SKOWHEGAN — A replica of the original Maine state flag was raised Wednesday morning outside the Somerset County Courthouse in Skowhegan, marking the 117th anniversary of legislative approval for the state’s first official flag.

The banner with a single white pine tree and a blue North Star on a plain buff background was hoisted below the current state flag and the U.S. flag at the request of Somerset County Commissioner Robert Sezak, of Fairfield.

“This is the original. The incumbent replaced it,” Sezak told a small assembly of county employees Wednesday morning outside the courthouse. “That was the original official flag.”

The design was approved into law March 21, 1901, but was replaced in 1909 by the current Maine state flag, Sezak said, noting that Wednesday is “the original flag’s 117th birthday.”

County commissioners unanimously approved the purchase and display of the replica flag at their last meeting. Sezak said he paid for the flag, which was made by the Maine Flag Co., of Portland. The images of the pine tree, Maine’s state tree, and the North Star representing the state motto, Dirigo, which is Latin for “I lead,” were made by Maine Stitching Specialties, of Skowhegan.

“A great state deserves a great flag, and that’s why it’s time to bring back Maine’s original flag,” the Maine Flag Co. states on its website. “The pine tree and Dirigo star flew over Maine from 1901 until the state Legislature adopted the current design in 1909. Many believe that its distinctiveness and simplicity make it a more effective representation of our state, and that’s why they are starting to fly it again.

“We started Original Maine to promote the original Maine flag and help make it a symbol that is known the world over.”

Sezak said he doesn’t know why the original flag was replaced with the current flag, but some speculate that veterans of the Civil War who later went on to hold state office wanted to see a banner that more closely resembled the Union’s blue battlefield flags.

The official state flag of Maine features the state coat of arms centered on a dark blue field. The coat of arms shows a shield at the center with a moose resting in front of a pine tree, surrounded by woods and water. The shield is supported by a farmer with a scythe and a sailor with an anchor. Above the shield is the state motto “Dirigo” and the North Star. Below the shield is a banner that reads “MAINE.”

The meanings of the images on the current state flag, according to the Maine flags website are:

• The moose represents rich wildlife of Maine and the abundance of moose, the state animal.

• The pine tree symbolizes the importance of pine trees to the state’s economy and shipbuilding industry.

• The woods and water symbolize Maine’s natural resources.

• The farmer with a scythe represents the central role of farming to the state.

• The sailor with an anchor recognizes the crucial role of maritime commerce in the state economy.

• The North Star recognizes Maine’s position as the northernmost state in the eastern United States.

• “Dirigo” is the state motto and represents the state’s reputation as a bellweather. Maine previously held elections in September, ahead of all other states, and hence gained the reputation as an electoral bellweather.

The 2-by-3-foot replica flag was raised Wednesday morning on the flagpole by county maintenance manager Thomas Batchelder Jr., of Madison.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen it,” said County Finance Manager Patrick Dolan as he stood with other county employees watching the flag hoisted up the pole. “It’s got a pine tree and it’s the Pine Street State.”

Laura Price, deputy register at the county Registry of Deeds, said she liked the flag.

“I think it’s nice. It’s a nice thing to do,” she said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

filed under: