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Ottoman Empire: Flags depicted in various sources

19th century

Last modified: 2016-02-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: ottoman empire |
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"Turkish Navy" in a Dutch flag book

[Turkish Navy flag]

Flag of the Turkish Navy - Image by António Martins, 3 September 2001

The flag is almost square (5:6 or 6:7), divided vertically red and white. On the red half is a very thin crescent pointing to the fly and a fairly dense eight-pointed star, both white.

António Martins, 3 September 2001

The flag is shown as #340 "Turkey Navy" on plate 10, together with #339 "Turkey flag of war", which is made of two white crescents (a thicker crescent at hoist and a thinner one at fly) placed on the same red-white vertically divided flag.

Nozomi Kariyasu, 3 September 2001

"Ottoman merchant ensign"

[Ottoman merchant ensign]

Alleged Ottoman merchant ensign - Image by Miles Li, 11 November 2014

Many encyclopaedias from the 19th century show two flags purportedly from the Ottoman Empire. One is the current Turkish national flag, but usually with an eight-pointed star, as the naval ensign; the other, a green flag with a red disc at the centre bearing a white crescent (no star), is the "merchant ensign". There is, however, no evidence that the green flag ever actually existed, for we know that by the late 19th century the naval ensign (red flag) was also used as merchant ensign.
The oldest one I have seen dates back to 1868 (image*), although it is simply marked as "Turkey" with another flag denoted as merchant ensign. Another example would be Orgelbrand's Encyclopaedia (1899, image). From what I have seen, the illustration of the separate "Ottoman Merchant Ensign" ceased after circa 1900.

Miles Li, 25 April 2015

*This is the flag plate, from 1868, for an edition of Colton's General Atlas, apparently. The same from 1863 did not show that flag, but instead showed the red a green oval with a row of three crescents in their decrement, as the only flag captioned "Turkey".
In the 1868 version, this is replaced by "Turkish Merchant" (red over green over red), "Turkish Man of War" (red, a yellow crescent and star near the hoist), and "Turkey" (green, centred a red disk bearing a white crescent in her decrement). Apparently, for Colton's this was an intentional change.
Siegel gives for that red-green-red flag an 1820 source, which would have to be the entry he lists as Samling of National Flage og. Wimpler, by J. Hjorth. If that flag was listed already in 1820, but only makes its appearance in Colton's in 1868; what does that say for the other one introduced in Colton's at that time?

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 April 2015

In Flags of the World, 1890s [hul94], F.E. Hulme wrote:

The War Flag of Turkey is the crescent and star on the scarlet field, as shown in Fig. 239. The flag of the Merchant Service seems less definitely fixed. In the Official Flag Book of the English Admiralty, Fig. 239 is given as both the man-of-war and the merchant flag for Turkey, Egypt and Tripoli, while in an excellent book on the subject, published at Vienna in 1883, Fig. 235 [white crescent on red disc on green flag] is given as the flag of the commercial marine; and we have also seen a plain red flag with a star in the upper corner of the hoist, and another divided into three horizontal bands, the upper and lower being red, and the central one green.

David Prothero, 24 April 2015

Naval ensign and merchant flags in Steenbergen's flag chart (1862)

[Ottoman Man of war flag]         [Ottoman merchant flag]

Ottoman flags shown in Steenbergen's flag chart, left, "Naval ensign"; right, "Merchant" - Images by Ivan Sache, 22 July 2006

Steenbergen's flag chart Vlaggen van alle Natiën [stb62] shows a red flag with a white crescent and star, the star being six-pointed, as "Turkey, Naval ensign", and a red flag with a red canton with a white border and charged with a white six-pointed star as "Turkey, Merchant".

Nozomi Karyasu, 22 July 2006

Man of war and merchant flags in Webster's (1884)

[Ottoman Man of war flag]         [Ottoman merchant flag]

Ottoman flags shown in Webster's, left, "Man of war"; right, "Merchant" - Images by Željko Heimer, 23 July 2006

Lombard Antiquarian Map & Prints show on their website three flag plates quoted as "1884, Webster". Webster's dictionary is a common title given to English language dictionaries in the United States, deriving its name from the American lexicographer Noah Webster. In 1884, a revision of Webster's Unabridged (originally published in 1864 as An American Dictionary of the English Language, Royal Quarto Edition, Unabridged) was published, including place names; the plates on sale at Lombard's probably come from that Webster's.
On the plate entitled "Flag of Various Nations", a red flag with a white crescent and star, the star being eight-pointed, is captioned "Turkey, Man of war", while a red flag with a red canton with a white border and charged with a white eight-pointed star is captioned "Turkey, Merchant".

Ivan Sache, 22 July 2006

Ottoman Empire flag on Allen & Ginter cigarette cards (c. 1885)

[Ottoman Empire flag]

Ottoman flag shown on a cigarette card - Image by António Martins, 18 September 2006

The Allen & Ginter's series of cigarette cards N9, Flags of all Nations [u9s8Xa] (seemingly not released before 1885 and perhaps even 1889) shows for "Turkey" (Ottoman Empire) a red flag with a white (rather banana-like) crescent pointing to the fly and with an eight pointed star between its horns. This may be an incorrect depiction of the seven-pointed star flag "for ocean-going vessels".

António Martins, 18 September 2006