Bethany Field appliqués flags for a living, but she says there’s no way she could make Maine’s official state flag — the state seal at its center, with a farmer and a sailor and a moose and a pine tree and a North Star and more, is just too intricate. “In terms of having something succinct and evocative of what people care about,” her business partner, Chris Korzen, says, “Maine’s flag doesn’t do it.”
Field and Korzen founded their flag-making concern, Maine Flag Company, in 2013. For the first few years, they worked part-time, making custom flags, burgees, and banners for mariners, yacht clubs, universities, and more. But business really took off after 2017, when they started making Maine’s original state flag, featuring a simple star and pine on a buff-colored background. A scrappy, citizen-led campaign to reinstate the flag, which flew over the State House from 1901 to 1909, had been on-again-off-again since the ’90s, and Field and Korzen could find no one else making flags with the design. After the Bangor Daily News ran a story about their work, hundreds of orders a day poured in. The flags were so popular, Field and Korzen formed a second company in 2018, Original Maine, selling stickers, hats, T-shirts, and other products featuring the 1901 flag design. “We never had to market it,” Korzen says. “It resonated with people immediately.”
This fall, a grassroots group called Flag for Portland commissioned Maine Flag Company to sew 20 flags with its proposed alternative to Portland’s flag design, which also centers an intricate seal (this one with a ship, an anchor, two dolphins, a phoenix, a laurel wreath, and more). Of course, Portland officials haven’t actually considered replacing the city’s flag, and the organization’s campaign is nascent at best. The state legislature, on the other hand, has considered and rejected several bills to reinstate the 1901 state-flag design, most recently in 2019 and again this March. Not that Korzen much minds.
“A flag doesn’t need an act of the legislature to make it an important symbol,” he says. He and Field stayed out of the flag-replacement push earlier this year, turned off by heated rhetoric over the bill. After all, he says, flags should be unifying.
Play the Maine Flag Match Game!
Portland isn’t the only Maine municipality with a recent push for a new flag. Can you match the proposed flags to the Maine towns where they’ve been floated? Click an answer to read the real story.
Brunswick didn’t have a flag when the Tefft family started designing one in 2019. They presented it to the town council in 2020, but officials had adopted a flag with the town seal weeks before. The Teffts still sell flags and other merch with their design.
Flag for Portland’s proposed design features an anchor, to symbolize the city’s connection to the sea, while the blue border mimics the flag representing the letter P in the International Code of Signals maritime flag system.
Last winter, Leonard Middle School held a contest for students to design a flag for then-flagless Old Town. After some push and pull, the city adopted the winner in May, with a canoe acknowledging the town’s Penobscot River heritage.
In June, in celebration of Kennebunkport’s bicentennial, a panel of judges picked a winner in a contest for a new flag. Designed by a 17-year-old Massachusetts native, the flag nods to the town’s beaches and nautical history.