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Alaska (U.S.)

Last modified: 2021-05-01 by rick wyatt
Keywords: alaska | competition | star | constellation | ursa major | united states |
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[Flag of Alaska] image by Zachary Harden, 19 May 2016

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In 1959, a star was added, representing Alaska, bringing the total number of stars on the U.S. flag to 49. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.

Legal Description

Sec. 44.09.020. State flag.
The design of the official flag is eight gold stars in a field of blue, so selected for its simplicity, its originality and its symbolism. The blue, one of the national colors, typifies the evening sky, the blue of the sea and of mountain lakes, and of wild flowers that grow in Alaskan soil, the gold being significant of the wealth that lies hidden in Alaska's hills and streams. The stars, seven of which form the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear, the most conspicuous constellation in the northern sky, contains the stars which form the "Dipper," including the "Pointers"which point toward the eighth star in the flag, Polaris, the North Star, the ever constant star for the mariner, the explorer, hunter, trapper, prospector, woodsman, and the surveyor. For Alaska the northernmost star in the galaxy of stars and which at some future time will take its place as the forty-ninth star in the national emblem. The flag of the Territory of Alaska is the official flag of the state. The standard proportions and size graphically delineated herein shall be used in the manufacture of the official flag of Alaska. The stars shall be the color of natural yellow gold and the field of blue shall be of the same shade of blue used in the official manufacture of the national emblem of the United States.
Joe McMillan, 8 February 2000

I got an email from the Office of the Alaska Secretary of State in June of 2010 concerning the flag colors. Sec. 44.09.020 of the State Code was sent to me. The colors are not defined in the legislation, but the Office told me it was Pantone 1235 for Gold, Pantone 2768 for Blue. In Sec. 44.09.020, the flag specification sheet was included; it did confirm the ratio that Clay Moss used in his 2007 drawing, which was 1.000x1.418. The big star, Polaris/North Star, has a diameter of .104 while the stars that form Ursa Major/Great Bear have a diameter of .062.
Zachary Harden, 19 May 2016

The Story of Alaska's Flag

The Alaska state flag was designed by John Bell (Benny) Benson, a thirteen year-old in an orphanage in response to a contest sponsored by the Alaska Department of the American Legion. The prize was awarded in 1927. The flag was adopted by the Territorial Legislature in May, 1927 as Alaska's official flag.

The flag is dark blue, with eight five-pointed gold stars in the shape of "the Big Dipper" and a larger gold star representing the pole star, Polaris.

When Alaska entered the Union in 1959, the territorial flag became the state flag. All the designs for the contest, as well as Benny's prize--a gold watch engraved with the flag--are in the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. He did also win a $1000 trip to Washington, D.C.. to present the flag to President Coolidge, but never went because first his father was ill, and then President Coolidge was out of the country, so the $1000 was put to his education instead. Benny also picked the forget-me-not as the territorial (later state) flower.
Source: Velma Moos Potter, God Flies Benny's Flag, Frontier Publishing, Seattle, 1989
John Andrew Lowe, 24 July 1995

The star representing Polaris on the state flag is shown larger than the seven stars that make up the "Big Dipper." This may have been what was produced in the past, and may be the official design (I do not know), but in recent times with mass-produced commercial flags that I saw everywhere, all the stars were the same size.
Michael Wilson, 17 May 2004

An old flag book, "Flags of the U.S.A.", David Eggenberger, 1959, there is reference to a contest for the design of the state flag in 1927. There were 142 designs submitted, with the winning design by thirteen-year old Benny Benson. The story further says "The first flag, as well as all the designs submitted in the contest, are preserved in the Alaska Historical Library and Museum."
It's interesting to note that in this book, the illustration of the Alaska flag has the stars in red, whereas the text gives the actual flag color for the stars as gold. From this, we learn that illustrations in and of themselves may not always be correct!
Bob Hunt, 17 August 2007

Thirty-four of the designs appear in an exhibit and catalog from the Alaska State Museum "Eight Stars of Gold:. The Story of Alaska's Flag." It is supposedly available online at the Museum's website, [These designs also available at]
Ned Smith, 17 August 2007

Details of the competition, involving local competitions and a territory-wide final competition are given at
Peter Hans van den Muijzenburg, 17 August 2007

Benny Benson worked as an engineer (having used the prize money from the flag contest to enter engineering school) and mechanic, and passed away in 1972, at the age of 58.
Nathan Lamm, 18 August 2007

See also:

  • Alaska State Museum web page for a wealth of information on the flag and its creator, the young Benny Benson. The catalogue can be downloaded (pdf), and there are suggestions for student activities (various age groups).

State Song (about the flag)

Eight stars of gold on a field of blue
Alaska's Flag may it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky
The mountain lakes and the flow'rs near-by
The gold of the early sourdoughs dreams
The precious gold of the hills and streams
The brilliant stars in the northern sky
The "Bear," the "Dipper," and shining high
The great North Star with its steady light
O'er land and sea a beacon bright
Alaska's Flag to Alaskans dear
The simple flag of a Last Frontier

State Military Crest

The state military crest, which is the crest used in the coats of arms of units of the National Guard, as granted by the precursor organizations of what is now the Army Institute of Heraldry. The official Institute of Heraldry blazon is "The aurora borealis blended from dexter base purple through red, orange, yellow to green to chief and repeated inversely to sinister base; behind a totem pole of three figures, an eagle, a bear, and a walrus paleways affronte, all proper.
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

Alaska State holidays and flag-flying days

Here's a list of Alaska State Holidays from an Alaska government page. Along with all federal holidays, these days are observed in Alaska:

January 3 is Alaska Statehood Day
February 6 is Ernest Gruening Day
February 16 is Elizabeth Peratovich Day
March 30 is Seward Day
April 9 is POW-MIA Day
April 20 is Bob Bartlett Day
May 1 is Alaska Family Day
1st Thurs in May is Alaska Prayer Day
June 3 is Dutch Harbor Day
3rd Sat of June is "Juneteenth Day" commemorating the Abolition of Slavery.
July 9 is Alaska Flag Day
Aug 24 is Wickersham Day
Oct 8 is William Egan Day
Oct 18 is Alaska Day
Nov 9 is Womens' Veterans Day
Nov 30 is Dimond Day
Dec 7 is Pearl Harbor Day (Alaska Flag half staff until noon)

(Father) John Udics, 4 July 2007