Long May She Wave

In the US, June 14 is Flag Day. The Second Continental Congress designated the stars and stripes our official flag in 1777. Woodrow Willson commemorated the first official flag day in 1916 and Harry S Truman specifically designated June 14 as Flag Day in an Act of Congress in  1949.

Although Betsy Ross is purported to have sewn the first at the behest of George Washington and her husband’s Uncle George Ross, Pennsylvania composer and signer of the Constitution, Francis Hopkinson designed it.

In America, we see flags flying everywhere. They are posted at many homes, waved at during parades, and even some vehicles sport flags. Whereas, in many nations, the national flags are seldom seen other than on official government buildings like post offices or military installations.

Looking into the background of the current black/red/yellow German flag, you may be surprised to know that the US flag is considerably older than it. There were many competing traditions before the current German flag was adopted in 1949.

The German Empire flag had black/white/red bands and preceded the current flag from 1871-1918. With the disillusionment  and abdication of all German nobility and the German defeat of WWI, the flag was discarded.

From 1933 to 1945 the Nazi symbol was dominant on flags in Germany.  The end of WWII discontinued their prominence. Now the swastika symbol is often seen at Aryan rallies or other protests but is not considered a national emblem.
Prior to the German Empire flag, each Germanic/Prussian region touted its own flag. (I added the list at the end.) Each area still has its own historic flag.  A list and history of all the German flags can be found here. List of German flags – Wikipedia


During the 14th century and the 15-19th century, Germany was considered part of the Holy Roman Empire and the flag had a single or double-headed black eagle on a gold background. This was a symbol used on shields during the crusades. The Holy Roman Empire collapsed in 1806.

single- headed eagle
double-headed eagle

Currently, Germany uses two flags. The black/red/gold banded flag shown previously is considered the national or civil flag of Germany. It is the one you will see flying at the Olympics for German medal winners. The other flag is similar but has the single-headed black eagle reminiscence of Holy Roman Empire days on it as well. This flag is the state flag of Germany and is flown at government buildings.

Whereas Germans can be as proud of their German ancestry as much as any other nation, they are reluctant to be as much of a flag waving nation as we are in America. The nationalist movements in Germany have led to two world wars that no one wants to relive. When we have hosted Germans here in the states, they marvel at how many American flags they see simply driving from one place to another. About the only time you will see flag waving Germans is during the Olympics or a World Soccer match.

Kingdoms (Königreiche)
Flag of Prussia (1892-1918).svgPrussia (Preußen)Berlin
Flag of Bavaria (striped).svgBavaria (Bayern)Munich
Flagge Königreich Sachsen (1815-1918).svgSaxony (Sachsen)Dresden
Flagge Königreich Württemberg.svgWürttembergStuttgart
Grand Duchies (Großherzogtümer)
Flagge Großherzogtum Baden (1891–1918).svgBadenKarlsruhe
Flagge Großherzogtum Hessen ohne Wappen.svgHesse (Hessen)Darmstadt
Flagge Großherzogtümer Mecklenburg.svgMecklenburg-SchwerinSchwerin
Flagge Großherzogtümer Mecklenburg.svgMecklenburg-StrelitzNeustrelitz
Civil flag of Oldenburg.svgOldenburgOldenburg
Flagge Großherzogtum Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1897-1920).svgSaxe-Weimar-Eisenach (Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach)Weimar
Duchies (Herzogtümer)
Flagge Herzogtum Anhalt.svgAnhaltDessau
Flagge Herzogtum Braunschweig.svgBrunswick (Braunschweig)Braunschweig
Flagge Herzogtum Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (1826-1911).svgSaxe-Altenburg (Sachsen-Altenburg)Altenburg
Flagge Herzogtum Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (1911-1920).svgSaxe-Coburg and Gotha (Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha)Coburg
Flagge Herzogtum Sachsen-Meiningen.svgSaxe-Meiningen (Sachsen-Meiningen)Meiningen
Principalities (Fürstentümer)
Flagge Fürstentum Lippe.svgLippeDetmold
Flagge Fürstentum Reuß jüngere Linie.svgReuss-Gera (Junior Line)Gera
Flagge Fürstentum Reuß ältere Linie.svgReuss-Greiz (Elder Line)Greiz
Flagge Fürstentum Schaumburg-Lippe.svgSchaumburg-LippeBückeburg
Flagge Fürstentümer Schwarzburg.svgSchwarzburg-RudolstadtRudolstadt
Flagge Fürstentümer Schwarzburg.svgSchwarzburg-SondershausenSondershausen
Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svgWaldeck and Pyrmont (Waldeck und Pyrmont)Arolsen
Free and Hanseatic Cities (Freie und Hansestädte)
Flag of Bremen.svgBremen
Flag of Hamburg.svgHamburg
Flag of the Free City of Lübeck.svgLübeck
Imperial Territories (Reichsländer)
Dienstflagge Elsaß-Lothringen Kaiserreich.svgAlsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen)Straßburg

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