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Legislature debates adopting Maine's 1901 'lone pine' flag as state flag

Despite previous failures, support continues for Maine’s original flag that waved from 1901-1909.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine's Legislature is once again considering changing the state flag back to an old style that has found new appreciation.

LD 86, sponsored by Representative Sean Paulhus, D-Bath, went before the state and local government committee Tuesday.

It would reinstate Maine’s first flag—the 1901 "lone pine" flag—as the official state flag once again, replacing the current flag that features the state seal over a deep blue background.

The pine tree flag, in its most common form, displays a green pine tree in the middle of a cream background, with a blue five-pointed star in the upper corner near the hoist.

"We’re listening to the people of Maine," Paulhus said. "It’s not taking away the seal. It’s restoring an original symbol of Maine back to where it should be."

Paulhus sponsored a previous bill with the same goal. It failed to pass. Paulhus said Republicans made a point to discard it, whether out of partisanship or more pressing legislative needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the flag has gained a wave of popularity in recent years that has not subsided.

Bethany Field and Chris Korzen own the Maine Flag Company in Portland. They launched their company 10 years prior, Korzen explained, hand-machine sewing nautical flags for boats. Five years in, the pair began making the 1901 state flag and said they quickly watched 100s of orders come in weekly.

"Everybody knows the tree, Everybody knows the star," Korzen said. "It speaks to our natural beauty as a state. It speaks to our outsized influence on the national scale."

According to its records, the Maine Flag Company has stitched 9,000 of the 1901 flag.

State archivist Kate McBrian testified neither for nor against the bill Tuesday. She said the New England states all seemed to design similar flags around 1909 with a mostly blue background and the state seal in the middle. And while both flags convey Maine’s identity, she said, the 1901 flag lends itself to better branding.

"It’s a really distinct, quick image," she said. "The seal is much more detailed to take in, whereas the 1901 flag is more of a simplified version—really basic, just one object—kind of two with the star; quick to take in with your eyes."

McBrian isn’t taking sides in the debate. But, reviving the old flag certainly wouldn’t hurt her efforts to tell Maine’s story.

"When you think of Maine, what are the symbols of Maine? It’s a tree; it’s the rocky coast; it’s lobsters," she posed. "This really helps to encapsulate what is known as a symbol of Maine."

Republican Senator Eric Brakey, of Auburn, has filed his own flag bill, LD 1069, which would instead put the issue on the ballot for Maine voters to decide.

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