A Flag for the United Nations

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, Reference Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

John Kelly, a respected columnist for the Washington Post, recently (June 14, 2016) wrote about Brooks Harding’s “Four Freedoms Flag.”  Harding designed the flag to represent the countries fighting against Axis tyranny during World War II, commonly referred to as the “United Nations.”  Not surprisingly, Harding was not the only person interested in designing a flag for that cause.

In the records of the Department of State (Record Group 59) for the period of World War II preserved in the National Archives are almost 100 letters from Americans recommending the adoption of a flag for United Nations.  Most of the letters were sent to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman and the White House forwarded them to the Department of State for reply.  Others came from the office of Vice President Henry Wallace, from members of Congress, or were sent directly to the Department of State.  Most of the letters included drawings and mock-ups of the proposed flag.  Many of the mock-ups and drawings are no longer present in the files, but some examples do exist.

Mr. Noah Miller of Los Angeles sent this design for a “Four Freedoms Flag.”

Noah Miller, Los Angeles, CA United Nations flag design

Mrs. John Rumboll of Dallas proposed this design.  The hands hold the torch of freedom and the banner is for a motto to be written in Latin.  Mrs. Rumboll proposed “United by God and Freedom.”

Mrs. John Rumboll, Dallas, TX United Nations flag design

Mr. H. Simmonds from St. Petersburg, Florida, came up with this proposal.

H. Simmonds, St. Petersburg, FL United Nations flag design

The 7th Grade History class of the Irwin Public School in Irwin, Pennsylvania prepared this design.  The stars, one for each of the nations, form a “V” for victory. The design included the Greek goddess Athena inside the “V”.  They explained the choice of Athena because “she was the goddess of righteous war and also of peace.”

7th Grade Class Irwin Public School, Irwin, PA United Nations flag design

Mr. Elmer Snyder of Philadelphia submitted two designs:

Jackie Bell and Jackie Benoit, seventh graders in the Bateman School in Chicago sent this drawing.  They explained the design as follows: the colors are those appearing most often in the flags of the individual United Nations; the stars represent those countries and they noted that stars should be added as countries joined the alliance; the blue field represents the “common courage” of the countries; the white border the “light of mutual understanding;” and the red border represents the blood being spilled.

Jackie Bell & Jackie Benoit, Bateman School, Chicago United Nations flag design

Mr. Henry Levene of Chelsea, Massachusetts submitted this flag.

Henry Levene, Chelsea, MA United Nations flag design

Mr. Gottlieb Huwyler from Harrison, Maine, developed this design.

Gottlieb Huwyler, Harrison, ME United Nations flag design

In all cases, the Department acknowledged the sender usually with language along the lines of:

“Although the Department is not aware of the contemplated adoption of such a flag at the present time, the design and letter will be kept on file for possible future reference.”

Source:  The letters and enclosures discussed above are found under the file designation “800.015” in the 1940-44 and 1945-49 segments of the Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021), part of RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

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