Maine adopted its first official state flag in 1901, a single pine tree centered over a buff background with a blue star in the upper left corner. Were anyone anywhere in the U.S. to see the flag, the Kennebec Journal wrote on March 26 of that year, they would say, “There is Maine.”

Just eight years later, however, the state ditched that simple and unique design for the cluttered, prosaic flag we have today — one that could easily be mistaken for the flag of Massachusetts, Connecticut or any of the many other states that put their official seal on a piece of blue cloth and called it a day.

It was a mistake then to drop the singular, eye-catching 1901 design for a flag that looks like it could come from anywhere. It’s time to go back.

Why are we so sure? Well, for one, a lot of people already have.

You may see the Maine flag — or is that Vermont’s? — flying on the top of official flagpoles. But you won’t see that busy, boring design many other places.

Increasingly, however, people around Maine are flying some variation of the 1901 design.

David B. Martucci, a Maine resident and former president of the North American Vexillological Association — that’s the study of flags — testified Feb. 3 to a legislative committee on a bill that would change the state flag to the 1901 design. Martucci, who also supplied lawmakers with the old quotes from the Kennebec Journal, noted that the pine-tree-and-star combo can be found not only on flags up and down the state, but also on clothing, coasters, mugs, even face masks.

Official or not, people have embraced the clean and comforting 1901 flag. When you see the current Maine flag from a distance, you might wonder what side of the Piscataqua Bridge you’re on.

When you see the pine tree and star, however, it feels like home. As the Kennebec Journal wrote way back in 1901, it is a “thing of beauty … most fitting in appearance and sentiment to be the standard of the old State of Maine.”

Our state flag now hardly stands out in a crowd. Let’s drop it, and put in its place one that for more than century has left no doubt, “There is Maine.”

 


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