I’m very pleased to announce that yesterday the City of Bath formally adopted by resolution a flag for our community that has been designed by myself with the assistance of the city council’s flag committee.
It was a joy working with the the committee members Carolyn Lockwood, Sean Paulhus, and David Sinclair. I thank the City Council for providing me the opportunity to participate in a project related to some of my greater interests.
Bath is a prestigious city with a vibrant history worthy of celebrating with the pageantry of its very own flag. Most everyone from Bath I’ve spoken to about this project in the making has shared some fantasy of incorporating a Bath flag into their life, whether for personal use, flying the flag outside one’s home, or even propagating it by creating Bath flag products to sell in their own little shops downtown. Today – even before any real, fabric flags have even been produced, a woman was wearing Bath flag earrings during the fourth of July celebrations. She had made them the night before after hearing it had been resolved by the city council. We citizens of Bath have immense pride for our little city on the river and we ache to express that pride. I’m happy to have been a part of creating a symbol that will hopefully be cherished by many people for years to come. I worked with the flag committee for over a year. It was an iterative process involving several drafts, as well as calling on other subject experts such as staff at the Maine Maritime Museum and local vexillology expert, David Martucci. I began the process with two commitments. I wanted to design a simple flag that adhered to best practices in flag design. If Bath was going to have a flag, it had to actually look good. Our nation is full of awfully designed city flags (just scroll to the bottom of this page.) I also was committed to composing it in a heraldic and classical style. I wanted the flag to feel sort of timeless, as if it had always been the city’s flag and shared its history.
I began looking for sources of inspiration in old emblems connected to the city’s past. Shortly after settlers of the Long Reach area petitioned the governor of Massachusetts to create a new town, prominent citizen and postmaster Dummer Sewell named the fledgling city Bath after the English city of the same name in Somerset. The flag of Bath, Maine is principally inspired by the coat of arms of the city of Bath, Somerset.
Continuing research revealed other relevant, historical emblems. As the home of Bath Iron Works, and with an extensive history of shipbuilding, the flag of Bath needs to honor that identity. I went to the beginning of shipbuilding in the area and discovered the coat of arms of George Popham – responsible for building the first English ship in the new world, launching Bath’s maritime legacy. In addition to inverting the blue and red areas of the coat of arms of Bath, Somerset, I also switched the blue field and white stripes for a white field and blue stripes so that the flag would resemble the arms of Popham with a white field in base and red chief with gold charges. (In fact, an earlier draft of the flag featured two ships, mirroring Popham’s two bucks’ heads.) Two blue stripes were intentionally chosen to represent the two major bodies of water that flank the city: the Kennebec River and Merrymeeting Bay. And as a Morse High School alumnus, I naturally ensured blue and white were present and prominent. Knowing the flag would be flown with the flags of the United States and Maine, I wanted to ensure there was an aesthetic compatibility as well. The US flag has very specific red and blue (“Old Glory Red” and “Old Glory Blue”) used in the design. The state’s flag is also supposed to feature an Old Glory Blue field. These exact colors should be used in renderings and productions of the flag. The last and most thoroughly scrutinized design element discussed by the committee was the chosen ship. It was ultimately decided that as the city of ships (plural), we did not want to single out any one particular ship. There are many that have served as symbols of Bath including the Wyoming (featured prominently in current city branding efforts), the Henry B. Hyde, and any number of the Navy destroyer ships built at B.I.W. All have legitimate claims to being represented. It was agreed that the ship featured on the flag would be unspecific so that it represented and honored our entire ship building industry. So elements of several ships were used to inspire the one that is now on the flag. The discussion finally boiled down to a decision between employing a square rigged ship or schooner. We look to existing municipal symbols for our answer.
City Hall itself is topped by a squared rigged vessel as a weather-vane. The official city seal also features a square-rigged ship. Both have sails furled. Much of Morse High School’s branding, including the coat-of-arms like logo on their graduation program, features a square-rigged ship in under full sail. So does the patch insignia worn by our police department. After reviewing the history of ships in municipal symbols, the flag committee unanimously agreed to incorporate the square-rigged ship. It’s been a pleasure working on this project. As an enthusiast of flags (and heraldry), I’m really looking forward to the day I see this banner flying outside of municipal buildings such as City Hall, the schools and the visitor center. Most especially, I look forward to seeing it flown outside of people’s homes and businesses. That will be the day when I know the city has truly adopted the flag. Happy Fourth of July and Bath Heritage Day! UPDATE: I’ve created a page where folks can download digital templates and design specifications for the flag. These are ideal of commercial reproductions. If there’s a specific file type you’d like that is not in the package, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily provide it.