Did you know that when a flags says “made in America” that doesn’t mean it was 100% sourced, manufactured, and completed here in the USA?
There’s a big difference between when a flag is “made in America” (where elements may be produced overseas and shipped to the states for finishing touches) vs. “100% made in the USA.”
At Flags USA, we’re deeply passionate about only selling flags that are 100% sourced, manufactured, and completed domestically. And we want to tell you why this matters so much to us.
Throughout this series, we’re sharing a bit of our story, what it means to our communities and our economy when the products we buy are made here in the USA, and how to make sure you’re buying 100% US-made flags (and other goods).
In Part 1, I talk a little bit about how I joined the flag industry, what veterans and active service members taught me about what the flag means to our country, the meaning of the flag to me personally, and why I’m so passionate about our Flags USA values.
Catch all 4 parts of the "100% made in the USA" series by subscribing to our YouTube channel. I'd love to hear what you think!
Thanks for letting me share my heart with you,
Flags USA co-owner
The state flag of Illinois could be getting a makeover! In August 2023, Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois signed a bill forming a committee to look into possibly redesigning the state flag. If the Committee decides to pursue the project, they will present up to ten new flag designs to the legislature in late 2024.
The move raises the question: What is the purpose of a state (or national) flag? Is it a visual emblem of the state’s identity, representing the state beyond its borders while evoking a sense of community and belonging among its residents? Is it a symbol of continuity, uniting the state’s history with the present? Or should it reflect the shifting culture and values, a sign of progress and inclusively?
The Bill’s sponsor, Senator Doris Turner, holds the latter view. She argues, “History is living, breathing and ever evolving. We need to ensure government is evolving with the times, so people are engaged and part of what is going on across this state.”
Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton echoed Turner’s sentiments. “With the creation of the next flag of our state, we are ushering in a new era that will represent every Illinoisan and commemorate how far we have come so we may go even further together."
Changing a flag is rarely straightforward. Years ago, the government of Canada formed a similar committee tasked with redesigning the national flag. At the time, Canada’s national flag, the Red Ensign, reflected the country’s roots as a British colony rather than its existence as a modern independent nation.
Politicians were divided. Some feared a flag redesign might trigger political unrest, while others demanded that Parliament solve the “Flag Problem.” The issue divided the public, too. Some considered replacing the Red Ensign dishonored those who fought and died during World War II. Others hailed the new Maple Leaf flag as a sign that Canada was taking her place on the international stage. Meanwhile, school children wondered what was wrong with the flag they faced daily, hands on hearts, to sing the national anthem.
Time will tell how the citizens of Illinois react to a state flag redesign. However, it’s not the first time the state has considered flag updates. If accepted, the new flag would become the third to represent the state. In fact, Illinois has a long history of changing state symbols, starting with the location of its capital city.
Looking at modern-day Illinois, many assume Chicago is the state capital. About 40% of the state’s population lives in Cook County, home of Chicago. The city has long been a transportation hub for the state and the Midwest region. But initially, southern Illinois was the most populated part of the state.
Illinois was carved out of the Northwest Territory in 1818, becoming the 21st state admitted to the Union. It was a tumultuous year. To the south, the nation was fighting the Seminole War in Florida. To the north, the USA and Britain were finalizing their shared border on the 49th parallel. And the Bank of the United States changed its lending policy, triggering a financial panic.
All these events inspired Americans to pick up stakes and move to the newly formed Illinois. A steady stream of immigrants flowed in from the Northeast, Kentucky, and Tennessee, eager to farm the lush, open plains. And, for most of them, Chicago was not their destination.
At the time, waterways were the primary transportation routes. Goods and people traveled by boat — hence the word shipped — and Illinois’ location was ideal. Its southern border was formed by the Ohio River flowing west from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
On its western boundary flowed the majestic Mississippi, which formed the major thoroughfare to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. The river had been an essential trade route for many civilizations over the centuries, including the French, the state’s first European settlers.
During its 200-year history, three cities have served as the Illinois state capital. The first was Kaskaskia, located on the Mississippi near the Kaskaskia River. The town served as an administrative outpost under the French and British. It seemed a natural choice for the state capital, especially when the riverboat was king.
There was only one problem — the town was subject to frequent flooding. In fact, over the 19th century, the Mississippi changed course, shifting to the city’s eastern side. Today, Kaskaskia is on the west side of the Mississippi with only 21 residents, making it one of Illinois’ smallest towns according to the 2020 census.
So, in 1818, the state capital was moved to the newly incorporated town of Vandalia, Illinois. It was the western terminus of the National Road, the first federally built roadway. The road connected the Potomac River with the Ohio River and continued westward until the government ran out of funding. Remember the financial panic?
Vandalia’s central location in southern Illinois and its position on the National Road made it an ideal choice for the new capital. In addition to serving as a gateway for American settlers heading west, it was where Abraham Lincoln began his political career.
In 1839, the Illinois capital relocated for a third time — to its present location at Springfield. Today, Springfield boasts a population of about 200 thousand people, a drop in the bucket compared to Chicago. However, it is the largest city in central Illinois, much larger than some other state capitals. For example, it has three times the population of Olympia in Washington State and twice that of Albany, New York.
Springfield’s most famous resident, President Abraham Lincoln, was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1837. Lincoln and his colleagues joined efforts to make Springfield the new state capital. The city was further north in the center of the state. In addition, its location on the Sangamon River provided critical access to the state’s waterways: the Sangamon River flowing east-west across central Illinois, the Illinois River flowing from the north near Chicago, and the Mississippi access to the south.
Looking at the Illinois state seal is essential to discussing the state flag. Like many states, the current Illinois flag design incorporates the state seal.
Over the years, Illinois has used three seals. The first was designed and minted in 1819, shortly after Illinois became a state. No one is sure how the seal looked because the seal’s die was destroyed in a fire in 1837. The design was reportedly based on the Great Seal of the United States. It featured a bald eagle wearing a striped shield and holding an olive branch and arrows in its talons. The stars scattered over the eagle’s head included new stars bursting out of clouds, symbolizing the birth of new states.
After losing the original seal, state officials introduced a second state seal in 1839. The new design also featured an eagle with a shield decorated with stripes with three stars arranged on top. A banner inscribed with the state motto: “State Sovereignty; National Union” replaced the stars overhead. The background featured the sun rising behind a mountain range.
In 1867, Illinois Secretary of State Sharon Tyndale spearheaded an effort to change the state seal. Specifically, he wanted to inverse the state motto: “National Union; State Sovereignty.” In the years following the American Civil War, state sovereignty was a political hot potato. The legislature vetoed the motto revision but tasked Tyndale with redesigning the seal.
In this version, the eagle is in profile, standing on a rock with one talon, while the other grasps the shield decorated with 13 stripes and stars. The bolder is engraved with two dates — 1818 (the year of statehood) and 1868 (the year of adopting the third state seal). In the background, the sun rises over blue water and prairie grassland. The eagle still holds a banner in its beak, adorned with the same state motto. However, the design twists the words so that “National Union” appears at the top of the seal, with “State Sovereignty” underneath. At the same time, the term “sovereignty” is upside down, making it difficult to read.
A state seal is essential for doing the day-to-day business of the state, so the Illinois State Legislature approved an official seal within a year of entering the Union. On the other hand, a state flag is relatively low on the priority list, which explains why Illinois didn’t adopt a state flag until 1915, almost a century after achieving statehood.
In 1912, Ella Park Lawrence, state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), started a campaign to adopt an Illinois state flag. The DAR-sponsored contest received 35 entries, and the Secretary of State selected Lucy Derwent’s flag design. The state legislature approved it in July 1915. Although the Governor neither signed nor vetoed the bill, the people of Illinois embraced the new state flag.
However, Derwent’s flag is not in use today. Her entry, featuring a colorful version of the state seal centered on a white field, was a simple but effective expression of Illinois’ identity. There was only one problem. It wasn’t easy to distinguish from other flags from a distance.
In the 1960s, one Vietnam veteran complained that many of his fellow soldiers didn’t recognize it. As a result, the state amended the design to include “Illinois” in bold blue font underneath the seal. The updated state flag was signed into law in 1969 and officially displayed in 1970.
As a historical footnote to the story of Illinois state flags, two additional designs have celebrated the state’s centennial and sesquicentennial (150 years) anniversaries. However, there was no special flag marking Illinois’ bicentennial in 2018. Perhaps thinking of a commemorative flag design sparked the idea of completely redesigning the state flag.
Time will tell whether the state of Illinois decides to revamp its flag design or not. Indeed, such a decision would be in keeping with its past. After all, this is a state that has had three capital cities and three state seals. Why not adopt a third state flag?
If the Illinois State Legislature adopts a new flag, you can be sure it will be available at Flags USA. Meanwhile, you can buy the current Illinois flag on its own or as part of a set of all 50 states. Choose from indoor flags with fringe, flags with pole sleeves, or outdoor flags finished with grommets.
Whether you want one or collect all 50, you can be confident that Flags USA is your source for high-quality 100% made-in-the-USA flags, flagpoles, and accessories.
September 11 is Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance. At Flags USA, we join with our fellow Americans, to mourn together, honor the heroes, and remember those we lost on 9/11.
We all have a 9/11 story of how this day impacted us as Americans and what it means to us when we fly our flags at half-staff today.
I grew up in Staten Island, New York and my high school was not too far fromt eh Staten Island Ferry, which means that our high school was right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Depending on where you were in the building, you could look outside of the classroom window and see the Twin Towers on fire.
My dad is a retired cop. He retired just a few months before 9/11 and he received a call initially asking him to come back in and to go help as a first responder and I was terrified for my dad because there were a lot of first responders from Staten Island because of the proximity to Manhattan, that were the first people on the scene. And a lot of them lost their lives. So, the whole situation honestly caused a lot of fear and uncertainty.
A month after the Twin Towers fell, people in New York really came together and banded together as a community. Number one, we came together to comfort each other because of all of the lives that were lost. At least for the first time in my lifetime, as New Yorkers, we helped each other, supported each other, and tried to get through this time together.
Being in the Junior ROTC in high school, I had a lot of friends that enlisted in the military right after we graduated, that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Being the daughter of a retired police officer, we had friends whose parents and family members were first responders, many of whom lost their lives in 9/11.
For me, I learned that the American flag is about togetherness. It's about coming together, especially in the face of adversity. So when I had the opportunity to join the flag industry, I carried that meaning of the American flag with me.
And, so, for me, it's an honor to be a part of this industry to continue to remember all of the lives that were lost and sacrificed during 9/11.
Flags USA co-owner
September 11 is Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance. It is one of three annual flag holidays where flags across the nation are always lowered to half-staff to pay respect and memorialize the lives lost on these days in history.
We also lower flags to half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15 and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7.
A house-mounted flag pole is not long enough to fly the flag at half-staff, so etiquette dictates that you fly a black mourning streamer atop your flag instead.
We’ve created a quick 3-minute video for everything you need to know about flying your flag at home with a mourning streamer on days when we honor and remember the fallen.
Remove your flagpole off of the mount rather than trying to use a ladder to attach the streamer, for obvious safety reasons.
Find the clip at the top of your flagpole above your flag. The streamer has a grommet, which you simply attach your streamer to the clip. If your pole does not have a clip, you may use a zip tie, pipe cleaner or similar to securely attach the streamer. Some people choose to let their mourning streamer simply fly on top of the flag or you can choose to tie your streamer into a bow.
Once your streamer is attached to your pole, replace it back into the mount.
Fly your flag half-staff with a mourning streamer from sunrise to sunset. On Memorial Day, fly your flag half-staff with the mourning streamer until noon.
The Half-staff Mourning Streamer is considered an acceptable substitute for symbolizing mourning on flagpoles that cannot fly a flag at half-staff.