9.7.09

Flying Thursday July 9, 2009.


New England. USA.


July 9 is one of those days I cannot find an anniversary to relate to a flag in my collection. A new reader to my blog is my cousin John Loring in Boston, Massachusetts, so what better than to fly my New England flag? It was actually a vist from John a few years ago that started my interest in flags. I bought a Massachusetts state flag to fly when he visited Derby, and my collection followed from there!

Flag of New England, 1686-c.1707?

New England is the north east corner of the United States, now comprising the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. This region was originally inhabited by several Amerindian tribes; later it was the site of some of the earliest European settlements in North America.


The flag is based on the red naval ensign of the Royal Navy, which featured the cross of St. George in the canton (the above flag without the pine tree). The ensign was used at both the Jamestown (now In Virginia) and Plymouth (Massachusetts) colonies.


Puritans in New England, led by Roger Williams, objected to the use of a Christian cross on their flag, and for a time flew a red flag with a plain white canton.

The cross-less New England version.

The cross-less flag first appeared in 1634 in Salem, but some considered it to be an act of rebellion against England. The cross-less flags became popular in New England, and militia companies designed unique patterns on their flags. In 1665, the Royal Commissioners recommended that all ships and militia companies be ordered to fly "the true colours of England, by which they may be knowne to be his majesties legitimate subjects." Nevertheless, some cross-less flags were still in use as late as 1680.

New Englanders continued to look for ways to represent their country, however. In 1684, the town of Newbury, Massachusetts, though retaining the Cross of St George, changed to a green flag.

The Newbury, Mass, version

A pine tree was added to some flags during the reign of King James II, possibly inspired by the pine-tree shilling which was minted in Massachusetts. In 1707, a proclamation was issued that all merchant vessels fly the red ensign with the British Union in the canton.

Red ensign with the British Union in the canton, and added pine.


The Pine Tree Shilling

As early as 1650, the colony of Massachusetts Bay was a commercial success. But an inadequate supply of money put its future development in jeopardy. England was not inclined to send gold and silver coins to the colonies, for they were in short supply in the mother country.

Taking matters into their own hands, Boston authorities allowed two settlers, John Hull and Robert Sanderson, to set up a mint in the capital in 1652. The two were soon striking silver coinage - shillings, sixpences, and threepences. Nearly all of the new coins bore the same date: 1652.

This was the origin of America's most famous colonial coin, the pine tree shilling. The name comes from the tree found on the obverse. It may symbolize one of the Bay Colony's prime exports, pine trees for ships' masts. Massachusetts coinage not only circulated within that colony, but was generally accepted throughout the Northeast, becoming a monetary standard in its own right.


A further "Pine Tree" origin explanation.

The history of the Pine Tree as a symbol of New England probably predates the european colonial settlements. In eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire and the southern corner of Maine, there once lived a nomadic tribe known as the Penacook. "Penacook" is an Algonquin word meaning "Children of the Pine Tree." The Penacook people have been credited with teaching the Pilgrims, those settlers of the Plymouth Colony of Eastern Massachusetts, much needed survival skills when the colonists were starving to death during the winter of 1621-22. The forests surrounding the settlement were teeming with game and wild foods unfamiliar to the Pilgrims and it was the Penacooks who showed them these new things.


Bunker Hill

See also my blog of the flag of the battle of Bunker Hill. on June 17th.