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Variations of the U.S. Flag

Last modified: 2020-07-04 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | variation | christian fish | swastika | hearts | copyleft |
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Overview

Over time, there have been discussions about variations of the U.S. flag as seen in movies, TV serials, cartoons, etc... and some that were used in real life.
Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001


Variants with stars replaced or moved

50 skulls and bones flag
[U.S. variation - 50 skulls and bones flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

50 oil drums flag
[U.S. variation - 50 oil drums flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

50 swastikas flag
[U.S. variation - 50 swastikas flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

A similar design is used in the cover of the book en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PKD-high_castle-penguinclassics.jpg The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick, as published in 2001 by Penguin Books, where the swastikas are however upright.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 4 May 2009

Earthquake flag
[U.S. variation - stars piled in base of flag] image by Clay Moss, 25 July 2018

[U.S. variation - stars piled in base of flag] image by Clay Moss, 25 July 2018

One morning in the early 1980s, the store manager of The Flag Store in San Francisco, Jim Ferrigan, and his assistant manager, Jim Zook, were at Paramount Flag Company of San Francisco, picking up inventory. They wanted to inspect one of the custom flags that had been ordered at the store and went to a layout table to unfurl it. At that same table a long time Paramount employee, Miriam, was placing stars on a blue canton to make a standard US flag.

When the two men unfurled custom flag to place it onto the table it caused the unpinned stars on Miriam's US flag to be blown into the canton’s corners. Jim Zook, an artist, was struck by the randomized pile of stars that the unexpected puff of air had created and asked Miriam to pin the stars in place and have it sewn up into a U.S. flag for the store. The resulting flag was first christened the “Falling Star Flag” or “Fallen Stars Flag” and would be displayed, sometimes on the wall and sometimes in the window, usually vertically, at the Flag Store, as an item of novelty décor. It was displayed without any explanation as an optical joke.

One summer day an unnamed German tourist queried Was ist das? Eine Erdbebenfahne? (What is that? An earthquake flag?) Jim Zook, who understood German, immediately realized the potential, and the so-called “Earthquake Flag” was born.

Once the flag had been named it moved from optical novelty to production item and different sizes, fabrics and styles were eventually made available. In the fall of that year the Smithsonian Curator Harold Langley requested one for the Smithsonian's’ Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) and it became part of the national collection and is known as the San Francisco "Earthquake Flag.”

Today, the Paramount Flag Company no longer exists and the Earthquake flag is no longer manufactured, but it still brings a smile to the faces of flag enthusiasts when seen or mentioned. Special thanks to Jim Ferrigan who shared this story with me.

The flag is used both vertically and horizontally. The most common display is vertical.
Pete Loeser, 25 July 2018

[U.S. variation - stars piled in corner flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

Jim Ferrigan tells me there were actually three versions of the Earthquake Flag produce (once they caught on) designed to show the pile of fallen stars at different angles; the vertical one, the horizontal version and one for 45 degree display.
Pete Loeser, 26 July 2018

Here are a few more renditions of the same concept of "fallen stars" (regarding the U.S. flag):
- "Deconstructed Flag #2 (Out of Order)" by Brian Kenny, 2012
Flag: http://pictify.saatchigallery.com Source: http://pictify.saatchigallery.com/260774/deconstructed-flag-2-out-of-order-by-brian-kenny-2012
"Part of a series of works by the artist Brian Kenny (official website: http://briankenny.work), “Deconstructed Flag” focuses
specifically on what it means to be gay and neglected in America. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kenny says: “I feel discontent with the current political and economic system that allows for so much corruption and social injustice. I wanted to express this discontent in my art, so I learned how to sew and made a series of deconstructed American flags with fallen or removed stars and stripes.”" (source: http://www.sleek-mag.com/2016/11/30/american-flag-art)

- "Broken" by Stanley Bermudez (n.d.)
Flag: https://objects.artspan.com/member/sbermudez/500/2078987.jpg
Source: https://www.stanleybermudez.com/lg_view_multi.php?aid=2078987

- Unknown (this image portrays the fallen stars in a different manner than the "Earthquake flag").
Flag: https://thumb9.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/1375057/397347745/stock-vector-us-flag-with-all-the-stars-fallen-down-to-the-bottom-397347745.jpg
Source: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/us-flag-all-stars-fallen-down-397347745

Of the three, the one by Brian Kenny does exist as a real flag although it's part of an art exhibit only.
Esteban Rivera, 25 July 2018

Soviet United States of America flag
[U.S. variation - communist flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

In the 1980s in USA was made the film "Amerika" (fiction about Soviet occupation of USA). I remember two flags: a flag of occupied USA - "Soviet United States of America" - 'Stars and Stripes' with white hammer and sickle in the canton and without stars - and a flag of American communists-traitors - red flag with two white ovals with portraits of Lenin and Lincoln.
Victor Lomantsov, 3 March 2001

Communist flag variants
[U.S. variation - communist flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

[U.S. variation - communist flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

This flag appeared in the magazine/comic was "Treasure Chest". See http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2003_11_24.html where it gives a little history of Treasure Chest, and shows an additional image of the USSA Hammer&Sickle flag from the "What a Family's Life Would be Like in a Communist United  States" feature (part of Treasure Chest's "Godless Communism" series, which ran about the same time- the comic carried a written endorsement from J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation).
Ned Smith, 17 January 2006

Anti-Corporate Flags
[U.S. variation - corporate power protest flag] image by Phil Nelson, 27 June 2001

See also: Anti-Corporate Flags

Christian fish symbol on flag
[U.S. variation - christian fish flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 9 September 2007

I saw in the window of a nearby conservative evangelical bookstore both the familiar "Christian" flag and a new design I had not seen before - the same as the S&S but with a white "ichthys" fish symbol in place of the stars in the canton.
Joe McMillan, 25 January 2002

Copyleft symbol on flag
[U.S. variation - copyleft flag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 7 July 2007

Here is a variant of the USA flag I saw on the Web with the white copyleft symbol instead of the stars in the canton can be found on the Web at: www.chrononaut.org/~dm/images/misc/copyleft-flag.jpg. It seems to be the photo of a real flag, although it is not absolutely certain, as I have not seen it anywhere else.
Tomislav Todorovic, 7 July 2007

Hearts on flag
[U.S. variation - hearts flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 23 August 2010

50 white hearts for stars, canton detail used to illustrate the online version of Bono Vox's op-ed in the New
York Times
www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/opinion/18bono.html "Rebranding America" 2009.10.17. This design illustrates the author's idea of well-wishers's view of of "what they wish America to be."
António Martins-Tuválkin, 23 August 2010


Variants with different colored stripes

[U.S. variation - communist flag] image by Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

This flag apparently refers to communism.

[U.S. variation - Bad Religion flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 13 November 2004

U.S. punk rock music band Bad Religion shows a red and black U.S. national flag on the cover of its recent album "The Empire strikes first". Red replaces white and, and black replaces blue and red in the normal flag, so the overall stripe pattern still starts and ends with a dark stripe, even though the red gets swapped. (The shade of red seems to be lighter than Old Glory Red, though this might be irrelevant.)
António Martins-Tuválkin, 13 November 2004

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 15 July 2016

The flag with this design is offered for sale at the BlackBlok.com website: https://blackblok.com/flags/country-flags/usa-anarchy-red-black-flag/usa-anarchy-red-and-black-flag in several sizes, the ratio being either 3:5 or 2:3. The shade of red
is R or very similar. A very similar flag was used at the Black Lives Matter protest in Harrisburg, PA on 2016-07-10: http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/07/after_week_of_mass_arrests_and.html but the shade of red was much closer to R+, while the canton seems to occupy about 1/2 of the flag length. This is the only example of verified use of such design so far.
Tomislav Todorovic, 15 July 2016

[U.S. variation - Anarchism flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 13 November 2004

U.S. anarchists seem to use (when any at all) an upside-down U.S. national flag with the circled-"A" emblem on the canton -- the ring formed by stars.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 13 November 2004

[U.S. variation - Eco flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 2 May 2009

A flag used by ecological campaigners.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 2 May 2009

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 15 July 2016

The US flag on which blue and red were replaced with black and gray, respectively was used in Washington, DC on 2015-10-11 at the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March: https://tellit2mestraight.com/2015/10/11/the-route-to-justiceorelse-2015/
The photo reveals that the ratio was 3:5 or very close.
Tomislav Todorovic, 15 July 2016

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 1 October 2019

This flag on which blue and red are both replaced with black and white is replaced with gray seems to be derived from the low-visibility designs introduced by the military, in the USA as well as the other countries; patches with such designs are offered for sale by numerous online shops and the flag itself is also offered by several sellers, such as https://motoloot.com, https://safishing.com, or https://alphadefensegear.com. The latter two of these shops name it "Blackout American Flag", while
another one, https://foreverwave.com calls it "USA Subdued Tactical Flag". While all the above items employ the ratio of 3:5, the last one is also offered with the ratio of 2:3.
The last two photos suggest a lighter shade of gray than seen on the others, but black also looks lighter on them (more like FOTW color G++, or even lighter), and shades of both colors differ between the two photos, so it is more due to picture taking conditions. This design is also used as the basis for several Thin Line designs, such as the Thin Blue Line and the Thin Green Line.
Tomislav Todorovic, 1 October 2019

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 26 May 2018

The flag with both blue and red replaced with purple is offered for sale at:
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail and
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail
There seems to be no particular meaning attributed to design - most likely, it is meant to be merely a decorative item.
Tomislav Todorovic, 26 May 2018


Variant with complementary colors

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 25 February 2018

The flags on which blue, white and red were replaced with orange, black and green, respectively - i.e. their complementary colors - were sold by the Paramount Flag Co. in 1970's and 1980's [1]. The design was borrowed from the painting "Flags (Moratorium)" by Jasper Johns (b. 1930), which was created to commemorate the 1969 anti-war Moratorium Marches. On Johns' picture [2, 3], green stripes are in several shades, resembling the camouflage patterns used on the soldiers' uniforms, and there is a white dot in the flag center, which represents a bullet hole. These details were not reproduced on the flags, where all the colors were uniform [4].

Jasper Johns has repeated this flag design on his 1986 painting "Ventriloquist" [5, 6], where a wall is depicted on which a picture is stuck on, displaying a 48-stars flag above a 50-stars flag, both painted in orange, black and green on white paper sheet. The 48-stars version also appears on Johns' 1968 painting "Flags" [7, 8], shown with a white dot in center, above a grayscale flag with a corresponding black dot, all on dark gray field; after staring at the white dot, moving the focus to the black one would produce an afterimage in the correct colors of the U.S. flag.

Sources:
[1] E-mail correspondence with James Ferrigan (formerly employed at the Paramount Flag Co.), January 2018.
[2] Denis Bloch Fine Art Gallery website: http://denisbloch.com/artworks/artists/jasper-johns/flag-moratorium/
[3] Heritage Auctions website: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/jasper-johns-flag-moratorium-1
[4] Portland Flag Association at facebook - Photo album from NAVA 50: https://www.facebook.com/pg/portlandflag/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1098230836940868
[5] Tate Gallery website: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/johns-ventriloquist-p77165
[6] Museum of Modern Art website: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/66789?artist_id=2923&locale=en&sov_referrer=artist
[7] Metropolitan Museum of Art website: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/69.701.2/
[8] Museum of Modern Art website: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/66194

Tomislav Todorovic, 25 February 2018


All white flag

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 26 February 2018

The flag, which was sold by the Paramount Flag Co. in 1970s and 1980s [1], was created as an homage to the book "The Stars and the Stripes" by Boleslaw and Marie-Louise D'Otrange Mastai, which was published in 1973 [1, 2]. The edges of stripes and canton were created by heavy stitches, making them look "whiter than white" - actually, less transparent than the rest of the field; the stars were embroidered on the canton, which produced the same effect [3]

While this may have been the first actual all-white variant of the U.S. flag, the design itself is much older: the first appearance might have been the 1955 painting "White Flag" by Jasper Johns [4]. Several other all-white flags have appeared in later years as parts of larger art projects [4], one of them being the all-white flag which was hoisted over the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014 although the "white on white" effect seems to have been produced in another way there.

Sources:
[1] E-mail correspondence with James Ferrigan (formerly employed at the Paramount Flag Co.), January 2018.
[2] Dave Martucci's Flag Pages: http://www.vexman.net/13stars/#Mastai
[3] Portland Flag Association at Facebook - Photo album from NAVA 50: https://www.facebook.com/pg/portlandflag/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1098230836940868
[4] Portland Flag Association website: https://portlandflag.org/2015/01/01/white-flags/
Tomislav Todorovic, 26 February 2018


All black flag

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 1 October 2019

An all-black variant of the national flag, offered for sale by the Endo Apparel but also by a number of re-sellers, such as the Sears was certainly inspired by the all-white flag which was sold by the Paramount Flag Co. in 1970s and 1980s.

The "blacker than black" effect was created by heavy stitches along the edges of stripes and canton, as well as by producing the stars by heavy embroidering upon the canton, making all these areas less transparent than the rest of the field - the same technique applied at the said all-white flag.

image by Tomislav Todorovic, 1 October 2019

Another approach to creating an all-black flag was taken by a company named Stampd which was offering flags made of leather - a rather unusual material for flag-making - with varying degrees of blackness being simulated by combining tailored pieces of leather into an object with relief surface. The flag was not offered for sale for a long time - according to the Internet Archive, between February 2015 and May 2016 - which must have been due to very small demand, not enough to keep a very expensive product ($700 per item) in offer.
Tomislav Todorovic, 1 October 2019