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Oregonians submit ideas for new state flag

On October 20, The Daily Flag linked to this story in The Oregonian. Today there is an update, with some exciting news for vexillologists.


The response to the flag contest redesign has floored us. I quit counting more than a week ago when we already had 1,000 entries. Now, in the final days (deadline is Friday 5 p.m.) we’ve also gotten envelopes full of submissions from art and history classes across the state.

dkh-07-thumb1 It’s surpassed what we hoped it would do. The contest has made people — from student citizens to senior citizens — think about what makes Oregon distinct. What symbols brand us. It’s been great to read the letters so many of you have written about what you love about Oregon and why it’s important to you.

I designed a great flag, but the contest asked for entries from citizens of Oregon. My design uses the existing blue and gold, and adds two shades of green. On the hoist side, I used half a wagon wheel in gold (superimposed over the blue) that looks like the rays of the setting western sun. And I bet there are at least 100 entries that look just like it.

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Flags of Our Nation—USPS releases the second set of stamps

DKH_13Yesterday the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the second set of the Flags of Our Nation stamp series in a ceremony at postal headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The new series features the flag of District of Columbia, and the the state and territorial flags of Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Kansas.

In June, the first set of stamps in the series was issued, featuring the Stars and Stripes and the state and territorial flags of Alabama through Delaware. The same process will be repeated in 2009 and 2010 for a total of 60 stamp designs.

Artist Tom Engeman of Bethany Beach, DE, created the highly detailed flag portraits on the stamps. Past designs created by Engeman include the National World War II Memorial stamp (2004) and the nation’s first Forever Stamp (2007), featuring the Liberty Bell.

More information about the stamps can be found at the US Postal Service website

The flag of Hawaii is one of the first state flags I learned to recognize, along with Texas, New Mexico, and Alaska. This is because I loved my father’s monthly Navy Reserve magazine, which was loaded with war photos and that included many from Hawaii and the Pacific theater of action. I must have asked what colors were used in the Hawaiian flag, because the magazine itself was printed in blue ink on shiny paper (I can still smell it in my memory). And I was mesmerized by Victory at Sea which included occasional film snippets from the land of Hawaii.

Press information and stamp images courtesy of the United States Postal Service and are copyrighted.

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Flags of Our Nation stamps—the first set

new state stampsThe second set of The Flags of Our Nation stamps go on sale in September, and I am finally getting around to writing about the first set issued on June 14—Flag Day. These stamps are the first in a 60-stamp series that will be issued over three years. The stamps honor the U.S. flag, and the flags of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut and Delaware.

The flag art was created by Tom Engeman of Bethany Beach, DE, under the guidance of art director Howard Paine of Delaplane, VA. Each stamp design also includes artwork that provides a snapshot view of the area represented by its flag.

In most cases, an everyday scene or activity is shown, but occasionally the view is of something less commonplace—rare wildlife, perhaps, or a stunning vista.

Tom Engeman has designed many stamps for the Postal Service. He created a computer-generated image of the Liberty Bell for the 41 cent “forever stamp.” Other projects for the Postal Service include stamped cards for Carlsbad Caverns National Park (2002), Ohio University (2003), and Columbia University (2003), as well as the 2003 American Eagle definitive stamp, and the National World War II Memorial stamp issued in 2004.

Personally, I am extremely disappointed that the Postal Service chose to issue these stamps on a 50-stamp coil, rather than in booklet form, and I would be interested in knowing how this decision has affected stamp sales. I would like to buy these stamps—all of them eventually—but I’m not buying a 50-stamp coil each time the new stamps are issued.

Maybe I should buy the stamps and carefully cut the series apart—ten stamps at at time—and use them for Christmas stocking stuffers. My family thinks I’m nuts anyway …

Stamp images © 2007 USPS. All Rights Reserved.

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Does a new flag stamp have too many stripes?

CROPPED set of four flag stamps

From the U.S. Postal Service:

On April 18, 2008, in Washington, DC, the Postal Service™ issued 42–cent, definitive stamps, Flags 24/7, in four designs. The stamps, designed by Phil Jordan of Falls Church, Virginia, each feature a painting by Laura Stutzman of Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, of an American flag flying at a different time of day: sunrise, noon, sunset, and night.

In 1942, Congress passed a resolution establishing a code of flag etiquette. The code states in part that the American flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset every day, weather permitting, but especially on days of national importance like Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. Congress also decided that “when a patriotic effect is desired,” the flag can be flown through the night if properly lit. Although compliance is voluntary, public observation of the code’s measures is widespread throughout the nation.

I am moderately interested in stamps, and I even save them, though I do not collect them. I save them for my granddaughter (or other relatives), in the event that one of them decides to collect stamps one day. I have considered the idea of collecting stamps that have the image of the U.S. flag, and state flags, but that’s a story for another day.

cropped night flag 200 percent enlarged Today’s story is about a sharp-eyed stamp collector who found a mistake on the new U.S. flag stamps issued on April 18 of this year. The night stamp, shown in the bottom right corner of the stamp quartet, appears to have too many stripes.

Dang! Don’t you hate it when that happens.

The U.S. flag  has a red stripe on the top edge, and a red stripe on the bottom edge. The blue field always rests on a white stripe. Seven red stripes, and six white stripes, for the thirteen original colonies. The image on the flag in question appears to have a bottom white stripe.

The Postal Service is aware of the mistake, but will not change the design. These flag stamps—Flags 24/7—are called "definitive" stamps, and used for standard, ordinary, day-to-day mail. When the inevitable price increase comes, new stamps will be designed.

According to stamp services authorities, the seventh white stripe as added to provide definition to the image, and was not a part of the original art work, which seems to exonerate the artist.

That’s a weak and clumsy explanation, and unnecessary. Because I can’t tell how many stripes are hidden in the fold, and I am willing to grant artistic license when it comes to painting the image of a waving flag.

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The first flag on the moon

DKH_18Sidewalk Photographer Alex Richman and the intrepid Mrs. Richman covered a lot of ground (more than six miles on foot) in Washington D.C. during the last weekend of July.

One of the photographs he took (shown below) was of the Lunar Module #2-Apollo, which was never used on a lunar mission.  Now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, it is a stunning exhibit (and no doubt one of the more expensive ones—but less expensive I suppose, than an entire moon mission). (Click into the photo icons for larger images.)


lunar module #2---ApolloAlex’s photo reminded me of a previous Daily Flag article and my subsequent search for photos of the Eagle Lunar Module, used in the the first moon landing. I had concluded that the first flag on the moon surely was mounted on the Eagle L.M.  I spent several hours searching for photos then, but came up empty-handed. I think I was searching using the words Eagle lander instead of lunar module, and I was in the Library of Congress web site instead of the Smithsonian.

But thanks to Alex, my interest in the Eagle L.M. was renewed, and he pointed me in the right direction.

And this time I found what I was looking for.

upside-down lunar module Eagle with US flag visible

The "upside-down" Eagle lunar module is on its way to the surface of the moon. Just to the right of the center ladder, and toward the bottom, the U.S. flag is visible.


lm_apollo11_big.jpg decent

Earth, Moon and Eagle lunar module perfectly captured in one frame by astronaut Michael Collins.



In this photo, the flag is hard to see, but it is to the right, and about even with Buzz Aldrin’s helmet.


NASA photo of lander with visible US flag 

Three flags are shown in this photo: the one on the lunar module—visible just to the right and slightly above the astronaut’s helmet. The second flag is on the astronaut’s life-pack (I don’t know the proper name for it), and the third flag—one of the most famous in the world—the one Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin "planted" on the moon.

So now I know what the first flag on the moon was, and so do you—for next time this question comes up on a trivia game!

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Texas Pride, the Stamp, and the Alamo—by Don Adair

Alamo, Wayne (1) Twenty-six years before I designed the Texas stamp, my immense love and fascination for the Alamo found its genesis when my father took our family to a movie set in south Texas.

At the age of twelve, I was full of awe as we strolled through   John Wayne’s Alamo movie set near Brackettville, a day after filming was completed.

Except for a couple of extras who were still hanging around, the mission and town of San Antonio were virtually deAlamo, S. Wall (1)solate.  In the mission, the chapel was still showing the burn marks from the explosion that occurred at the end of the last battle in the film.

The cannon were still there, along with ladders and other props. A lot of Styrofoam rocks and pieces of walls were lying around and I began making sport of seeing how far I could kick these large “rocks.” One of them was the real thing, and my foot was sore for days. I also found a flat piece of Styrofoam that was in the shape of a human head. 

The visit to the set, and later, seeing the movie, made a lasting impression in my life. I visited the set twice while I was in college and the theme of the Alamo has been a favorite subject for my easel.

Designing the stamp

As a commercial illustrator, I have had the privilege to do a number of high profile projects over the years. None have meant more to me than the design of the U.S. postage stamp, honoring the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1986. It was a commission that embodied my love for Texas history, and especially,  the Alamo.

In early 1985, Ron (my twin brother) and I were busy at our drawing boards, when we got a call from the United States Postal Service. They asked if we would like to join a competition for the design of the commemorative postage stamp, honoring the Texas Sesquicentennial, in 1986. We would join eight other professionals. All of the illustrators had stamp credits to their names, including my brother, who had done two stamp designs already. I had none.

We were given strict instructions not to tell anyone of our participation in the project. Also, they gave us a list of items they did not want us to use in our designs. Some of the items included the Alamo, Sam Houston, blue bonnets, windmills, armadillos, etc. One of the designs I submitted was a spur sitting on top of a Texas flag. A very simple design.

DKH_16 Ron and I mailed our comps to the postal service, and waited. A few weeks later, I received a call from the stamp coordinator. He asked if the spur was Santa Anna’s spur. I said “No, it’s just a generic spur.” He said “Fine” and hung up. It was a very brief and somewhat strange call, I thought.

A few more weeks passed and I got another call. He said “We think someone might think it is Santa Anna’s spur. Could you leave the flag the same way and do us two more designs, one with a portrait of Sam Houston and the other with the Alamo.” Those were two items that they had told us not to use in our designs. Even so, I hurriedly knocked out two more comps, with the flag staying the same and including one with a portrait of Sam Houston and the other with a rendering of the Alamo.

A month later, I got the call I had hoped for. “Mr. Adair, congratulations. Your design has been chosen for the stamp.” I said “Great! Which element are you going to use, Sam Houston or the Alamo?” He said “Neither. We are going back to the spur, and we want it to be Santa Anna’s spur.” The Dallas Historical Society had the actual spurs that the defeated Santa Anna gave to Houston, after the battle of San Jacinto. I went down and examined the spurs and shot some photos for reference for the stamp. The finished design that I used for the stamp has Santa Anna’s spur on it.

A short time later, the stamp coordinator told me that my brother and I were the only brothers in U.S. Postal history that have ever designed stamps. When the Postal Service went public about the stamp in February of 1986, there was an avalanche of publicity that hit. It was also neat to go to the first day of issue ceremony on March 2, in San Antonio, next to the Alamo. Dignitaries spoke, and I was honored as the stamp’s designer.

Deborah here: What a great treat—to roam all over a movie set with your brother. Not just any movie set either, but John Wayne’s 1960 production of The Alamo.  On Monday, Don will tell about visiting a second movie set—Disney’s 2004 production of The Alamo.

See Don Adair’s website at

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General Pulaski 2¢ stamp of 1931

The 2¢ General Pulaski of 1931

General Pulaski 2¢ stamp

I write occasionally about U.S. postage stamps with the American flag on them, so it was a lovely coincidence this week, that I flipped open my stamp bible and came to the General Pulaski stamp. I am usually a day late, but this time I was right on time.

General Pulaski Memorial Day

On October 11, Americans honor the memory of Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski, a courageous soldier of liberty who bravely gave his life in 1779, fighting for America’s independence. The stories of General Pulaski’s heroism during the Revolutionary War have been a source of inspiration for many generations of Americans, and his gallant sacrifice serves as a poignant reminder of the price patriots paid to obtain our liberty.

Pulaski, who was born in Poland in 1745, joined his first fight against tyranny and oppression at age 21, defending his beloved Poland against Prussian and Imperial Russian invaders. In numerous battles, Pulaski achieved fame as a calvary officer, earning promotion to commander of an army of Polish freedom fighters. But the aggressors ultimately overcame the Poles, and Pulaski was forced into exile.

Casimir Pulaksi met Benjamin Franklin in 1777, when they were both in Paris. With a letter of recommendation from Franklin to George Washington, Pulaski soon left for American—to join in the fight for independence. A magnificent horseman, Casimir Pulaski’s experience in fighting against the Russian army in his native Poland made him a great asset in so far as the training and leadership he gave the American troops.

Pulaski showed the same courageous combativeness on American soil that had gained him fame at home. Distinguishing himself in battle after battle, Pulaski earned a commission from the Continental Congress as a Brigadier General, and he was assigned by General Washington to command the Continental Army’s Calvary.

In 1779, during the siege of Savannah, General Pulaski made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life in battle so that our Nation might win its freedom. General Pulaski’s valiant leadership earned him recognition as the “Father of the American cavalry.”

Statue of  Gen. Casimir Pulaski

General Casimir Pulaski

In the years since his death, America has honored General Pulaski’s memory in many ways, including the naming of counties, towns, and streets after him. Since 1910, a statue of General Pulaski has stood in Washington, D.C., permanently memorializing his patriotic contributions and noble sacrifice.

I came here, where freedom is being defended,
to serve it, and to live and die for it.

General Casimir Pulaski in a letter
to General George Washington

The statue of Pulaski, designed by fellow countryman Kazimierz Chodzinski, was erected in 1910 in Washington D.C.

Photo of Gen. Pulaski statue courtesy of Grundlepuck at Flickr

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The Purple Heart Stamp

Purple Heart Stamp

Honoring the “75th Anniversary of the Purple Heart” Stamp

At The Daily Flag, I like to write about American postage stamps where the U.S. flag or state flags appear. Sometimes the flag is the primary focus of the stamp, and sometimes it is simply part of the overall scene. My main resource for finding “stamps with flags” is The Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps, 33rd Edition (2006). I cannot call myself a philatelist—not even the most amateur of one, but I do enjoy slowly scanning the pages of this book. When I find a stamp that I think contains the U.S. or a state flag, then I research more intensely.

The newly re-issued Purple Heart stamp does not have a flag on it. However, the Purple Heart medal incorporates George Washington’s family coat of arms, and because that coat of arms is the basis for the flag for the municipality of Washington D.C.—that is more than enough to send me in search of more information.

But first—the stamp. It was originally issued on May 30, 2003, at Mount Vernon, VA. The second issuance was on May 26, 2006, at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

Re-issued for the third time on August 7, this occasion celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Purple Heart Medal, as it exists today. The stamp features a photograph by Ira Wexler of a Purple Heart medal—the medal awarded to Lieutenant Colonel James Loftus Fowler, U.S. Marines, in 1968.

an original Badge of Military Merit

An original Badge of Military Merit

It is also the 225th anniversary of the Badge of Military Merit, the predecessor to what we now call the Purple Heart. It was established and first awarded by General George Washington on August 7, 1782.

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to members of the U.S. military who have been wounded or killed in action. It is one of the oldest military decorations in the world and the first award made available to a common soldier. Prior to Washington’s creation of this medal, only officers were given medal.

Regarding the Badge of Military Merit, Washington said:

The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward. Before this favour can be conferred on any man, the particular fact, or facts, on which it is to be grounded must be set forth to the Commander in chief accompanied with certificates from the Commanding officers of the regiment and brigade to which the Candadate [sic] for reward belonged, or other incontestable proofs, and upon granting it, the name and regiment of the person with the action so certified are to be enrolled in the book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office. Men who have merited this last distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinals [sic] which officers are permitted to do. The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all. This order is also to have retrospect to the earliest stages of the war, and to be considered as a permanent one.

The original Badge of Military Merit was personally given to three men by General Washington, and remarkably, two of them still exist. The third was destroyed in a house fire.

Coming next: The connection to the Washington Coat of Arms, and how it links to several American flags.

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New “Flags of Our Nation” stamps will wave soon

In the spring of 2008, the U.S. Postal Service will issue ten stamps, the first in a new series of sixty stamps, which will highlight and celebrate the fifty states and their flags. In addition to the state flags, USPS will issue four new Stars and Stripes stamps, and stamps for the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories.

Spacious Skies with Stars and Stripes 41c stamp

The stamps will unfurl in alphabetical order beginning with Alabama through Delaware. These colorful new stamps will depict the state flags gently waving, and will also offer a brief view of something meaningful to each state. The first Stars and Stripes stamp shows a glimpse of “the spacious skies,” from America the Beautiful.

After the spring launch, the Postal Service will issue ten more stamps in the fall—the District of Columbia to Kansas. The distribution will continue in 2009 and 2010 until all the stamps are issued.

The stamps are designed by artist Tom Engeman of Brunswick, Maryland. Engeman, who has designed many stamps for the Postal Service. He most recently created a computer-generated image of the Liberty Bell for the new 41 cent “forever stamp.” Previous projects for the Postal Service include stamped cards for Carlsbad Caverns National Park (2002), Ohio University (2003), and Columbia University (2003), as well as the 2003 American Eagle definitive stamp, and the National World War II Memorial stamp issued in 2004.

All images copyright of the United States Postal Service.

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Boy Scouts on stamps

This week Larry and I have been writing about the 100th anniversary of the founding of Boy Scouts in England. Regular readers at The Daily Flag know that I like to write about the U.S. and state flags as they appear on U.S. postage stamps, so today I thought I would show you two stamps that feature Boy Scouts. These stamps are inexpensive to buy, and matted and framed, would certainly make a nice gift for a Scout, or an Eagle Scout.

The 3 cent commemorative stamp was issued on June 30, 1950 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to honor the occasion of the Second National Jamboree, held in Valley Forge. It features three Scouts, the Statue of Liberty, and the Scout badge. The postal service issued 131,635,000 of this stamp.


1950 3c commemorative stamp honoring Second National Jamboree, Boy Scouts of America

The 4 cent commemorative stamp was issued on February 8, 1960 in Washington D.C., and honors the 50th anniversary of the founding of Boy Scouts in America (1910), and was designed by Scouting’s greatest illustrator, Norman Rockwell. The postal service issued 139,325,000 of this stamp.


1960 4c commemorative honoring the 50th Anniversary (1910) of Boy Scouts in America