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League of Nations

Last modified: 2023-10-14 by zachary harden
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There was no agreed upon a League of Nations flag. One possible variant is shown here:

[Flag of League of Nations]
by António Martins, 15 December 1999

See also:

History of the Flag

Bruce Berry
, 18 November 2004

From: DTV-Lexikon politische Symbole, Rabbow, 1970:
During its entire existence the League of Nations could not agree on one single symbol, although in the year of its foundation, 1920, there were proposals for it. This was a blue flag, which had in a white design an oval world map, enclosed by a elliptic ring consisting of as many stars as there were member states. The League of Nations organisations used it for their own operations, but there was no success in having the League of Nations itself to adopt it. Where it was active, like in Danzig or Saarland one used improvised emblems or none at all. In 1929 there was an international contest for a design. On 1 January 1930 there were 1640 proposals, out of which an international jury chose 50. Finally it was decided that none deserved first prize: two second prizes were awarded and three third prizes. The fear that a supranational organisation might become more powerful than the member states lay at the bottom of this hullabulloo. In 1939, as the political role of the League of nations was nearly nil a semi-official emblem emerged: two five-pointed stars within a blue pentagon. A white flag with this emblem was hoisted on top of the pavillion of the New York World Exposition and flew there during two years. The pentagon and the five-pointed stars were supposed to symbolize the five continents and the 'five races' of mankind. In a bow on top and at the bottom the flag got the names in English and French for the League of Nations.
Jarig Bakker, 10 October 1999

Second Prize Flags (1930)

[Second Prize proposal for Flag of League of Nations]
by Peter Diem, 11 June 2002

[Second Prize proposal for Flag of League of Nations]
by Peter Diem, 11 June 2002
The above two flags were the "second prize" flags agreed to by the League of Nations.

The League of Nations at New York 1939

[League of Nations flag at New York 1939]
by Peter Diem, 11 June 2002
The flag flown on the League of Nations Pavilion at the New York World Exposition 1939-1941, designed "to symbolize five continents and five races".
Peter Diem, 11 June 2002

Leticia Commission

In the early 1930's Colombia and Peru were in dispute over a territory called Leticia. The League of Nations became involved to mediate and agreement was reached that the territory belonged to Colombia and that Peruvian troops were to withdraw. The League of Nations appointed an international delegation to oversee the Peruvian withdrawal from Leticia, and to administer the territory until Colombia reassumed control.

A number of references to a flag used by this commission can be found in The League of Nations Official Journal. Whereas the basic design, white field with dark blue inscription, is clear, it remains to be determined what language was used for the inscription. There is little doubt, however, that the flag was actually used as The League of Nations Official Journal contains several reports and other documents referring to the use of the commission's flag in different situations. The description of the inscription varies, however. In a telegram dated 30th June 1933, the President of the League of Nations Leticia Commission wrote that the governments of Colombia and Peru had been informed of a number of points, including two covering the commission's flag:

"3. The Commission has adopted a flag which it will use to distinguish it.
 4. The characteristics of this flag are a white rectangle with the inscription in dark blue: 'League of Nations Commission, Leticia'.
 5. Once the territory of Leticia has been evacuated, this flag will be flown side by side with the Colombian flag."
[League of Nations Official Journal, Vol. 14, 1933, p. 977].

However, in the "First Report by the Commission for the Administration of the Territory of Leticia, Dated September 3rd, 1933" the inscription and ratio is described as slightly different: "a white square with the inscription in dark blue: "League of Nations Leticia Commission." [League of Nations Official Journal, Vol. 15, 1934, p. 21].

Both documents quoted above were translated into English from another language, we may guess French, the diplomatic language, or perhaps Spanish, and it is possible that the flag was inscribed with the commission's name in one of these languages.

To sum up, we have a number of unanswered questions concerning the flag of the League of Nations Leticia Commission:
1. Was the flag rectangular or square?
2. In which language did the inscription appear?
3. What was the exact wording of the inscription?

Jan Oskar Engene, 8 December 2004

See also: Leticia, Colombia
Ivan Sache, 18 July 2010

Now regarding the Leticia Commission (formally the "Administration Commission of the Territory of Leticia" was formally established on June 19, 1933 when it held its first meeting in Teffe (Brazil, a common bordering country) aboard the steamboat MC (Marina Colombiana, English: Colombian Nay) "General Mosquera", formerly the (UK) Royal Highlander (sources: , , ). Regarding the description of the flag, it seems that the instructions that all signatories (including of course Colombia and Peru) received, as this diplomatic cable indicates, signed by (Sir Eric Drummond first Secretary General of the League of Nations) includes the description of the Leticia Commission flag, as stated in "File COL134/116/1 - Comisión de Administración del Territorio de Leticia [Commission of Administration of Leticia - Minutes, bound]." In the cable one can read the following (original in Spanish): "TRES LA COMISION HA ADOPTADO UN PABELLON QUE USARA COMO DISTINTIVO STOP CUATRO LAS CARACTERISTICAS DE ESTE PABELLON SON: RECTANGULO BLANCO CON LA SIGUIENTE INSCRIPCION EN AZUL OSCURO 'SOCIEDAD DE NACIONES COMISION LETICIA' STOP CINCO UNA VEZ EVACUADO EL TERRITORIO DE LETICIA DICHO PABELLON SERA ARBOLADOJUNTO CON LA BANDERA DE COLOMBIA STOP" (adjusted translation in English, including caps (when necessary) and the word "stop" (used in telegraphy) for reference only): Three The Commission has adopted a flag which will use as a distinctive sign (stop) Four The characteristics of this flag are: white rectangle with the following inscription in dark blue 'Sociedad de Naciones Comisión Leticia" (League of Nations Leticia Commission) (stop) Five: Once the Leticia territory is evacuated (by occupying Peruvian troops) such flag will be flown alongside Colombia's flag (stop) I assume that since the diplomatic cables were in Spanish (the official language of both Colombia and Perú) the flag must then be in Spanish, even though there's a description in English from a newspaper clip (most likely simply a translation from the original text intended).
Esteban Rivera, 6 July 2023