The Arizona Chronicles, Part 1

Steering the boat!

On a recent trip to Arizona with my sister, I had the chance to get over to San Diego for the first time. One of the very first things we did when we got there was to check out the famous boats in San Diego’s harbor. If you have not already been to see the San Diego Maritime Museum’s collection of boats, let me be the first to tell you: WOW. These are some big, impressive ships. The two largest ships are the Star of India, the oldest ship that still sails, and the HMS Surprise. The HMS Surprise is the actual ship that was used in the filming of the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and is a replica of the Royal Navy frigate Rose from the 18th century. Naturally, my first instinct was to think about the impressive history…of nautical flags!

The HMS Surprise flies the British Red Ensign flag at the stern (back) of the ship. The British Red Ensign flag, also called the “Red Duster”, first originated in the beginning of the 17th century with the Royal Navy, but was later used to identify British merchants. A British Ensign flag is a flag used to designate that a ship is British, and whether it is a military boat or a civilian boat. In 1674, Charles II declared that the red ensign flag was the flag that should be used by merchantmen to identify themselves and their ships. At this time, the Royal Navy was still heavily using the Red Ensign flag to identify warships of the Red Squadron, and those under independent command. In 1864, the Royal Navy decided that the use of three separate colors, including the Red Ensign flag, was too confusing and that there should be a distinction between warships and merchantmen. As a result, they decreed that the White Ensign flag would be indicative of ships in the Royal Navy service, the Blue Ensign flag would be used for ships in government service and those commanded by officers, and the Red Ensign flag would be used exclusively for merchants. The blue flag later expanded to include ships serving the British colonies and those who have obtained an admirality warrant.

The Red Ensign flag underwent a number of versions in its early life, four to be exact. Prior to 1707, two versions of the British Red Ensign flag existed: a version used by Scottish ships with a Saltire in the canton, and an English version with St. George’s cross in the canton. In 1707, under Queen Anne, a new version combining the two designs was established. The year of 1801 heralded the fourth and final version of the flag, with the Irish St. Patrick’s cross added to the design in the canton. The Ensign flag has continued to be widely used to this day, and many flags exist in blue or red, indicating various departments of the Royal Navy or at times, colonial governments. The Ensign flag was also the basis of the modern flag of many ex-colonies and territories of the British government, such as Australia and Bermuda.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and it has inspired a lot of food for thought. I hope you have enjoyed learning about these flags as much as I enjoyed researching them!


The History Behind The Conch Republic Flag

Conch Republic Flag

Conch Republic Flag

Working for a flag company you get a lot of questions about the meaning behind all the different flags that we carry. We had been getting a lot of request for the Conch Republic flag and also a lot of questions about it. So I thought I’d take the time to discuss it’s unique and interesting history. For those of you who have never been to the Conch Republic also known as Key West, it is an understatement to say that it stands out from the rest of the United States. The people that live there are truly a great and unique bunch. Everyone is on island time, like a vacation year round. You never know what you may experience; if you wander into a unknown bar you may find that you are that only one in attendance that is fully clothed. The history of Key West has always been outside the norm from the rest of the United States. This is something they take great pride in, so why should their flag represent anything less?

The Southern Most point of the United States

The Southern Most point of the United States

To drive to Key West, you have to travel the only route south of Florida, crossing several bridges, islands and one 7 mile bridge. It is about a 160 mile drive from the tip of Florida. In fact it is known as the southern most point of the entire United States. Most of Key West’s income relies on tourism. It is such a popular tourist destination because of the year round warm climate, blue water, beaches, seaport, history, abundance of activities and it’s relaxed and unique atmosphere.

In 1982 the United States government felt that illegal immigrants and drugs could easily be brought into the US through the Keys because of its close proximity to Cuba (90 miles away). The government felt it was best to set up a inspection check point or border patrol on the only road leaving the Keys because it was too difficult to watch all of its shore line. The inspection point was so heavily monitored that traffic backed up for miles while all cars were searched. Because there is only one road going in and coming out of the Keys, traffic can be delayed easily on a good day so this newly added check point was not welcomed. The delays became well known and tourism decreased drastically which hurt the economy. The people of the Keys were so upset with the United States and their border control that they began protesting. All protests went unanswered and the people demanded to be heard. On April 23, 1982 the Prime Minister of Key West (Dennis Wardlow) decided they would be heard so he proclaimed the secession of Key West from the United States. The new country would be known as the Conch Republic, they had a flag made and threatened to remove the American one. Immediately following the proclamation read by the Prime Minister the people of Key West started “beating” federal officials in attendance with stale bread. They then surrendered to the federal officials and asked the United States for Foreign aid. Just like the history of Key West their methods were unconventional but they got their point across. The protests of the people were finally heard, although the United States government never formerly acknowledge the succession, they did however remove the border patrol road block.

Key West

Key West

Since then the people of the keys have been proud to be the people of the Conch Republic, the only group to successfully secede from the United States. Their motto is “We seceded where others failed”. It may have only happened in their eyes and the US government never took it seriously but they did what they had to do to save their community. It was a very brave thing but there was some humor behind it. They knew after all, that without the importing of supplies and food from the United States the only thing they would have to eat is Conch.

Sunset Sailing at Key West

Sunset Sailing at Key West

Although the Conch Republic flag initially represented Key West it can now can be seeing flying throughout all the other keys. It represents the unique culture and unconventional ways of the people of the Keys.

Getting Ready For The World Cup

The World Cup, or officially the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup, is the International soccer tournament that has been held every 4 years since 1930. It will be held this year between June 11th and July 11th in South Africa. 13 teams participated in the 1930 tournament and has since grown to a 32 team tournament. The tournament is watched by more people than any other sporting event in the world, even generating more viewers than the olympics! Teams are chosen based on a 3 year span preceding the tournament. For 2010, the teams playing that will be playing in the South African tournament are:

  1. Group A: South Africa (Host Country)
  2. Group A: Mexico
  3. Group A: Uruguay
  4. Group A: France
  5. Group B: Argentina
  6. Group B: Nigeria
  7. Group B: Korea Republic
  8. Group B: Greece
  9. Group C: England
  10. Group C: USA
  11. Group C: Algeria
  12. Group C: Slovenia
  13. Group D: Germany
  14. Group D: Australia
  15. Group D: Serbia
  16. Group D: Ghana
  17. Group E: Netherlands
  18. Group E: Denmark
  19. Group E: Japan
  20. Group E: Cameroon
  21. Group F: Italy
  22. Group F: Paraguay
  23. Group F: New Zealand
  24. Group F: Slovakia
  25. Group G: Brazil
  26. Group G: Korea DPR
  27. Group G: Côte d’Ivoire
  28. Group G: Portugal
  29. Group H: Spain
  30. Group H: Switzerland
  31. Group H: Honduras
  32. Group H: Chile

These teams play in the month long tournament which has become known as the World Cup Finals with the winner being titled as the Fifa World Cup Champion. The 2006 championship match between Italy and France ended in a penalty shootout with Italy taking home the championship. The final match was watched by over 715 million people, or nearly 7 times the amount who watched this year’s Super Bowl!

In the tournament, there are 8 groups of four teams. These teams play a “round-robin” style of play, guaranteeing at least 3 games for each team. Each win for the team rewards 3 points, a tie rewards 1, and a lost rewards 0. Following the round-robin, the top teams in each group advance to the “knockout state” of the tournament which is essentially a single-elimination tournament for the remaining 16 teams. These teams play until there is only one team remaining…the FIFA World Cup Champion!

The original winning teams of the tournament received the Jules Rimet trophy, named for the man who originally created the World Cup concept…Jules Rimet. It featured Nike, the Greek goddess of victory and was constructed of solid gold on a “lapis lazuli” base. It was eventually stolen before the 1966 World Cup but found a few day later under some bushes in London by a dog named Pickles. Pickles quickly became a hero to the World Cup fans. The Jules Rimet trophy was again stolen in 1983 and has not been found since. Many speculations surround what could have happened to the trophy, but no one is totally sure.

The Jules Rimet trophy replacement, the FIFA World Cup trophy, was first given out in 1974 and has been used ever since. It is made from solid 18 carat gold and two layers of malachite. “FIFA World Cup” is engraved on the bottom and will be used until at least 2038 when all of the name plaques on the bottom of the trophy could possibly be filled.

Some of the best performing teams in the World Cup have been:

  • Brazil – 5 Championships
  • Italy – 4 Championships
  • Germany – 3 Championships
  • Argentina – 2 Championships
  • Uruguay – 2 Championships
  • France – 1 Championship
  • England – 1 Championship
  • I am excited about watching the tournament and hope you are as well. If you have never watched before, I encourage you to at least watch the championship game. The excitement surrounding the tournament is unbelievable to say the least and this year, America has a great chance for advancing far into the tournament for one of the first times in recent years. So go ahead and grab your World Cup Flag  and American Flags and get ready for the largest sporting tournament in the world! Go USA!