National Geographic : 1934 Sep
FLAGS OF THE WORLD BY GILBERT GROSVENOR AND WILLIAM J. SHOWALTER THE years since the World War have witnessed more changes in the flags of civilization than any other period of like duration in the history of humanity. Out of the fallen empires of that greatest war of all times have arisen kingdoms, re publics, colonies, and mandated territories. Such ancient countries as Afghanistan and China have adopted new flags, while recent-born Manchutikuo has advanced a claim to a place in the family of nations and established a flag in accordance with that claim. Even in such settled governments as those of the United States and the British Empire there have been many changes in the flags secondary to Old Glory in the one and to the Union Flag in the other. Practically all of the United States mili tary flags that shared the battlefields with the National Standard, whether colors of infantry regiments, standards of mounted troops, or the command flags of ranking officers, have joined the ranks of the obso lete. The War Department, wishing to have its whole series of flags designed in harmony and in keeping with the finest standards of heraldry, has almost entirely remade that part of the Army Regulations prescribing the designs and colors of the Army's flags. MANY STATE FLAGS CHANGED Fourteen States of the Union have changed their flags entirely, by legislative action; in eighteen other States the vagaries of embroidering designs upon flags have left their imprint in such a way as to create change by usage. In the British Empire, the Union of South Africa and the Irish Free State have cre ated their own national flags; while in all of the mandated territories and some of the old possessions, such as Nova Scotia, new badges have been approved. These badges are worn at the intersection of the crosses on the Union Flag (326) and in circles in the fly of the Blue Ensign (329) and the Red Ensign (328). The flags and pennants of the Interna tional Code (525-564) also were redesigned and the changes put into effect on January 1, 1934. This group of flags and pennants was developed to enable all nations to com municate with one another on the high seas. As used for many years, some of the letters of the alphabet were represented by pen nants and others by square flags, while all numbers were expressed by pennants. In order to overcome possible confusion, the newly revised code makes all flags repre senting letters of the alphabet oblong and all numerals pennant-shaped. It has been said that flags were divinely ordained; that when Jehovah made His covenant with mankind that all flesh should never again be destroyed by a flood, He sealed the pledge by unfurling across the heavens the great banner of the ages-the rainbow itself. STANDARDS ARE HEADINGS IN CHAPTERS OF HISTORY From that time forward men in turn have lifted up standards, emblems, and colors around which they have kindled their fires of patriotism, developed their sense of loy alty to one another, and bound themselves together with ties of nationality. Explorers have discovered on the monu ments and in the tombs of ancient Egypt carvings and paintings depicting troops in formation with their standards uplifted and their banners streaming. The people of Israel had their standards. We read in Numbers: "And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Every man of the Children of Israel shall pitch (his tent) by his own standard with the en sign of their father's house." As far back as 800 B. C. the Persians re volted against the tyranny of a despotic ruler. It was a good blacksmith by the name of Koah who led the cause and his apron became the standard of the revolt. At the time of Cyrus the Persians used a white flag on which was a golden eagle. The Roman Republic borrowed its silver eagle, holding in its talons the thunderbolts of Jove, from the Etruscans. Augustus lifted high a globe to commemorate his con quest of the earth. Constantine adopted the Cross to signalize his vision. The early Greeks had a piece of armor on a spear; the Athenians used the olive and the owl as their emblem, and the Thebans lifted aloft a sphinx. The efforts of the people of America to express their sentiments in flags constitute one of the romances of our history.