Old Glory

July 21, 2009

It’s not uncommon to hear the flag of the United States referred to as Old Glory, though the origin of this nickname is not commonly known. The saga of Old Glory involves the history of a particular flag that played a symbolic role in the Civil War. The story begins sometime in the 1820s, when a large flag (10 feet by 17 feet) was presented to a young sea captain named William Driver. According to history, the flag was made by Captain Driver’s mother and a group of young women in Salem, Massachusetts and was designed to be flown from a ship’s mast. The flag featured 24 stars on its blue field, and a small anchor had been sewn near the stars to indicate that it was a ship’s flag.

Old GloryCaptain Driver used the flag on the whaling ship Charles Doggett during an around the world voyage in 1831-32. It was at this time that Driver began referring to the flag as Old Glory. Driver retired from the seafaring life in 1837 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Old Glory came with him and was displayed for all patriotic occasions, becoming famous among the citizens of Nashville. By this time the flag was showing quite a bit of wear and had been mended many times.

Additional stars had been added to Old Glory over the years as states joined the Union, so that the total number was 34 by 1861. It was in that year that the Civil War began and Tennessee seceded from the Union. Fearing an action against Old Glory by rebel forces, Driver had the foresight to hide the flag inside the comforter on his bed. Stitched into place, it remained there safely until Union troops reclaimed Nashville the following year. Driver brought out his flag and it was flown from the spire of the Tennessee State Capitol. Old Glory was saluted by the Sixth Ohio Regiment, who adopted the name Old Glory as their motto. This event was reported in many newspapers, bringing national fame to Old Glory.

William Driver died in 1886 at the age of 83. His grave in Nashville is one of only 3 places in the U.S. that has been designated by an Act of Congress to fly a flag perpetually. Old Glory was preserved as a Driver family heirloom until 1922, when it was presented to the Smithsonian Institute. Along with the flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner, Old Glory is one of the most important historical flags preserved at the Smithsonian.

Vatican Flag

July 17, 2009

Just like most other people, at first glance I would have never imagined that there was a flag specific to Vatican City. This is not the case however, as the current Vatican flag has been in place for over 70 years. The flag of the Vatican was originally adopted on June 7, 1929 by then Pope Pius XI. The flag was created as part of the treaty recognizing Vatican City as an independent state.

vatican flag

The Vatican flag is one of the most unique flags of any country or state in the entire world – in fact, there is only one other flag in the world like it. The Vatican flag consists of two vertical bands, one yellow and the other white. The interesting thing to note, however, is that the Vatican flag is actually square – one of only two flags in the world like this (the other being Switzerland).

On the right side of the Vatican flag sits the traditional Vatican City Coat of Arms, emblazoned upon a white background. The Vatican City Coat of Arms is a very symbolic representation of both the papacy and the Holy City. For example, there are two crossed keys displayed on the coat of arms; one gold and the other silver. The keys are symbolic of Matthew 16: 18-19, where God promises the keys of heaven to Saint Peter. Also displayed on the Vatican City Coat of Arms is the traditional tiara of the Papacy, a three-tiered crown. The three tiers of the crown are meant to symbolize the three functions of the priest; supreme priest, supreme pastor, and supreme teacher. Finally, displayed upon the top of the tiara is the traditional golden cross, representative of course of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. All in all, the flag of the Vatican is perhaps one of the most symbolic and meaningful flags of any country in the world.

Venezuela Flag

July 17, 2009

The Venezuela flag was first designed over 200 years ago. The flag consists of a traditional tricolor design complete with a set of stars in the middle and the Venezuela coat of arms in the upper left.

venezuela flag

The flag was originally designed by a man named Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan revolutionary. Miranda is most well known for his attempts to liberate Spanish America, and although he was not successful in his efforts he is widely regarded as the forerunner of Simon Bolivar, another well known revolutionary. It is widely noted that Francisco de Miranda created the current design for the Venezuela flag in the year 1806, after a failed attempt to liberate the Venezuelan people. Interestingly enough, de Miranda is said to have inspired the flags of Colombia and Ecuador as well.

The Venezuela flag is primarily a tricolor design of red, blue and yellow. In the flag, the color blue represents courage. The red represents independence from Spain, while the yellow band represents the wealth of the land. There was a collection of 7 stars in the center of the flag; however another star was added by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2006. The seven stars were originally intended to represent the seven provinces in Venezuela (Barcelona, Barinas, Caracas, Cumana, Margarita, Merida and Trujillo). These provinces originally united against Spain in the Venezuelan War for Independence, which lasted from 1811 until 1823.

The Venezuelan flag has experienced a number of changes during its history. In the early 19th century, the collection of seven stars was added to the blue band of the flag. In the year 1954, the Venezuelan Coat of Arms was added to the flag; however the coat of arms was not added to any civil or maritime flags. Finally, in the year 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered that an eighth star be placed upon the Venezuelan flag – a decision that has been met with heavy opposition.

Vietnam Flag

July 17, 2009

The flag of Vietnam has a much storied history. Although the flag design itself has not changed much over the years, the Vietnam flag has withstood some very tumultuous political and economic events throughout the years of its existence.vietnam flagThe design of the Vietnam flag is a very simple one – a bright yellow star emblazoned upon a bright red background. Although simple, the design of the flag does indeed have a very significant meaning. As can probably be guessed, the red background of the Vietnam flag was based upon the flag of the Communist Party. The yellow star does not have such an obvious meaning, however. Each point of the five pointed yellow star on the Vietnam flag represents a different segment of the Vietnamese people. The star is representative of the unity of peasants, workers, soldiers, traders and intellectuals all working together for the common good of socialism.

The Vietnam flag was not officially recognized as the “national flag” until August 18, 1945 at a meeting held in Northern Vietnam. Not long after, the Vietminh proclaimed Hanoi part of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam towards the end of World War II. A few years after, in the year 1954, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam became the government of North Vietnam, following the conditions of the Geneva Accord between France and Vietnam.

The current Vietnam flag would not fly over the entire country of Vietnam until over 20 years later. Northern and Southern Vietnam remained separate entities until North Vietnam overran Saigon in 1975. The current flag of Vietnam was adopted in 1975, and the entire country of Vietnam became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam shortly thereafter on July 2, 1976. The flag of Vietnam has perhaps endured one of the most tumultuous and difficult histories of any country in the modern world, and the flag has remained remarkably unchanged throughout it all.

Soviet Union Flag

July 17, 2009

The flag of the former USSR may perhaps be one of the most well-known and infamous flags in the entire world. The design consists of the traditional hammer and sickle emblazoned upon a background of red.  The first design for the Soviet Union flag was created adopted on November 12, 1923. There have been two slight modifications to the flag since that time, and the most recent flag of the Soviet Union flew from 1980 until the collapse of the Soviet Union a few years later.soviet union flagThe colors of the Soviet Union flag have a very particular symbolism and meaning. The background of the flag is a bright red color – representative of the blood that has been shed by workers and farmers. The color red is also very indicative of Communism, which was the central ideology of the former Soviet Union government. The USSR flag contains an image of a yellow hammer and sickle placed in the top left hand corner of the flag. The image of the hammer and sickle is perhaps the most well known symbol of communism anywhere in the world. The hammer in the image is meant to symbolize the nation’s workforce (termed “Proletariats” by Karl Marx), and the sickle is representative of the nation’s agricultural industry, one of the most important industries in the entire Soviet Union. One final image appears above the hammer and sickle on the flag, and that is of a red star – an image indicative of the Communist rule.

The Soviet Union was the first country in the world to ever form any sort of communist government, thus the Soviet system became the basis for many other countries’ political ideologies. There have been many other world flags based upon the flag of the Soviet Union including the flags of the People’s Republic of China, North Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and Angola.

US Virgin Islands Flag

July 17, 2009

The Virgin Islands were originally discovered and named by Christopher Columbus in the year 1493. The islands were originally named for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers, and they were under the control of at least 5 different European countries over the first 300 years of the islands’ existence (Spain, England, Netherlands, France and Denmark). The Virgin Islands were held under Danish control however, from the year 1672 until they were purchased by the United States on January 17, 1917. The United States took control of the territory on March 31st of that same year, thus the islands were officially renamed the Virgin Islands of the United States.

virgin islands flagThe Virgin Islands of the United States consist of a group of islands located in the Caribbean sea, about 90 miles east of Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands are made up of many small islands; however the notable ones include the islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, Water Island, and Saint Thomas.

The United States Virgin Islands flag was officially adopted in the year 1921. The design is strikingly simple; it consists of little more than a simplified variant of the Seal of the United States of America placed atop a white background. To the immediate left and right of the seal on the flag sit the letters “V” and “I”, representing of course the name of the islands.

One interesting thing to note about the symbol on the flag is the three arrows being held by the eagle in its left talon. This is of course symbolic of the three major islands that make up the Virgin Islands – Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix.

Also, interestingly enough, the original design was drawn by a cartoonist named Percival Wilson Sparks. Once approved, the design for the US Virgin Islands flag was embroidered by the cartoonist’s wife Grace – thus the flag was born.

Connecticut Flag

July 13, 2009

The Connecticut flag has perhaps one of the simplest designs of any American state flag. It consists of a simple design on top of a light blue background. In the middle of the Connecticut flag sits a white baroque shield along with three grapevines which each bear three bunches of purple grapes. The banner below the white shield of the Connecticut flag displays the state motto, “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” or, “He who transplants, sustains”.

Connecticut FlagThe design for the Connecticut flag is directly derived from the seal of Saybrook Colony, when it was established in the year 1639. In the original Saybrook Colony seal, there was a display of 15 grapevines along with a hand in the upper left hand corner displaying the words “Sustinet qui transtulit”. The Saybrook Colony seal was eventually transferred to Connecticut in the year 1644, when Connecticut bought the colony.

On October 15, 1711, the seal was altered again. The Connecticut governor and legislature altered the seal to contain only 3 grapevines instead of the original 15. This was meant to symbolize the original 3 Connecticut settlements of Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford.

The Connecticut General Assembly of 1897 provided an official description of the Connecticut flag. The official dimensions of the flag are meant to be 5′ 6” in length and 4’4” in width. The official colors of the Connecticut flag are an azure blue silk background with the armorial bearing in argent white silk. The design of the crest on the Connecticut flag should be displayed in natural colors and the border of the shield should be embroidered in gold and silver. Below the shield should be a white streamer, cleft at each end, bordered in gold and brown. The motto on the streamer should also be dark blue in color.