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Historical President Flags (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | president |
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1945 to 1959

[1945 Presidential flag] image located by Bill Garrison, 7 July 2008

Originally posted on ebay for sale, described as "Harry S. Truman United States presidential wool flag used 1945-1959 since only 48 stars dates the flag to the 1940s..."
Bill Garrison, 7 July 2008

True for the national flag, but not the Presidential flag. From May 1916 to October 1945, the Presidential flag had one large star in each corner, the eagle in the coat of arms was all white, and it faced to its own left. In October 1945 the design was changed to have the eagle in color, facing to its own right, and the four stars in the corners were replaced by a ring of stars equal to the number of states. The 48-star Presidential flag was used from 1945 until July 4, 1959, when it was replaced for one year by a 49-star version. Since July 4, 1960, the flag has had 50 stars.

So it is correct that the number of stars alone does not date this flag to the '40s, but it does date it to the 14 year period from 1945 to 1959.
Joe McMillan, 7 July 2008

1902 version

[1902 Presidential flag] image by Nurse Sue E., 15 July 2004

The writer sent me these pictures as well. The markings make clear that this is a US Navy issued flag (NY NY is New York Navy Yard; the heading is also inscribed "No. 6," which is a size marking). She also has a very good provenance for it. I believe it is completely authentic, based on the photos.

The interesting thing about this flag is that it does not match the design shown in the Navy's 1899 edition of Flags of Maritime Nations ([usn99]), which shows the coat of arms in full color. However, it does fit the pre-1945 pattern of other Presidential flags used by the US Navy, namely those of 1882 and 1916, in that the eagle is white, with only small areas of other colors (stripes in the shield, green olive branch, etc). It would seem odd, if full color had been used during the early 20th century, to revert back to a white eagle when a new design was adopted in 1916.

My suspicion is that, although the regulation said that the President's flag was the national coat of arms on a blue field, the actual practice was to show the coat of arms predominantly in white. Not only would this make the emblem more visible at sea (and less expensive to produce) but it would also conform to USN tradition by which the senior officer or official always has flown a blue flag with white markings, whether that be the number of stars equal to the number of states, as in the case of commodores pre-1857, the number of stars indicating rank, as today, or the flags of the Secretary of the Navy and now the Secretary of Defense.

In principle, the US Army in 1901 adopted the same design as the Navy for a hoistable Presidential flag (as opposed to the color carried in parade-type ceremonies), but I would not be surprised if the Army actually did have the flag made up in full color, since the Secretary of the Army's flag adopted in 1903 used the full color coat of arms. A Presidential flag, apparently in full color, was displayed at the groundbreaking for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Diego in 1911 (see B&W photo at, even though President Taft was not there in person. I have no information on whether the flag was supplied by the Navy, Army, White House, or some other entity.

It may be relevant in this regard to mention that the 1916 Presidential flag, with a white version of the eagle from the then-Presidential seal, was designed by a naval officer, Commander (later Commodore) Byron McCandless, while the 1945 Presidential flag, with the eagle in full color, was designed by an Army official, Arthur DuBois of what is now the Institute of Heraldry.
Joe McMillan, 16 July 2004

Army version of the Presidential flag (1898)

[Presidential flag] image by Joe McMillan

I found an image of the flag associated with Taft. It is described at, part of the Taft Museum website.

It has a red field, a white star in each corner, and the US coat of arms on a blue star fimbriated white, surrounded by white stars. According to the webpage, Whitney Smith stated that was the Army version of the Presidential flag from 1907 to 1912.
Ned Smith, 20 July 2004

Proposed Presidential flag, 1817

[Proposed Presidential flag] image by Randy Young, 8 October 2004

From the book "Flags to Color, Washington to Lincoln," and is on page 14. It's listed as "Proposed Presidential Flag, 1817."

Quoting the book:
"Colors: first quarter blue with white stars; second quarter white with a brown eagle having white head and tail feathers and gold beak and claws and an olive branch of green; third quarter with a woman dressed in blue holding a green wreath and a brown pole with a red liberty cap; fourth quarter 7 red and 6 white stripes."

"Captain Samuel Reid had ideas for a number of American flags which, however, Congress did not adopt. One was to symbolize the president: it included the national stars and stripes, the coat of arms, and the figure of Columbia frequently used to symbolize the nation before the allegorical Uncle Sam developed."
Randy Young, 8 October 2004