BATH — A blue flag bearing the official state seal has flown over the State House in Augusta for more than 100 years, but for the second year in a row a legislator is working to replace it with the flag that represented Maine in the early 1900s.
Rep. Sean Paulhus, D-Bath, is hoping the new Legislature sworn in last month will be more receptive than lawmakers who defeated three previous attempts to readopt the original flag.
The banner with a simple green pine tree and a blue North Star was adopted more than 80 years after Maine became a state and it flew from 1901-1909. Flag merchants say it is a hit with modern-day consumers.
Rep. Janice Cooper, a Democrat who represented Yarmouth from 2012-2020, last year made the most recent unsuccessful bid to bring the old flag back. Attempts in 1991 and 1997 also failed.
This time around, Paulhus has drafted a bill to resurrect it.
“We are the Pine Tree State and it has the North Star and we were the northernmost state when we joined the nation, so it has the symbols that represent the state and it is easy to recognize,” Paulhus said.
The old flag would be distinctive among other state flags, especially Vermont’s and New York’s flags, which appear almost identical to Maine’s flag, he said.
A state flag should have five qualities, according to the North American Vexillological Association, which says it is “the world’s largest organization of flag enthusiasts and scholars.” It should be simple enough that children can draw it from memory, use meaningful symbolism, use two or three basic colors, include no lettering or official seals, and be distinctive.
“The original flag follows what a flag should have,” Paulhus said.
Jeffrey Hammond, who operates Dirigo Flag Co. in Bath, is in favor of readopting it.
“It does a far better job of giving people pride of place than the current one does,” Hammond said.
He’s sold hundreds of the simpler flags over the last few years, he said.
A version of the original flag has also been popular at Gorham Flag Center, where Derek Auclair said he has sold more than a dozen this month.
Chris Korzen, of Maine Flag Company in Portland, said his company has sold 3,500 of the flag over the last three years and has shipped that version to 46 states.
“It is something that appeals a lot of people,” he said. “There is a wide cross section of Maine who enjoys the design and want to make it a part of how they express their love of the state.”
Because of that appeal, Maine Flag Company in 2017 launched Original Maine, which sells hats, shirts, patches, buttons and other merchandise and apparel with the design.
“That success of the original flag provided an opportunity to promote that design in other ways,” he said.
Although he has two businesses that market the original state flag design, Korzen hopes the Legislature takes its time debating whether to adopt a new state flag.
“I would encourage people not to rush into this,” he said. “A flag should be a thing of unity. There was a lot of opposition last time around.”
Last year, members of the legislative committee reviewing Cooper’s proposal said they opposed the bill after hearing criticism of it from their constituents.
“Boy, did I get an earful,” Rep. Will Tuell of East Machias told the Portland Press Herald. Tuell, who said he had been previously open to a redesign, said he heard a range of concerns, including the question, “Don’t you have better things to do?”
Paulhus said even if a new flag is adopted, the state seal will still be used to represent the state.
“We use the seal on a lot of things, especially in state government,” Paulhus said. “It’s nice to have another symbol to use, along with the seal, for people to show their pride in the state.”