A Brief History of World Flags
People have used flags for over 4,000 years. Authentic flag design of ancient peoples includes a metal flag from Iran, ca. 3000 BC, and reconstructions of vexilloids shown on ancient Greek coins, Egyptian tomb carvings, etc.
Vexillogy: The first type of flag was called a vexilloid. Vexillology is the scientific study of flags. This word comes from a Latin word which means "guide". First flags or vexilloids were metal or wooden poles with carvings on top. About 2,000 years ago, pieces of fabric or material were added to some vexilloids for decoration. These looked more like the flags we know today.
A flag is a piece of colored fabric or material that is used as a symbol, or for sending a signal. Some flags are used only for decoration. Usually, flags are messages from a person or a group of people.
People use flags to give others information, such as, who they are. Long ago, armies carried flags into battle because it was hard to know who the armies were. They were sometimes dressed up in uniforms and covered in armor or sometimes dressed even in civilian clothes and ready for battle! Flags were important because they helped soldiers tell their friends from their enemies in battle.
Today, every country in the world has a flag. As governments change, so do their flags. Every state in the United States has a flag, too. Flags are used to give information, signals or stand for special symbols or things. Many organizations or groups like the Girl Scouts or the United Nations have flags. Clubs and organizations have their own flags too. The five circles of the Olympic flag represent the coming together of people from five continents in friendly competition. Peace is the message of the olive branches cradling the world in the flag of the United Nations. Some people, like a king or queen, have their very own personal flag. Sometimes it flies over any building or place where they are staying.
Flags include symbols that are used to show ideas which would otherwise take many words. Flags are used for wars, as well as for the celebration of special events. On sad occasions, flags are flown at half-mast to honor the dead, and draped over the coffins of national heroes.
The colors found in flags have special meanings:
Red - danger, revolution, bloodshed of war, courage, power
White - peace, surrender, truce
Orange- courage, sacrifice
Green - safety, land, youth, hope
Yellow - caution, gold
Black - mourning, death
Flags come in many different sizes, shapes and colors. They can be used for important events, or to represent something special or give a special message. Sometimes an interesting decoration at the tip of the flag pole is added. This is called a finial.
One flag that almost everyone knows is the "White Flag of Surrender". Waiving a white flag is the international sign for surrender. Soldiers carrying or waving the "White Flag" are not fired upon. These "White Flags" are not made up in advance and are usually made out of any materials available at the time it is to be used.
Another well known flag is the "Jolly Roger", used by pirates to frighten people. These flags usually had a black background which stood for "no quarter" or "no mercy will be shown to those who resist."
Another well known flag is the "Red Flag" which means danger.
People who design flags have an important job. They must get their message and information on the flag without using many words or pictures. The pictures and colors on a flag symbolize something important. Flag designers used to make sketches with pencils and paints, now they use computers to help them design flags.
Many flags have the same basic patterns such as stripes, both horizontal and vertical, and stars. Many flags are divided into quarters and some are given a border. Colors on a flag are important.
Years ago, flags were made by hand by sewing pieces of fabric together or embroidered with yarn or painted. Today, flags are usually printed in long rolls of fabric which are run through a machine which prints a pattern over and over again on the fabric. Then the fabric is washed, dried and then cut into separate flags.