Last modified: 2006-08-05 by rick wyatt
Keywords: alaska | competition | star | constellation | ursa major | united states |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors
image by Željko Heimer, 5 June 1996
In 1959, a star was added, representing Alaska, bringing the total number of stars on the U.S. flag to 49. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.
The Alaska state flag was designed by John Bell (Benny) Benson, a thirteen year-old in an orphanage in response to a contest sponsored by the Alaska Department of the American Legion. The prize was awarded in 1927. The flag was adopted by the Territorial Legislature in May, 1927 as Alaska's official flag.
The flag is dark blue, with eight five-pointed gold stars in the shape of "the Big Dipper" and a larger gold star representing the pole star, Polaris.
When Alaska entered the Union in 1959, the territorial flag became the state flag. All the designs for the contest, as well as Benny's prize--a gold watch engraved with the flag--are in the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. He did also win a $1000 trip to Washington, D.C.. to present the flag to President Coolidge, but never went because first his father was ill, and then President Coolidge was out of the country, so the $1000 was put to his education instead. Benny also picked the forget-me-not as the territorial (later state) flower.
Source: Velma Moos Potter, God Flies Benny's Flag, Frontier Publishing, Seattle, 1989
John Andrew Lowe, 24 July 1995
The star representing Polaris on the state flag is shown larger than the seven stars that make up the "Big Dipper." This may have been what was produced in the past, and may be the official design (I do not know), but in
recent times with mass-produced commercial flags that I saw everywhere, all the stars were the same size.
Michael Wilson, 17 May 2004
Sec. 44.09.020. State flag.
The design of the official flag is eight gold stars in a field of blue, so selected for its simplicity, its originality and its symbolism. The blue, one of the national colors, typifies the evening sky, the blue of the sea and of mountain lakes, and of wild flowers that grow in Alaskan soil, the gold being significant of the wealth that lies hidden in Alaska's hills and streams. The stars, seven of which form the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear, the most conspicuous constellation in the northern sky, contains the stars which form the "Dipper," including the "Pointers"which point toward the eighth star in the flag, Polaris, the North Star, the ever constant star for the mariner, the explorer, hunter, trapper, prospector, woodsman, and the surveyor. For Alaska the northernmost star in the galaxy of stars and which at some future time will take its place as the forty-ninth star in the
Joe McMillan, 8 February 2000
Eight stars of gold on a field of blue
Alaska's Flag may it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky
The mountain lakes and the flow'rs near-by
The gold of the early sourdoughs dreams
The precious gold of the hills and streams
The brilliant stars in the northern sky
The "Bear," the "Dipper," and shining high
The great North Star with its steady light
O'er land and sea a beacon bright
Alaska's Flag to Alaskans dear
The simple flag of a Last Frontier
The state military crest, which is the crest used in the coats of arms of units of the National Guard, as granted by the precursor organizations of what is now the Army Institute of Heraldry. The official Institute of Heraldry blazon is
"The aurora borealis blended from dexter base purple through red, orange, yellow to green to chief and repeated inversely to sinister base; behind a totem pole of three figures, an eagle, a bear, and a walrus paleways affronte, all proper.
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000
By the way, the University of Alaska has a flag representing the entire system of its three (competing!) university campuses. It is composed of four vertical stripes of equal width, with the colors green, white, blue, yellow (I think this order, could be yellow then blue, but not likely), representing all the school colors of the three campuses, with the seal superimposed in the center. The seal of the university is circular with an image of the summit of Denali (Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and visible from the main campus in Fairbanks) and the motto "ad summum." Usually the year 1917 is included at the bottom (the year it was founded), but sometimes 1922 (the year it actually opened) or even 1923 (the year of the first graduate). 1917 is most common. This flag only flew in front of buildings that contained offices of the Statewide System administration, and not on every building on a campus.
The evolution of the University of Alaska seal can be found on this webpage.
Michael Wilson, 17 May 2004