Bill Aims to Restore Maine’s Original State Flag

UPDATE 2: After receiving significant negative feedback to changing the current state flag, the Committee on State & Local Government voted 8 to 4 in favor of supporting a heavily amended LD 687. The amendment does away with re-instating Maine’s original state flag and instead tasks the Secretary of State’s office to develop a commemorative bicentennial flag for 2020.

Amended LD 687 was read and passed by the House on April 11th and then passed in the senate the following week. The bill was signed into law by Governor Mills on April 30th.

UPDATE: Despite initial support for LD 687, the Committee on State & Local Government voted 7-3 during the schedule work session yesterday opposing the flag change and a divided report is expected for the legislature.

The Sun Journal & BDN reported initial support faded after committee members heard from angry constituents upset about the time spent discussing flags when more pressing issues exist.

According to both articles, the committee plans to amend the bill so that, instead of changing the state flag, it’ll task the Secretary of State’s office with designing a commemorative flag for the upcoming bicentennial.

Posted on 3/11/19

The Committee on State & Local Government is holding a work session today (3/11) to discuss LD 687, An Act To Restore the Former State of Maine Flag.

LD 687 would define the state flag as a buff (Pale Yellow-Brown) flag with a pine tree in the center and a five pointed North Star in the upper corner near the hoist side & top border.

Current statute defines the flag as the same blue as on the US flag, with the State’s coat of arms embroidered on both sides. The 5’6”x 4’4” flag is trimmed with 2 ½” wide knotted fringe made of yellow silk. The flag is flown from a 9′ pole and has a 8′ 6” chord made of blue & white silk strands attached to the brass spearhead on top.

The issue of whether such a flag even exists was discussed at the March 4th public hearing, where nine people testified in favor of LD 687.  While no testimony was submitted against the bill, those testifying for the bill pointed out the old flag’s simplicity compared to the current flag’s burdensome requirements as well as the difficulty identifying our flag from state’s flying similarly designed flags.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap pointed out that no official state flag existed prior to 1901. Eight years later, and without any debate, the legislature changed the flag to its current rendition. Mr. Dunlap provides some justification, connecting it to flags flown during the Civil War but provides no official position regarding LD 687.

Vexillogist David Martucci testified in support, arguing the 1909 change was because the legislature had a large number of Civil War Vets. He explains that while our current flag does have clear historical lineage to the Civil War, the original flag traces it’s roots back much further.

In addition to buff being George Washington’s color of choice for the Continental Army, Mr. Martucci explained pre-colonial use of a pine tree symbol, drawing a line connecting 800 year old Iroquois traditions to Wabanaki tribes in Southern Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire and then Plymouth Colony’s original seal, adopted around 1630, depicting a Settler with an English Oak Tree alongside a Native with a Pine Tree.

In 1686 the White Pine appears in the corner of the New England Colony’s flag and again in 1745 on the flag of the 3rd Massachusetts, a regiment raised within York County. In 1782 Massachusetts incorporated a pine tree into its official state seal to represent the eastern region (Maine). The Pine Tree then found itself on various flags flown in Massachusetts & Maine including the Maine militia flag from 1822 until the civil war.

Others discussed the original flag’s potential use for marketing Maine, especially leading into the state’s Bicentennial. Bill Swain, President of Maine Stitching Specialties in Skowhegan testified that his company was already filling orders for hats & shirts printed with the original flag. And while those items are currently being made out-of-state, Swain stated that if LD 687 passes, his company plans to invest in equipment to make those items in Maine.