Signal Flags

Colonial Flag is happy to be one of the largest providers of American flags and flag poles in America, but they also specialize in custom flags, attention flags and banners and signal flags.

The specific designs of individual signal flags are lost to the passage of time. But, they were developed separately for various uses of naval and merchant marine signal codes throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
British naval captains, Popham and Marryat, along with the Board of Trade helped assign these mostly pre-existing designs to specific numbers and letters. For example, a blue flag with a white square on the center was the signal for “about to sail” long before it was assigned to and recognized as the letter P. Also, the solid yellow was used to signal quarantine before it was ever used to represent Q.
It is probably impossible to give credit to a specific individual or nation for the specific design of signal flags since organized naval activities and operations have been recorded as early as Thucydides making mention of them in the Peloponnesian War (431 – 401 BCE). No mention was made of flags, but flags would have been the most likely method.

The first numeral flag code consisted of up to fifteen flags. There are no remaining depictions but according to the written descriptions, they were simple single, bicolor and tricolor designs, including pennants of similar design. Simple design is a necessity at sea as it would be a requirement for seamen to be able to identify signal flags from the greatest possible distance. Signal flags did grow in complexity requiring more flags, created by Popham and Marryat, but they also made use of many flag designs already in existence. This code system they developed gradually grew into the International Code of Signals in use today.
Though you may never have use of maritime signal flags, it is interesting to note their long and lasting tradition. For more information on flags and flag history visit Colonial Flag’s home page. Also come to learn more about setting yourself up with your own custom Colonial flag pole as well as any custom flags, attention banners and flag kits you may need.

3 Responses to “Signal Flags

  • Mortisha Brown
    8 years ago

    Many people are not familiar with signal flags, I mean many really don’t know what are the meaning of the symbol printed in a colored flag. One day, me and my kid was walking down the alley when he asked me something about a signal flag. I never gave the right answer, shame on me.

  • Jasmine Rodriguez
    8 years ago

    I think everyone pledged allegiance to their flags one or the other when we were young. This could be the reason why flags are still in use up until today, and looks like there is no stopping it, especially since it can be customized these days and are readily available to the market as well.

  • Mortisha Brown
    8 years ago

    Flag has been around for so many centuries. A flag, though is just a simple fabric is a very important and sacred material to many individuals as well as group or organizations. There never came a time that it wasn’t mentioned in any History book – how it’s made, when it’s made and who made it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *