The Suitcase Lady


March 26, 2019, 9:47 pm

The state of Utah is in the process of designing a new state flag. Vexillologists, or flag experts, agree that one is needed, calling the current flag a “seal on a bedsheet”, or SOB for short. I laughed when I heard that description. A second later I realized that my own state flag, Wisconsin’s, is also a seal on a bedsheet as are almost 50 percent of America’s state flags.

In “Good Flag, Bad Flag, How to Design a Great Flag”, vexillologist Ted Kaye gives five rules: “Simplicity, meaningful symbolism, basic colors, no lettering or seals and distinctiveness.”

As a graphic artist, I certainly concur that seals on bedsheets are horrible designs. They can’t be seen from a distance such as on top of a flagpole, a place that flags frequently hang out. The Nebraska flag once flew over their capital for ten days before anyone noticed it was upside down.

My home state flag violates the design maxim “less is more”. It incorporates all of the following; a sailor, a miner, a badger, a cornucopia, a pile of lead bars, thirteen stars, an anchor, a pick and shovel, a plow, an arm and hammer, two shields, the word “Forward”, the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” plus decorative curlicues. Only a kitchen sink is missing.

In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association invited their members plus the general public to rate the American state and territorial flags along with the Canadian provincial flags from best to worst. Here are the top ten winners and losers. Note that all the losers are SOBs.

And I must add one more flag story in conclusion. A few years ago, we drove up to our daughter’s house in Madison and saw a large, beautiful flag flying out front. The flag was medium blue with what appeared to be a Zia sun symbol in the center. “Did you rip off New Mexico’s state flag,” we asked?

“No, it’s the city of Madison’s flag”, was her reply. The circle represented our hilltop state Capitol dome and the rays were the streets radiating out from the building. Turns out that the plagiarism of the Land of Enchantment’s flag was unintentional, but it has since been modified out of respect to the Zia tribe.

Here is a link to all the state flags with notes about their origins.



1 Comment for this entry

  • Evie Robillard

    I like Alaska’s & South Carolina’s.
    Perhaps they skipped the kitchen sink on our flag because women’s work is worth so little . . .