CIRI Gifted Original Benny Benson Alaska Flag

CIRI shareholder Edward Brown with an original Benny Benson flag
and a program, “Eight Stars of Gold: The Story of Alaska’s Flag.”
Photo by Charlene Juliussen.

CIRI would like to give a big “thank you” to shareholder Edward J. Brown of Palmer, Alaska!

Earlier this year, as part of the Alaska State Museum Traveling Exhibition Program, Brown graciously donated to CIRI a hand-sewn, signed Benny Benson Alaska flag as well as a program, “Eight Stars of Gold: The Story of Alaska’s Flag.” He purchased the flag and program more than 20 years ago in Memphis, Tenn.

The Story Behind the Alaska Flag

In 1926, Territorial Governor George Parks visited the U.S. Postal Service building in Washington, D.C. Flags from other states and territories waved in the breeze, but Alaska was not represented because the territory had no official flag. This inspired Parks to arrange a flag design contest sponsored by the Alaska branch of the American Legion for all Alaska schoolchildren in grades 7-12. Students submitted a total of 142 entries.

Benny Benson, part Russian-Aleut and a middle school student at the Jesse Lee Home for Children in Seward, Alaska, was selected as the winner. His simple design, featuring the Big Dipper constellation against a dark blue background, would soon be flying on poles from Ketchikan to Barrow.

“The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower,” Benson wrote. “The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear, symbolizing strenth (sic).”

Benson later worried about the spelling error, but the judges apparently overlooked it. Benson’s flag helped rally the territory for the long and difficult campaign for statehood.