Alaska Flag

The Alaska flag truly does have an interesting history. Although the Alaska flag was not adopted for official state use until 1959, it was actually created much earlier– in 1926.

Alaska Flag

The Alaska Flag of consists of eight gold stars, that together form the Big Dipper and the North Star, all emblazoned upon a dark blue field. The first seven of the stars on the Alaska Flag are supposedly from the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper). The eighth star on the Alaska Flag represents the North Star, symbolizing Alaska’s being the northern most state. The blue field of the Alaska Flag represents the sky, the sea and mountain lakes, and also Alaska’s wildflowers.

The Alaska flag was designed in 1927 by a 13-year-old Native American boy named Bennie Benson, who resided in Seward. There was a contest established to create a flag for Alaska- what was then simply the “Alaska Territory”. Benson’s design for the Alaska Flag was chosen over roughly 700 other submissions from schoolchildren ranging from grades 7-12 territory-wide.

In celebration of his achievement, Benson was awarded $1,000 along with an engraved watch. Most of the other students’ entries featured variations on the traditional territorial seal, the midnight sun, northern lights, polar bears, and others of the like.

Until this time, Alaskans had generally flown only the U.S. flag since the territory was purchased from Russia in 1867, however the Alaska Legislature soon adopted Benson’s Alaska Flag design. Benson’s Alaska Flag design became the official Alaska Flag for the Territory of Alaska on May 2, 1927. The very first flag made based on Benson’s design was made of blue silk and gold stars, and was inaugurally flown on July 9, 1927. Benson’s original design for the Alaska Flag was retained as the official Alaska State Flag upon declaration of statehood in 1959.

History of the POW/MIA Flag

As Memorial Day nears, Americans all across the country are encouraged to remember America’s fallen heroes, both within our borders and abroad. This past week, we join many other Americans in the mourning of Newt Heisley – the original designer of the POW/MIA Flag, who passed away on May 14th, 2009. Mr. Heisley’s POW/MIA flag is arguably the 2nd most popular flag in all of America behind none other than the Stars and Stripes herself.

Newt HeisleyIn his early years, Newt Heisley was a pilot in the South Pacific Theater during World War II. During the Vietnam War, however, Mr. Heisley became a professional art director at Annin and Company, the country’s largest flag manufacturer. In 1971 he was asked to create a flag for the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. Heisley, as he himself was a veteran of the South Pacific Theater of World War II, had a personal concern for the many who served in the Vietnam War.

The design for Newt Heisley’s POW/MIA flag shows a silhouette of a soldier’s head in the foreground, with a watchtower and a guard surrounded by an intimidating barbed wire fence behind. Mr. Heisley’s design was reportedly inspired by his own son Jeffery, who at the time had been training with the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam.

Jeffery Heisley never even made it out of training; he immediately became very ill during his training at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Jeffery was reportedly diagnosed with hepatitis – a disease that ravaged his body, completely emaciating his face and body structure.

When Jeffery returned home, medically discharged and unable to continue in the United States Marine Corps, his father Newt looked on in horror at what had once been a strong and able young man. Then, as Newt Heisley looked closer at his son’s haggard features, he began to imagine what life must be like for those prisoners being held behind barbed wire fences on foreign shores. Slowly, he began to sketch the profile of his son, working in pencil to create the now familiar black and white silhouette of the POW/MIA flag.


Perhaps the most symbolic part of the entire POW/MIA flag — more important than just the sketch of a distraught and malnourished prisoner, and more meaningful than the intimidation of the barbed wire background — are the words emblazoned in bold white letters across the bottom of the flag.

You Are Not Forgotten“, the flag boldly exclaims – and it is this statement, profound in its simplicity, that epitomizes the very heart and soul of the American people.  This short 4 word sentence characterizes the American people’s unending love and appreciation for all those who have chosen to sacrifice their lives so that we may live – and live well at that – in the best country this world has ever known.

–Tommy McLaughlin

Alabama Flag

Most historians believe that the Alabama Flag was originally designed to resemble the blue saltire of the Confederate Battle Flag. The Battle Flag was square-shaped, and often times, the Alabama flag is displayed as a square as well.

Alabama Flag

Interestingly enough, there is a long standing debate as to the proper shape of the Alabama Flag. The legislation that originally created the Alabama state flag never actually specified if the flag was meant to be square or rectangular.

According to the authors of a 1917 article in National Geographic, the Alabama flag should be square, as it was originally meant to be based upon the Confederate Battle Flag. In 1987, however, the office of Alabama Attorney General Don Siegelman issued a differing opinion. Attorney General Siegelman concluded that the proper shape of the Alabama flag should be rectangular, just as it had been depicted numerous times in official publications.

Unbeknownst to most, the saltire design of the Alabama flag bears a striking resemblance to several other flags. The Alabama flag is actually identical to the flag of Saint Patrick, which has since been incorporated into the Union Flag of the UK. Also, some historians believe that the Alabama flag owes its origins to a simplification of the Cross of Burgundy Flag. This flag was used by the Spanish in the New Spain, and also was the basis of many military flags.

Alabama 7th Cavalry Flag
Alabama 7th Cavalry Brigade Flag

Another remote, but possible inspiration for the Alabama flag was that of the flag carried by The Alabama 7th Cavalry. The regiment was the only Alabama regiment in Rucker’s Brigade that was commanded by Col. Edmund Rucker of Tennessee, who would later command troops in Alabama as well. The brigade flag consisted of a white background with a red saltire that was decorated with 13 bluish-green stars upon it. This flag was meant to be used as Col. Rucker’s Color Guard. It is currently held as part of the Alabama Civil War Period Flag Collection by the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

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“You are Not Forgotten”

During the early 1970’s, after friends and families of MIAs and POWs in Vietnam plowed the ground and sowed the seeds, a popular movement took hold in the grass roots of the American landscape.

Seemingly lost among the war protests of the time, prisoners of war and those missing in action went uncounted and unremembered—but only by the general public.

Their friends and families had not forgotten them and launched an effort to remind the broader American public that whatever one’s opinion about the Vietnam Conflict, these men existed, every day paying the price to prevent the spread of communism; or maybe in reality, they were simply paying the price for being drafted and seduced into what many deemed an imperialist conflict in a little country thousands of miles from home.

The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia formed as a result of their families’ anguish, and soon, a flag was commissioned. Mrs. Michael Hoff, wife of a soldier missing in action, contacted a flag company who then contacted advertising executive Newton Heisley, a veteran of World War II and the father of Jeffery Heisley who had served in the Marines but had been sent home from a Corp training program, gaunt and emaciated, with hepatitis.

It is his silhouette that graces the black and white flag designed by his father and that has flown since 1971. We have known it as the nation’s officially recognized POW/MIA Flag since 1990 when U.S. Public Law 101-355 passed. It is the only flag that flies continuously in the United States Capitol’s rotunda, and it is also the only flag other than the Stars and Stripes that has ever flown over the White House.

Today, the POW/MIA Flag represents all of the more than 89,000 post-WWII missing soldiers, and all who fly it remain committed to the remembrance and full accounting of all soldiers still missing in action.

–Carol Frome

Top 500 Internet Retailer Award

Online Stores, Inc. Ranked Among America’s Top 500 Internet Retailers

New Stanton, PA May 12, 2009 – Online Stores, Inc. announced today that they have again been included amongst America’s top 500 internet retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. 2009 will be Online Stores, Inc.’s third year on the prestigious list; the company has received the award annually since 2007.

See the full press release here

The Mexican Flag

The Mexican flag represents an ancient history that travels forward through time into modern day sensibilities—and one of the biggest cities in the world, Mexico City,  is home to just shy of twenty-three million inhabitants.

Mexican Flag

Adopted in 1968, today’s Mexican flag is the descendant of earlier, similar versions that have been around since 1821, when Mexico won independence from Spain after an eleven-year struggle. Mexican-born Spainards, Mestizos, and Amerindians were among the rebels who fought for independence, but it is the Amerindians, the Aztecs, a culture dating from the early 1100’s, who gave Mexico its primary patriotic symbol, a pictogram of a snake-eating eagle.
Mexican Coat of ArmsAmong the Aztecs, one northern culture, the Mexica (pronounced me-shee-ka), embodied the Tenochca tribe. Tenochca culture included human sacrifice, and eventually other tribes banded together in an attempt to crush them. The survivors eventually fled. Aztec legend says that their war god, Huitzilopochtli, directed them to found a new city where they would find an eagle sitting on a prickly pear cactus, eating a serpent. Somewhere between 1300 and 1375, on a swampy island at the center of three lakes, they espied the sought-after lunching eagle and so settled and built the city Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.

First, then, a symbol of Aztec culture, the fearsome coat of arms now represents all of Mexico and figures prominently in the Mexican flag, positioned on a central white vertical band with a green band on the hoist side and red band on the fly side.

In 1821, the green portion of the Mexican flag signified independence, white the Catholic faith, and red the union of North Americans and Europeans. But during the mid-1800’s (a period of secularization), the colors’ meanings were reassigned, with green representing hope, white representing unity, and red the blood of national heroes.

When the Mexican flag is displayed, civilian Mexicans stand at attention with their right arm placed in a salute over their chests, just under the heart, with the palm facing downward. A military salute is used by the armed forces. When the Mexican president presides over military functions, he too, uses the military salute, but on civil occasions, he uses the civil salute. With its fascinating history, the Mexican Flag is a flag that honors both a country and a rich heritage.

–Carol Frome

The Tricolor French Flag

Over the centuries, since long before Charlemagne, France has flown many flags. Typically, when conjuring up an image of the French Flag, we think of the Fleurs-dis-Lis- three gold lilies on a blue shield. However, the ‘drapeau tricolore’ or ‘drapeau bleu-blanc-rouge’ is now the official French flag.

Fleur De Lys
Fleur De Lys

With its vertical blue, white, and red bands, the Tricolor French Flag was adopted in 1790, after the French Revolution of 1789, and then made the official flag by the French National Convention on February 15, 1794. But it has not represented the country without disruption.

Under the Tricolor French Flag, Napoleon I led France through war and battle after battle until the nation dominated parts of North Africa and most of the western world. Then in 1814, the Bourbon’s re-seized power and all symbols of the revolution were replaced with those of the Bourbons. After intrigues and betrayal, the July Revolution of 1830, put King Louis-Philippe on the throne, who resurrected the ‘drapeau tricolore’.

French Flag
The order of the colors has sometimes changed, and explanations for the colors vary. Blue and red are the traditional colors of the arms of Paris, and, ironically, white is color of the Bourbon dynasty. The blue is sometimes referred to as strong blue, or, again ironically, as King’s blue.

Its simple design, with the blue band at the hoist, followed by two more equal-sized bands, one of white, then a red “fly” (the outer band), is said to represent the common people, a reaction to the monarchy and the elaborate royal coats of arms found on pre-revolutionary flags. The revolutionary motto, liberté, égalité, fraternité , or liberty, equality and brotherhood, is closely associated with the Tricolor French Flag.

According to Whitney Smith, flag scholar and founder of the Flag Research Center in Winchester Massachusetts, the Tricolor French Flag “has no specific symbolism attached to the individual colors and shapes in its design” and that all symbolism was attached to it in retrospect. Yet, speculation abounds.

Sometimes the colors are thought to be influenced by those of the American Revolution, and also by Holland, but there are other explanations. With France being traditionally Catholic, blue is said to be the color of Saint Martin, a Gallo-Roman officer who ripped his blue cloak with his sword to give one half of it to a poor cold beggar. Red is the color of Saint Denis, the patron saint of Paris, and white, in this manner of thinking, represents the Virgin Mary.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (2002-2005) consistently and poetically referred to the colors as “the blue of our history, the white of our hopes, and the red of the blood of our ancestors”. As influenced as it may be by ideas and idealism, the Tricolor is equally influential, with post-colonial and post-revolutionary countries all over world either using either the blue, white, and red, or the Tricolor French Flag‘s banded style to represent freedom from tyranny.

–Carol Frome