Designer's NH flag idea takes symbolic approach
Could New Hampshire's flag use a facelift? Ed Mitchell thinks so.
A product designer at BresslerGroup in Philadelphia, Mitchell has put together new designs for all 50 U.S. states.
What's wrong with New Hampshire's current flag design?
Mitchell says it doesn't follow rules put forth by an international coalition of flag designers that they be simple, distinctive, symbolic, have no seals or words, and feature only a few colors.
"There's a boat, a sunrise, water, land, multiple colors — a lot going on there. It gets complicated," said Mitchell. "Look at New Hampshire's flag, and compare it with the other 20 or so flags that are blue with an ornamental symbol in the middle. This is a subjective statement, but I don't think it stands out as well as it could."
Mitchell's redesigns give all state flags just three colors: red, white, and blue.
"Since I wanted the symbolism to be meaningful to each state, I also pulled from unique geography, historical and famous events, and state mottos and symbols," said Mitchell.The state flag was adopted in 1909, featuring a design in use since 1784. It showcases the state seal on a deep blue background. The seal of course shows the ship "Raleigh" sailing near a large gray granite rock, in front of a yellow sun rising over blue water. The scene is surrounded by the words, "Seal of the State of New Hampshire 1776," with laurel leaves mixed in among nine yellow stars.
Mitchell's design for New Hampshire features a large blue rectangle that resembles the number one on a red background.
The idea that New Hampshire's state flag could use a makeover isn't a new one. The North American Vexillogical Association — a group that specializes in the study of flags — dubbed it one of the 10 worst state flags in a survey conducted in 2001.
Mitchell is also not the first person to take a stab at changing the design.
"As far as past efforts to change the flag, my records go back to 1996," said New Hampshire State Archivist Brian Burford. "There have been seven attempts since then that I can find."
In 1996, HB 552 proposed a blue flag with the state seal, but only a half circle of wreathe & stars over the seal, while there would be a banner below the seal with the words "Live Free or Die" on it.
"This idea apparently made it as far as being sent to study committee," said Burford. "The other six attempts in the archives were deemed inexpedient to legislate."
In 1997, HB 138 called for the same change to the state flag as described in 1996. In 2000, SB 423, introduced by Sen. Lou D'Allesandro D-Manchester, sought to replaced the seal with a representation of the Old Man of the Mountain. Above and to the left of the Old Man were the words "New Hampshire," and a banner below the Old Man read "Live Free or Die."In 2001, SB 94 (also introduced by Sen. D'Allesandro) divided the flag into two halves; one half featured the Old Man, and the other half showcased the state seal. Below the two symbols was the phrase "Live Free or Die."
There were two attempts in 2004. HB 1231 would have changed the flag to show "Live Free or Die" and the Old Man of the Mountain, while SB 319 would have removed the state seal and replaced it with the Great Stone Face.
In 2005, HB 123 would have simply added "Live Free or Die" to the current flag.
Back in 1978, the New Hampshire Sunday News and The Union Leader conducted a "just for fun" state flag contest. Several hundred people offered suggestions. The winning entry, submitted by Melvin Whitcomb Jr., of Concord, also had nine stars around the state seal and the "Live Free or Die" motto, but his seal featured the Old Man of the Mountain. Of 195 votes, Whitcomb's design received 77 out of 195 votes, beating out seven other finalists to earn a $25 prize.Mitchell's new designs were unsolicited, and there are no current plans to replace any state flags.