Category — Flag News
Vexillologists, scholars and enthusiasts who study flags, get very picky as they endeavor to be strictly accurate in describing flags. Sometimes they get too carried away and magnifying a small detail causes them to miss the larger picture. The name of Britain’s flag is one such issue.
The flag of the United Kingdom is a combination of three flag each bearing a cross symbolizing one of the three kingdoms which constitute the British nation. A white flag with a red cross, known as the Cross of Saint George, represents England; a blue flag with a white X-shaped cross, known as the Cross of Saint Andrew, stands for Scotland; and a white flag with a red X-shaped cross, called the Cross of Saint Patrick, has become recognized as the symbol of Ireland. Sandwich the three flags together and they form the Union flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Formally, the flag is known as the Union Flag, but for centuries it has been popularly known as the Union Jack.
If “Union Jack” were merely a nickname, like Old Glory, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the Stars and Stripes are nicknames for the United States flag, its popular use should be understandable and acceptable. There is something familiar and charming about referring to this historic banner as the Union Jack. Certainly veterans who have defended the U.K. feel they have the right to address their flag in familiar terms. As in fact do many other subjects of the Queen.
Nevertheless, some have insisted that the term Union Jack refers only to a special nautical flag flown on the jack staff at the bow of ships. The term jack refers to these specific maritime flags not only in Britain, but in nations around the world. In the United States, for example, the jack is the union of stars displayed without the field of thirteen red and white stripes. So, in that sense the U.S. jack could also be called a “Union Jack,” but it is simply call the United State Jack. Jacks flown by other nations may not necessarily be a union device, but some other design adopted to be flown on the jack staff of their ships.
Still, call the U.K.’s flag the Union Jack, and a vexillologist could be quick to point out that on land the flag was to be called the Union Flag, and it could only be called the Union Jack when displayed on the jack staff of a vessel. I must admit that I have often avoided using the term “Union Jack” just to avoid the debate.
Now, however, Graham Bartram has come to the rescue. Bartram is the Chief Vexillologist of Britain’s Flag Institute. Having made a careful and exhaustive study of the question, Bartram has determined that the term Union Jack has been used historically to describe the Union Flag whether flown on land or as a jack aboard a ship. So, vexillologists and other flag enthusiasts can relax as either name is perfectly correct. O.K., so if it is flown on a jack staff it is correctly termed a jack, but the design of the jack is, yes indeed, the Union Flag.
So, three cheers for the Union Jack. It is after all an ancestor of our own Stars and Stripes. We inherited our national colors of red white and blue and the concept of a union flag from the Union Jack, and that should give Americans the right to call the flag by its familiar name. Three cheers for the Union Flag sounds too formal and stuffy anyway.
October 30, 2013 No Comments
NAVA 47, the recently completed 47th Annual Meeting of the North American Vexillological Association, NAVA, took place in Salt Lake City. NAVA, the premier organization of flag scholars and flag enthusiasts in the U.S. and Canada, which has met in cities ranging from Boston to Los Angeles and from Vancouver to San Antonio, was welcomed for the first time to the Beehive State from October 11th through the 13th of 2013.
In honor of NAVA 47 coming to Utah, Governor Gary Herbert declared the week of October 7-13, 2013 as Vexillological Week in Utah encouraging Utahns to “respect and share an affinity for the heritage and tradition of flags.”
Colonial Flag Company, a major sponsor of the NAVA 47, provided the specially designed NAVA 47 flag for displays at the meetings, and to make sure the meeting’s attendees were certain of their welcome Colonial displayed a gigantic 30 by 60 foot U.S. flag on the west side of the Salt Lakes Plaza Hotel where the meetings took place. In addition to welcoming NAVA 47 participants, the huge flag announced to the City that NAVA had come to town.
To make sure local residents could recognize that the Association was meeting at the hotel, Colonial also temporarily erected a 20 foot flag pole in front of the Plaza where the NAVA 47 flag flew over the hotel’s entrance during the weekend.
In addition to regular meetings in the Plaza Hotel’s Salt Lake City Room where a dozen presentations were given, attendees took part in other activities to enrich their NAVA 47 experiences.
- On Thursday evening early arrivers attended the weekly rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
- On Friday attendees toured the State Capitol, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, the Fort Douglas Military Museum, and Ensign Peak.
- Invited NAVA flag conservation experts and specialists took part Friday morning in the examination of a historic flag purported to have been carried by the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican American War to California.
- On Friday afternoon NAVA members and local residents attended the George Henry Preble Lecture where Dr. Richard E. Bennett, President of the Mormon History Association, addressed them in an outreach event bringing vexillologists and local historians together. The LDS Church History Museum displayed four historic flags from their collection to illustrate Dr. Bennett’s lecture on flags used by the Mormon Pioneers.
- On Friday evening attendees gathered in a 13th floor condominium apartment overlooking downtown Salt Lake and Temple Square. Enjoying a Lion House Bakery cake Buffet, members renewed friendships and met first time attendees.
- On Saturday two flags from Eisenhower’s Oval Office, including a rare hand-embroidered 49 star Presidential Flag, were displayed for NAVA 47 attendees and Utahns by Chuck & Donna Douglas in the Plaza Hotel’s Guest Library.
- On Saturday afternoon, NAVA sponsored a Flag Exhibit in the Commons rooms of the City Creek Center where flags from four collections were on display, including the historic Life Guard Bear Flag which had been examined the day before.
- On Saturday evening the group dined in the Banquet Room of the Lion House on a menu of Chicken Alabam, Sting of the Bee Cake and plenty of renowned Lion House Rolls. The banquet, named the Whitney Smith Dinner in honor of the founder of NAVA and vexillology provided the setting for a report on the move of Whitney Smith’s vast collection of vexillological resources to the Dolf Brisco Center at the University of Texas in Austin. This move insures that the books, articles and files collected by Dr. Smith over a lifetime will remain intact and available to future vexillological research.
After the Association’s annual Business Meeting on Sunday morning, attendees enjoyed the remaining papers and presentations and the meetings closed with an auction of flags to raise funds for NAVA’s activities.
NAVA 47 attracted more attendees than any recent regular NAVA Annual Meeting including fifteen first time attendees, also a record. Many attendees arrived early or departed a day or two after the meeting’s close to enjoy Salt Lake City’s hospitality. In short, Salt Lake welcomed NAVA 47 and attendees were excited to visit Utah’s capital city. When NAVA meets for its 48th Annual Meeting next year, the bar is set higher thanks to NAVA 47’s success.
October 21, 2013 No Comments
In a previous Flag-Post.com posting, “Vexillology equals Fun With Flags” (http://www.flag-post.com/vexillology-equals-fun-with-flags/ ) the term vexillology was defined as the scholarly study of flags, and the blog introduced the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) as the specialized organization of flag scholars in the U.S. and Canada. While most of NAVA’s five hundred members reside in either the United States or Canada, NAVA has at least one member on each of the earth’s inhabited continents with only Antarctica failing to have an association member in residence.
Anyone surprised to learn there really is such an association as NAVA may be even more amazed to learn that there are more than fifty similar associations around the world, and additionally there is an international organization comprised of these associations. The International Federation of Vexillological Associations (FIAV) has 55 regional, national and multinational flag associations as member organizations encircling the world.
Individual members from each of the 55 associations are invited to attend international flag congresses of vexillology which are held every other year in host cities located all around the world in such diverse places as Buenos Aires, Berlin, Sidney, Yokohama and Washington, D.C . Two years ago, FIAV held the Washington 24th International Flag Congress (ICV) at the George Washington Masonic Memorial Building in Alexandria, Virginia. This year the Dutch city of Rotterdam has hosted the ICV 25 drawing vexillologists from all over the globe.
What do vexillologists do at an International Flag Congress? Amid a week jam packed with activities and tours, these flag scholars hear papers delivered by about forty flag scholars reporting on their individual research. Yet, amid all the tours and presentations, perhaps the most rewarding benefit of attendance is meeting and socializing with other vexillologists. It is at gatherings such as these that they can converse with others who share their passion for flags. Vexillologists are, after all, a rare breed, and when they meet one another they take full advantage of the experience. If you share a vexillologist’s passion for flags, you may want to join NAVA and join in the flag waving. ICV 25 is past, but NAVA is holding its 47th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City from the 11th to the 13th of October ( http://www.nava.org/nava-meetings/meetings/47 ).
August 14, 2013 No Comments