise to design a similar graphic of a the francophone countries’ flags or (what’s the word for) Spanish language speaking country flags. Nice idea. Point being that there’s not a much better way to symbolize all those countries than with their flags. Symbols speak volumes, and flags are powerful symbols.

Back to that idea of native tongues, we’d like to give a little plug to our friends at Morsmål (that’s Norwegian for mother tongue or something like that). From their website:

Morsmål is an NGO maintaining official relations with UNESCO.
A multilingual information portal and a meeting place for bilingual researchers, teachers, parents and pupils.

Morsmål logo They’re pretty proud about the fact that they just passed the 700 mark of folks who have “liked” their Facebook page. Go on. Check ’em out. You’ll like ’em.

Flag Days around the world

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.