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John McConnell’s Earth flag

“The authentic Earth flag”, aka “Earth Day flag”

Last modified: 2019-08-06 by rob raeside
Keywords: earth | proposal | earth day | mcconnell (john) | authentic earth flag | nasa | apollo | copyright |
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John McConnell’s Earth flag image by Henry A. Waxman and António Martins, Jul 1999
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History and description of the flag

The first Earth Flag was created and copyrighted by John McConnell in preparation for the first Earth Day (also created by him) in San Francisco, in March 1970. The first Earth Day was primarily a Peace Day. Senator Gaylord Nelson was in San Francisco that same year planning the first major Environmental Summit for April 22. Nelson invited McConnell to join forces with him, but McConnell refused because he felt that March 20th, the Vernal Equinox that year, was the more appropriate Earth Day.

Later on, McConnell became active in the United Nations Earth Society Foundation where he met Margaret Mead who really made the Earth Flag the icon it has become. She literally carried it with her wherever she went.

After Ms. Mead’s death in 1978, Ed Brennan, who was the president of the Earth Society Foundation, obtained a new copyright to the Earth Flag we use today. In 1995, Brennan (now an independent businessman) sought financial backing to expand the market for the flag. He was not successful, and the company he created fell on hard times.

Later in 1995, Henry Waxman acquired Brennan’s copyright by a marketing agreement for flags made per McConnell’s design, maintaining its availability. The 2×3 ft flag has a 15 inch diameter Earth image. The 3×5 ft flag is proportionately larger. The smaller flags are sized approximately. The blue shade is a “process” dark blue. Since 1995 were sold about about 1000 to 1200 flags per year. Most of the flags are 3×5 ft, with about 40% in the 2×3 ft size.

This flag was trademarked as The Authentic Earth Flag, but it is usually called The Earth Day Flag. However the copyright holder of the Authentic Earth Flag is not in charge of Earth Day.

NASA was not involved in the copyright agreement because Apollo photos are in the public domain. Anyone can use the image itself. It is only a violation of the copyright if put on a flag. The copyright extends to any dark blue flag with a centered photo image of the earth, even in variations (of shades and sizes) that are not actually sold by the copyright holders.

Henry A. Waxman (Earth Flag Ltd.), Jun 1999

The picture on The Authentic Earth Flag (the very famous picture showing Africa with Arabia at the top and Antarctica at the bottom) is from the last moon mission, Apollo 17 (here).
Randall Bart, 07 Dec 2001

First design

John McConnell’s Earth flag -- 1st version image by Henry A. Waxman and António Martins, Jul 1999

McConnell’s original flag was a small blue and white flag (2-color only) of a heavily cloud-laden Earth, the theoretical first picture of the Earth, taken from outer space by an Apollo mission and published in Life Magazine. That picture was cloudy, literally in that it was mostly oceans and clouds. Later he switched to a new Apollo photo and it hasn’t changed it since then.
Henry A. Waxman (Earth Flag Ltd.), Jun 1999

The first pictures of Earth were taken by Apollo 8, the first space ship to orbit the moon. The most famous Apollo 8 picture is the Earth-rise picture (here) taken December 25, 1998. I don’t recognize the picture used in McConnell’s early design. If it was created in March 1970, it could be from Apollo 8, 10, 11, or 12.
Randall Bart, 07 Dec 2001

1st trial with reversed colors

John McConnell’s Earth flag -- 1st version, error image by Henry A. Waxman and António Martins, 21 Nov 2003

When John made his first flag the printer accidentally reversed the colors blue and white. When he remade them the colors were corrected and thus there were two versions of the flag.
Henry A. Waxman (Earth Flag Ltd.), Jun 1999

Variant with moon and stars

It was during a march today [during the anti-WTO “protest of the century” in Seattle] that I saw two examples (so they apparently were not just home-made LOBs) of a flag I’m not familiar with. Can anyone help identify it for me? It was like the ’Earth flag’ with which we’re all familiar — an image of the planet on a dark blue field — but shorter than usual, maybe 2:3. In the upper hoist was a small crescent moon, with the “horns” pointing toward the image of Earth. In the upper fly were four (or maybe five, it was hard to tell) white five-pointed stars, arranged a la New Zealand or Samoa in the Southern Cross pattern.
Andrew Rogers, 02 Dec 1999

Seriously, I guess it might be just a variation of the Earth flag, including some concepts of other earth flags, like the inclusion of the moon in the design. I might also have a regional connotation (the southern cross) with the southern Hemisphere. Perhaps a local organization of internationalists from Down Under?
Jorge Candeias, 04 Dec 1999