Flag of Laos

The flag of Laos was adopted on December 2, 1975, when the country became a People’s Republic. The flag is rectangular with three horizontal stripes. The top and bottom stripes are red and half the height of the center stripes, which is blue. In the center of the flag is a white circle.

Laos’s flag is one of only a few Communist flags that does not include the five-pointed star often associated with communist regimes. The colors on Laos’s flag have symbolic meaning. The red stripes symbolize the blood shed by the people of Laos during their quest for freedom, and the blue stripe stands for wealth and prosperity. The white circle has three symbolic meanings: it represents a full moon over the Mekong River, the unity of Laos’s multiethnic population under the communist government, and the country’s hopeful future.

The original flag of Laos was quite different from the country’s current flag. During the Royal Kingdom of Laos (1952-1975), the flag of Laos featured a three-headed elephant in front of a red background. Since ancient times, Laos has been called the “Land of a Million Elephants,” and the white elephant is a common symbol for many Southeast Asian countries. The three-headed white elephant on Laos’s flag is the Hindu god Erawan, which can have up to thirty three heads. The three-headed version on Laos’s old flag represents the country’s three former kingdoms: Vientaine, Luangprabang, and Champasak. The elephant sits atop a five-tiered pedestal, which symbolizes the country’s laws. Above the elephant is an umbrella with nine layers, representing a royal Buddhist symbol.

From 1953 until 1975, the Royal Kingdom of Laos was at war with the Pathet Lao, a communist political movement in Laos. When the Pathet Lao assumed control of Laos in 1975, forcing Laos’s king to resign his power, the communist regime adopted Laos’s current flag.

Utah’s State Flag Correction

The state of Utah may experience an historic moment this March if the Utah State Legislature approves a correction to the state’s flag. Along with celebrating the centennial anniversary of the adoption of the Utah State flag, the placement of the year “1847” on Utah’s state flag will be moved from under—and almost behind—the shield to a new placement at the bottom of the shield. The color of the shield will change from blue to the originally intended white.

The correction to the Utah state flag restores the flag to its original 1903 design. The flag’s errors began in 1922 when a hand-stitched state flag inexplicably changed the color of the shield from white to blue and placed the year 1847 below the shield instead of at the bottom of it. Since the commission of that flag, the makers of the Utah state flag have continued to manufacture the flag in error.

Ron Fox, an amateur historian, brought the error to the Utah State Legislature’s attention recently when he found a Utah state flag from 1903 at the Utah State Historical Society. After Fox raised the issue to Utah State Representative Julie Fisher, Fisher led the passage of a resolution in the State Legislature. If the State Legislature approves of the resolution, Utah Governor Gary Herbert will sign the legislation on March 9, 2011. Herbert will also designate March 9 as Utah’s official Flag Day and commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the adoption of the Utah state flag.

The proposed corrections to the new flag will result in a Utah banner that features Utah’s state seal on a blue background. The state seal features a white shield a bald eagle on top of it, draped American flags on either side of it, and the year 1896 below. A beehive with lilies appears inside the shield. The word “INDUSTRY” appears above the beehive and the word “UTAH” as well as the date 1947 appears below it. Utah is the “beehive state” and the beehive on the flag symbolizes industry. The lilies symbolize peace and the bald eagle represents the protection of peace. The American flags stand for patriotism to the United States of America. The year 1847 marks the year the Mormons entered the Salt Lake Valley, and the year 1896 is the year Utah officially became the 45th state in the Union.

“Utah State Flag and Seal,” Utah.gov. http://pioneer.utah.gov/research/utah_symbols/flag.html.
“Utah State Symbols,” Utah.com. http://www.utah.com/visitor/state_facts/symbols.htm.
Logan Daniels, “Bill would correct error on Utah state flag,” KSL.com, December 27, 2010. http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=13791697.
Dennis Romboy, “Resolution aims to correct decades-old error in Utah state flag,” Deseret News, January 27, 2011. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705365214/Resolution-aims-to-correct-decades-old-error-in-Utah-state-flag.html.

California’s “Bear Flag” Centennial

February 3, 2011 marked the centennial anniversary of the California state flag. One hundred years ago last week, California’s governor Hiram Johnson signed an act that made California’s “Bear Flag”—which had been in use since 1846—the official state flag.

Celebrations marking the California flag centennial were minor, if not nonexistent. An article in the Sacramento Bee provided pieces of an interview with Bill Trinkle, a Sacramento attorney and flag historian. Trinkle founded the Bear Flag Museum, a nonprofit online museum and library, dedicated to educating adults and children about California’s state flag.

In honor of the California flag’s centennial, Trinkle wrote a blog entry, celebrating the occasion. The blog entry included photographs of Governor Hiram Johnson, a historic flag, and a copy of the Senate Bill. The entry also included a whimsical picture of the California state flag that adorned the fierce grizzly bear with a party hat and a horn. Because the Bear Flag Museum exists solely on the web and does not have a physical location, Trinkle did not plan any celebratory events, but instead hoped that his fellow Californians would visit the Bear Flag Museum online and learn about the California state flag.

Trinkle said that he and his wife would toast the flag with a bottle of Bear Flag Wine, a creatively blended and reasonably priced line of California blended wines.

California’s State Flag, also known as the “Bear Flag,” has an interesting history. Designed by William Todd (Mary Todd Lincoln’s cousin), the Bear Flag was first flown when U.S. Explorer John C. Fremont and a group of insurgents who captured Sonoma from Mexico. The first flag was most likely hand drawn on a piece of cotton cloth. The original stripe on the flag was a strip of red flannel, most likely from a petticoat or pair of long underwear. The word California was spelled incorrectly on the flag’s original version, and was corrected in later editions. The grizzly bear was very common in California in the mid-nineteenth century and was respected for its ferocity, even in the presence of danger.

Read more about the Bear Flag’s history on the United States Flag Store blog.

Dixie Reid, “100 years ago this week, bear flag became California’s official banner,” The Sacramento Bee, January 31, 2011. http://www.sacbee.com/2011/01/31/3363999/100-years-ago-this-week-bear-flag.html.
Bill Trinkle, “Happy 100th Anniversary to the California State Flag,” Bear Flag Museum Blog, February 3, 2011. http://bearflagmuseum.blogspot.com/2011/02/happy-100th-anniversary-to-california.html.