An Open Letter

Honorable Curt Schroder,

The flag of our state is the reason for this correspondence. As a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, and with the knowledge of the history of our state as a guide, I believe that a new flag design can better represent our state. Being instructed in the art of heraldry and an interest in vexillology, the study of flags, there is a clearer and more recognizable way to communicate the representation of Pennsylvania to the rest of our nation and the world.

Having researched my family lineage and heraldry, and that of others while in high school, the coat of arms of our state is proper for representing our state in a detailed manner, such as documents and emblems on clothing or buildings. The meanings are clear and hold true in our times as much as 200 years ago. Fortunately for me, my high school teacher researched his ancestry to connect to royal roots, and deepened my learning of coats of arms. Whilst in London on vacation, I also visited the College of Arms to meet with a researcher about my background. These experiences have allowed me to see meanings in many images displayed around the world.

Connected to these interests is the study of flags. As a child in my mother's school room, I would study atlases, maps, globes, and the flags of the countries contained within. Recently, as a father, my son received a placemat with a map of the United States on one side, and the state flags on the other. My son, learning how to read, had difficulty discerning our flag from so many other in our union. Reviewing the 50 states, the pattern of bold, identifiable flags was noticeable against the 15 or so states with flags with similar flags, a coat of arms on a blue field. Using the internet to quench my thirst of images of flags from around the world, I learned of vexillology, or the study of flags and their design. There are five rules that flag design should follow, limited color palate (3-4), lack of text, symbols representing the organization, ease of identifiably, and simple enough a child can reproduce it. Our state flag only has symbols that represent it.

When I recently heard of a piece of legislation to add the words "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" to the bottom of the flag, I decided to take action. We can have a flag that says Pennsylvania without explicitly using words. I have been sketching ideas from the historical aspects of our states' past. I have also included two of the colors incorporated into our current flag, the blue from our nations' flag, and the gold from the trim on the current flag. Using symbols of our state, I propose a flag of green, for our name Pennsylvania (literally Penn's Woods), for the bottom 3/5ths, blue for our nation's flag to be the upper 2/5ths, a gold keystone in the upper left hand corner (representing our nickname as the Keystone State), and two gold stars in the upper right hand corner (being the northeastern corner of the flag, the second state to adopt the Constitution). The colors for the field, green low and blue high, also represent our state in its' vast forests and blue skies and water. I have been documenting the use of the keystone by state agencies, businesses, and in structures around the state. The flag will be a symbol for how we are known, and that there is much more to learn about our state. Primarily, it will be seen as an image of our desire to be recognized for our past, present, and great future. We, as a state, will no longer be lost in a field of blue, when the flags of our nation are flown, an identifiable marker of Pennsylvania will stand out as unique.

Similarly to how the United States flag and Seal are used, the same procedure can be employed for this design for our state. Plaques and letterhead will still employ the seal, but the marker for our state will be a bold blue, green, and gold banner waving in the breeze. When the flag is hanging indoors or without wind, the keystone will still be seen nearest the flagpole, similarly to the canton of blue with white stars of the United States flag.

Please find attached an image illustrating the concept that has been described above.

Thank you,
Brett A. Hand
June 2009

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