State Archivist Kate McBrien displays the 1820 law creating the Maine State Seal design with a farmer, sailor and moose during a news conference Friday in Augusta announcing a contest for the design of a new state flag. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Artists and designers have just over a month to submit their design for the state’s potential new official flag, though they’ll have to meet some requirements dating back to 1901 to do so.

A detail shot of the drawing at the top of the 1820 law creating the Maine State Seal design with a farmer, sailor and moose. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In November, voters will be asked if Maine should change its state flag. The current flag is based on the Maine state seal, which accompanied an 1820 law, and has been in place since 1909. A new flag is proposed to be based on a 1901-era state flag that has recently won some newfound popularity, depicting a pine tree and blue star.

State legislation directs Secretary of State Shenna Bellows to recommend a design for the new version of the old flag. Instead of sitting down and sketching one out herself, Bellows announced Friday there will be a contest in which anyone is invited to submit their design proposal to become the model for the official state flag. Bellows’ announcement came on Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the U.S. flag on June 14, 1777.

Historians say this was the original design of the 1901 Maine state flag.

She and an advisory committee would then pick the contest winner which, if voters approve, would become the new official Maine state flag.

But would-be designers have to follow the same basic constraints placed upon flag designers in 1901: the flag must have a buff background, with a pine tree at its center, and a five-pointed blue north star in the upper corner.

State Archivist Kate McBrien was on hand for the contest announcement, with a copy of the archive’s 1901 bill specifying those same basic requirements.


That “Pine Tree” flag was replaced in 1909 with the current “Dirigo” flag based on the state’s official seal, including a pine tree as well as a moose, farmer, and sailor.

The November referendum question will ask if voters wish to switch back to the Pine Tree flag, but it will not include any graphics showing the design. Bellows said she looks forward to Mainers debating which flag to choose this summer, before the vote.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announces a contest to design the new State of Maine flag during a news conference Friday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“My hope is this decision for Mainers will be a fun one,” Bellows said. “It’s a debate delightfully free from politics and your choice for this design has nothing to do with party. You can be free to love the simplicity of the north star and pine tree, or free to love the complexity of the north star, the pine tree, the sailor, the farmer, the moose.”

Submissions — which must be original work that the artists can grant the rights to the state to use as the new flag — can be made through the contest’s online portal, and are due by Friday, July 19, at 5 p.m.

The bill proposing to change the state flag narrowly passed last year after extensive debate. It originally called for a statewide vote last year, but Gov. Janet Mills withheld her signature until lawmakers returned this year. That effectively delayed the referendum to this fall.

Lawmakers earlier this year looked to delay the referendum even further by creating a commission to consult with Bellows on a new design to present to voters in 2026. That proposal passed both chambers, but it was never funded, so the legislation died when lawmakers adjourned.

Bellows said not having that extra time to work on the design makes time of the essence, and encouraged artists to get their proposals designed and submitted soon.

“These symbols that unite us, that represent us as a state and a nation, those symbols mean a lot,” Bellows said. “Our flags are flown with pride. They matter.”

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