Dueling Maine flags: The original, left, which some want to revive, and the current flag, which bears the Maine state seal. Courtesy photo, left, and photo by Fred J. Field, right

The Maine House turned down a Bath representative’s bill that would have changed the state flag, but a Maine flag expert argues lawmakers made the wrong call.

Rep. Sean Paulhus, D-Bath, proposed reinstating the 1901 state flag late last year. The proposed flag — used from 1901 to 1909, when the existing flag was adopted — is tan with a pine tree in the center and a blue star in the upper corner.

The Maine House of Representatives rejected the bill in a 57-91 vote Wednesday, favoring the existing blue flag with the state coat of arms in the center.

Paulhus said he sponsored the bill because he wanted Maine’s state flag to stand out among other states and match the flag Mainers appear to have adopted.

“The public has embraced it … to show their state pride.” said Paulhus. “I see that flag on more houses than I do the actual state flag. I would’ve liked to see a different vote outcome, but it has definitely started a conversation in the state. People are talking about the flag and that’s a great thing.”

Former president of the North American Vexillological Association David Martucci said the 1901 flag is “a far superior design” than the existing flag because of its striking simplicity. Vexillology is the study of flag design.


“It’s a very good, simple flag that was devised to fulfill the actual purpose of a flag, which is to be easily identified at a distance and convey the history and aspirations of the people who use it,” Martucci said of the 1901 flag.

Martucci said the existing state flag looks too similar to over 20 other U.S. state flags, which means Maine’s flag can’t be easily distinguished from a distance. He said putting a state seal on a solid background is a poor design for a flag, yet many states, including Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, adopted it.

“We have to understand that the purpose of a flag and the purpose of a seal are two different things,” said Martucci. “A seal is generally used to be embossed on documents. It’s designed to be looked at up close and studied. Seals are generally much more complex because the more complex they are, the harder they are to counterfeit.”

Martucci said the few colors and symbols used on the 1901 flag represent different elements within the state. The single pine tree represents Maine’s reputation as the “Pine Tree State” and the blue star represents the North Star and Maine’s motto, “Dirigo,” meaning “I direct” or “I lead,” he said.

The flag’s tan background color wasn’t chosen at random either, according to Martucci.

“The buck color is a traditional color from colonial times,” he said. “It’s supposed to be the color of tanned deer hide and represents that you can stand firm against all odds.”


Rep. Richard Mason, R-Lisbon, said he voted against the bill, in part, because “I like the flag we have now and I didn’t want to change it.”

Mason said he also doesn’t feel it’s the right time for lawmakers to debate which flag should be the state flag, given the serious challenges the state is facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really thought we had bigger things to deal with right now,” said Mason. “I know the flag issue is big for some people, but I felt we needed to leave that alone for right now. We need to concentrate on the Maine people, their businesses and their lives.”

Martucci agreed that lawmakers may not have the time to delve into the history of the 1901 and debate which flag is better.

“The way the legislature is operating right now, they’re trying to get as much done in as little time possible,” he said.

However, Martucci and Paulhus argue the sheer number of 1901 flags and memorabilia, from face masks to mugs, show many Mainers have adopted the unofficial flag.

“It doesn’t really matter what the Legislature does,” said Martucci. “People have adopted the 1901 flag in many different variations and you really can’t say that about the current flag. The people have made their choice, the Legislature just hasn’t caught up to it yet.”

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