1. Alaska, 1927 proposal

    Benny Benson, thirteen-year-old designer of the Alaska state flag, was only one of several schoolchildren that entered the contest. This cute little flag was proposed by one Mary Walsh, also thirteen. (I’ve digitized and cleaned up the original hand-drawn entry, but all the elements are in the same place.) 

    Some of the other entries are preserved in this document from the Alaska State Museum. You can see a really interesting range of ideas here. None of them as good as the actual flag, of course.

    (designer: Mary Walsh)

     
  2. Kalmykia, 1992-1993

    Kalmykia is one of the few republics in the Russian Federation to have changed its flag since it was established. The original version was a tricolour based on the flag of the Don Cossacks. The symbol in the centre apparently means “Kalmyk” in the old Mongolian script.

    (designer: P. Bitkeevym)

     
  3. North Yemen, 1962-1990

    When revolutionaries in North Yemen overthrew the Mutawakkilite monarchy, they took as their flag a version of the United Arab Republic tricolour with only one star. Much like the three-star flag adopted by Iraq a year later, it symbolized a hope to eventually join the union.

    But the UAR by this time had already effectively fallen apart, and the only union that ever took place was the one between North and South Yemen in 1990. When that new republic was created the star was dropped from the flag, leaving only the tricolour.

     
  4. Monaco, until 1793

    This flag makes me suspect that Monaco was a nation founded by picnic enthusiasts. That said, at least it has character. Way better than the bland bicolour they’re sporting nowadays.

     
  5. Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, since 2008

    This Ecuadorean province was split off from Pichncha in 2007. It takes its name from the Tsáchila people that live in the area. The red and green triangles come from the flag of the provincial capital, and the black and white stripes come from a traditional type of Tsáchila clothing. Also it’s got a sweet rainbow hummingbird on it.

    (designer: Andrea Pía Amores Argandoña)

     
  6. Ecuador, municipal flag since 2007

    Like most Latin American countries, Ecuador has a state flag with a coat of arms on it and a civil flag without one. As it happens the civil flag is identical to the flag of neighbouring Colombia, so most Ecuadoreans just fly the state flag for all purposes. But municipal governments, unlike private citizens, are actually forbidden from flying the state flag. Instead they have what’s known as a “municipal flag”, which is the plain tricolour with a ring of stars (one for each province) added. The most recent version was created in 2007, when Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas and Santa Elena provinces were created.

     
  7. Irish Air Corps

    This is just a military flag but it looks like it should be the flag of some kind of secret society or masonic lodge or something. All the weird symbols and belts and slogans and whatnot.

     
  8. United Kingdom (civil flag), 1930s proposal
    Civil Defence Service
    , 1943-1945 (top)
    National Fire Service, 1943-1948 (middle)
    Western Australia Fire and Rescue Service, since 1979 (bottom)

    Sir Gerald Wollaston was a British herald who was of the opinion that the Union Jack was strictly a royal flag, and that there needed to be an equivalent of the civilian red ensign for use on land. His idea was a flag divided into blue and white quarters with a Union Jack in the top left.

    In 1943, Wollaston was called on to create flags for two new wartime agencies: the Civil Defence Service and the National Fire Service. He reused his old civil flag idea with different colours and some added badges. The organizations were dissolved after the end of the war and their flags were retired.

    Some 30 years later, long after Wollaston had died, the Western Australia Fire and Rescue Service went searching for a flag in advance of its sesquicentennial celebrations. Assistant Chief Officer Noel Stephens hit on the idea of combining the Western Australia blue ensign with the old NFS flag, which he mistakenly thought had red in the bottom right corner instead of blue. The flag was approved

    (designers: Gerald Woods Wollaston, Noel Stephens)

     
  9. Calama, since 2014

    The Chilean town of Calama held a flag competition earlier this year and oh my god this is such a slam dunk. The design uses colours and patterns from pre-Hispanic textiles to represent the local desert landscape. The red part represents the region’s copper industry.

    (designer: Víctor Rojas Tabilo)

     
  10. Kaluga, since 2000

    Sputnik 1 was launched on 4 October 1957, and after all these years it’s still flying above Russian city of Kaluga. The city put the satellite on its flag to honour the rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who lived there for most of his life. The cosmonautics museum in Kaluga which bears Tsiolkovsky’s name holds a replica of Sputnik.

     
  11. Germany, 1919-1933 and since 1949

    Can’t argue with a classic.

     
  12. Yemeni Socialist Party

    The flag of South Yemen had a light blue triangle and red star at the hoist. This came from the flag of the ruling Yemeni Socialist Party. Light blue is a fairly unique colour, both for an Arab country and a socialist one.

     
  13. Democracy Party of China

    There appear to be a couple of organizations that claim the mantle of this banned Chinese political party, and since their English material is limited I’m having a difficult time figuring out how they’re related. The one on top is from a website with “1998” in the url and the one on the bottom from a website with “2006”, so maybe it’s some kind of split or refounding or something?

    Unfortunately I don’t think either of these flags would make a particularly good national flag for China. But I guess in a democracy you could at least vote against them.

     
  14. Los Angeles County, since 1967

    LA County has a pretty excellent seal, but that flag, yeesh. Light blue over greenish-blue just ain’t a good look.

    (designer: Kenneth Hahn)

     
  15. Malaysia, 2012 proposal

    A couple of years ago, some demonstrators caused a minor stir on Malaysia’s Independence Day by unfurling their proposal for a new national flag. They called it the Sang Saka Malaya (“Sacred Malaya”) flag and claimed it was the original flag of Malaya before the introduction of the American-inspired Jalur Gemilang (“Stripes of Glory”).

    This is in fact something of a revival of an earlier proposal for a national flag created in the 1940s by the Young Malays Union. The party advocated for the creation of a independent republic and the union of Malaysia and Indonesia, hence their use of the Indoneisan red and white bicolour. However, the flag used back then had twelve stars in the canton, not a crescent and star. The version pictured above was only created in 2007. Not exactly “original”.

    (designer: Mohd Najwan Halimi)