About the Original Maine Flag

 
Our take on the original Maine flag design, free for anyone to use.

Our take on the original Maine flag design, free for anyone to use.

The star and pine: Maine’s first flag

Maine became a state in 1820, but it wasn’t until 1901 that it got its first official flag: a green pine tree and blue star on a buff, or tan, colored field. The original Maine flag flew for only a few short years before being replaced with the current blue flag featuring the state seal in 1909, but has made a comeback in recent years as more and more Mainers are choosing to send it up their flagpoles instead.

The rise in popularity of this historical flag comes as cities and states across the U.S. are taking another look at their own flags, many of which look a lot like Maine’s. As radio host Roman Mars pointed out is his now-famous 2015 TED talk “Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed,” these “seal on a bedsheet” flags make for less-than-ideal flag design: seals are meant to be read up close on paper, and good flags ought to be simple, unique, and distinguishable from far away.

Our original Maine flag design

Maine’s merchant and marine flag, presented to arctic explorer Donald MacMillan in 1939. The pine tree featured on it serves as the basis for the original Maine flag design we use at Maine Flag Company and Original Maine.

Maine’s merchant and marine flag, presented to arctic explorer Donald MacMillan in 1939. The pine tree featured on it serves as the basis for the original Maine flag design we use at Maine Flag Company and Original Maine.

The 1901 law describing the original Maine flag lays out the size and location of the the pine tree and star, but does not specify an exact design for either:

The State Flag is hereby declared to be buff charged with the emblem of the State, a pine tree proper in the center and the polar star (a mullet of five points), in blue in the upper corner. The star to be equidistant from the hoist and upper border of the flag, the distance from the two borders to the center of the star equal to about one quarter the hoist. This distance and the size of the star being proportionate to the size of the flag.

The few surviving examples depict highly-stylized trees that are not easily reproducible and can only be painted, printed or embroidered onto a flag field. In choosing a design for our Maine Flag Company reproduction of the original Maine flag we wanted something that was easier to draw or to recreate using traditional flag making techniques.

The 1939 Maine merchant and marine flag as it appears today.

The 1939 Maine merchant and marine flag as it appears today.

We also wanted a design that was historically accurate, and that led us to Maine’s other official state flag. That’s right, Maine has two state flags! In addition to the commonly used blue flag, Maine has a white merchant and marine flag meant to be flown by Maine-flagged ships. This flag – which dates from 1939 – also contains a green pine tree and we found that it looked great on the original Maine flag as well.

Who “owns” the original Maine flag design?

Though we were the the first to produce an original Maine flag using the historically accurate Maine merchant and marine flag tree, we don’t claim any copyright or trademark to it. That’s because we never felt it wasn’t really ours to begin with, and because we want others to use it too!

A design that’s catching on

As of March 2019, we have shipped nearly 1,000 handcrafted original Maine flags to all corners of the country, as well as countless stickers, patches, hats, shirts and other products. Our original Maine flags have also caught the eye of several news outlets, including the Bangor Daily News, Kennebec Journal, Down East, and Bill Green’s Maine.

In response to this overwhelming enthusiasm for the flag, the Maine Legislature is considering a bill to restore it as Maine’s official flag.