With some notable exceptions—the flags of New Mexico and Maryland come to mind—US state flags pretty much all suck. Many of the worst consist of the state’s seal on a blue field. Bleah. How boring and ugly! But it doesn’t have to be this way. The Anglosphere has a rich vexillogical and heraldic background from which we can draw all sorts of powerful, meaningful designs.

Along those lines, I thought it’d be fun to come up with alternative flags for the six New England states—all of their modern flags are terrible, and the region has tons of shared history and culture. I’ve based my designs on on the historical flag of New England.

The flag of New England originated as the English Red Ensign—which flew over the ships which took colonists to the New World, and over the merchant ships trading with the mother country. Had relations with the home country not soured—had America not found it necessary to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them—we can imagine that this flag would have evolved in a manner similar to the other national flags based on British ensigns, such as those of Bermuda, Australia, and (formerly) Canada.1

Even after the Act of Union (1707), when the Union Flag replaced St. George’s cross in the cantons of the British ensigns, New England persisted with the English Red Ensign. Eventually, Puritans who objected to the inclusion of the holy cross on a worldly flag managed to remove it, and for some time New England flew a red ensign with the canton blank. Meanwhile, the pine tree came to become a core symbol of New England, appearing on its coinage, and eventually on its flag—taking St. George’s Cross’ place.2 This is the flag immortalized at Bunker Hill.

Pre-modern flags often varied substantially in terms of dimensions, proportions, and color choices. In order to modernize the basic form of the New England flag, I adopted the 1.9 by 1 dimensions of the US flag, and used the red from the US flag’s stripes. I took the green of the pine from the Irish tricolour—a subtle nod to the demographic impact of Irish immigraiton on New England. I made the canton’s height be the same as that of the US flag’s canton—7/13 of the total height—but square, as historically depicted, and like the Grand Union Flag.

Defaced ensigns for the New England States

To make flags for each of the New England state, I’ve defaced this flag with each state’s seal, somewhat like the defaced British ensigns you see as national flags the world over.

Generally, I like how these turned out, though the most painful one is that of Massachusetts—her coat of arms sits blue-on-red, violating the rule of tincture quite badly. Imagine I put a white fimbriation on it if this really bothers you.

Connecticut

A Red Ensign for Connecticut

Massachusetts

A Red Ensign for Massachusetts

Maine

A Red Ensign for Maine

New Hampshire

A Red Ensign for New Hampshire

Rhode Island

A Red Ensign for Rhode Island

Vermont

Vermont

The Flag of the Vermont Republic

Astute readers will notice I only supplied flags for five of the six New England states. What about Vermont? Well, I think we already have a wonderful, historic Vermont flag which fits right in with the rest—the Flag of the Vermont Republic, the infantry flag of the Green Mountain Boys. Like the other flags above, I’ve adjusted its proportions and colors to match: I took the blue from the canton of the US flag, and synched the green with the pine tree in the other flags.

Emacs, SVG, and the public domain

I did all of this flag editing in EmacsnXML mode, with occasional recourse to Inkscape.

I cribbed pretty extensively from several of Wikipedia’s public-domain SVG images. I took the colors and measurements from the Flag of the United States, the pine tree from the Naval Ensign of Massachusetts, and its green from the Flag of Ireland. I took the coats of arms from the flags of Maine, New Hamphshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. I took Vermont’s star field from the Flag of the Vermont Republic. Thank you to Wikimedia users Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion, Himasaram, SKopp, Mysid, and Greenmountainboy for making the source flags.

Share and Enjoy! I hereby release these SVG files into the public domain:

Notes

  1. The Union Flag was found in the canton (upper left-hand quarter) of the flags of many colonies of the UK, while the field (background) of their flags was the colour of the naval ensign flown by the particular Royal Navy squadron that patrolled that region of the world. This is why Pacific and island nations tend to have defaced Blue Ensigns, whereas Atlantic nations have defaced Red Ensigns. (Wikipedia)
  2. Some kept both the cross and the tree in the canton.

Comments

  1. A fascinating peek into vexillology for sure.

    The simplicity of the canton in your flags bugs me though. Something about a plain white field next to a plain red field and a plain green tree. It's very...plain. I suppose flags aren't supposed to be the latest and greatest in design, but it seems to me that something subtle could be done to that corner.

    Brad Fults, 29 January 2008

  2. Brad,

    The canton is blazed "argent a pine tree proper," so artistic liberty could be taken with the tree to acheive your desired complexity.

    For instance, consider this rendition of the New England flag w/pine.

    I kept my pine a solid color because I wanted to use the green from the Irish flag, and my SVG skills aren't up for much beyond solid colors.

    Edward O'Connor, 29 January 2008

  3. Will

    Or just keep the St George's Cross, which would be both historically accurate and appropriate since these are flags of new "England." Also, I'd like to see what the flags would look like with blue ensigns (a la the Bunker Hill flag, which is also often cited as the "flag of New England")

    Will, 17 March 2008

  4. Actually, Will, the Bunker Hill flag was red. Coloring it blue is widely regarded as an error introduced when reprinting John Trumbull's etching, which hatched the flag for red.

    Edward O'Connor, 17 March 2008

  5. PJ Overstreet

    Apparently in the "Field Book of the Revolution" by B. John Lossing, a daughter of one of the veterans of Breeds Hill reported that her father raised a blue flag prior to the battle. Regardless, if voted on today, I think a good compromise would be a blue ensign with St. George's cross in the canton and a Pine tree in its canton, representing our English roots, our Colonial heritage, and New England's close relationship with the sea.

    PJ Overstreet, 19 August 2008

  6. I absolutely love your vectorized version of all of the flags, and speaking as a bit of a "nationalist," this version of New England's flag is by far the best. The simplicity calls back to the puritan days of New England's history and many people would say it looks "plain" that can be said for a lot of things associated with New Englander culture.

    I've known about the New England flag for some time, so I've long gotten used to the plainness. And to see the flag any depicted any other way seems silly to me. Anyways, great job.

    Oh and for some silly New England alt-history, I've been writing this.

    Jason Kin, 31 October 2008

  7. Ed, You basically got the history right although what you show for Vermont actually was never associated with Vermont. That association is based on very bad research and it never flew as the flag of the Independent State of New Connecticut, later renamed Vermont. There is one other fragment of this flag that indicates there was much more to the design. Email me for more info.

    David Martucci, 30 November 2008

  8. Shawn-Paul

    I'm glad to see some other people are as proud as me of our New England flags. I recently brought my young family through Boston's Freedom Trail, and hiked across the fields of Gettysburg PA. That same weekend we walked from the State capitol of DC to the steps of the Lincon Memorial. We ended our American History tour in NY at the statue of liberity. My two children carried our Continental, and Bunker Hill flags all the way.

    Shawn-Paul, 2 May 2009

Add a comment

Posting...