State and Local Governments

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Two states and at least two cities have adopted distinctive flags for display afloat.  In addition, a number of state and local agencies, from police departments to port authorities, use special flags to mark the boats and facilities.  The following are arranged by state.


Port of San Francisco


Merchant and Marine Flag

The Maine "merchant and marine flag" was adopted by the state legislature in 1939.  It is white with a green pine tree, a motif common in historical New England flags.  At the foot of the tree is a blue anchor.  Above the tree is the state motto, Dirigo (I direct), and below it the name "Maine," both in blue letters.  The Arctic explorer Donald Baxter MacMillan took the Maine marine flag with him on his 1939 expedition aboard the schooner Bowdoin; the actual flag presented to MacMillan by the governor of Maine was subsequently discovered in the Bowdoin's flag locker in 1986 and is housed at the Maine Maritime Academy, which now owns the schooner.  According to Dave Martucci, writing on the Flags of the World website (the source of much of the above information), this flag is rarely used, even aboard the Maine Maritime Academy's training ship, State of Maine, or the state ferries.  Instead, these ships fly the ordinary state flag.

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Port of Baltimore

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Naval and Maritime Flag

The General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (chapter 2, section 3) prescribe that the naval and maritime flag will be a white rectangular field with a green pine tree.  This flag, with the motto "Appeal to Heaven" or "An Appeal to Heaven" in black upper case letters below the tree, was adopted in December 1775 as the ensign of the Massachusetts Navy.  The motto was deleted in 1971, but otherwise the flag has remained on the books for 225 years.

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New Jersey

See Port Authority of New York and New Jersey under New York

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New York

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates one of the world's greatest transportation networks, including the seaport facilities on both the New York and New Jersey sides of New York Bay, the major Manhattan bus terminal, the bridges and tunnels connecting the various boroughs of New York with the mainland and each other, several ferry services, and John F. Kennedy, Laguardia, and Newark International airports.  The flag is divided vertically into the colors of the fields of the flags of the two states in which the Authority operates.  On white disks are the full coats of arms of the two states, New York's on the blue and New Jersey's on the yellow (properly buff).

New York Police Department

The New York Police Department flies its distinctive flag on police boats patrolling the city's extensive waterways.  This flag, adopted in 1919, has five green and white stripes symbolizing the five boroughs of the city, while the stars on the blue canton represent the original cities, towns, and villages that were consolidated over time into the City of New York.  The blue represents the blue uniform of the police force, while the emerald green is described as the sentimental color of the police--an allusion to the tradition of Irish-Americans serving in the NYPD.

New York Fire Department

This flag can sometimes be seen aboard the fleet of firefighting vessels operated by the New York Fire Department. It is also carried by a color guard on ceremonial occasions. As in the case of the NYPD flag, the five stripes represent the city's five boroughs. On the canton is the FDNY emblem, the so-called Maltese or St. Florian's cross (a cross paty with the arms terminating in a waved line) with the city seal on the center.

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Pennsylvania's two largest cities have similar "city ensigns" prescribed by ordinance, in addition to their city flags for use on land.  Both are vertical tribands in 3:4 proportions with the respective crests from the city coats of arms on the center surrounded by 13 blue stars.  Philadelphia's flag and ensign are blue and yellow, while Pittsburgh's are black and yellow.  The Philadelphia crest is an arm embowed holding a balance while Pittsburgh's is a black castle with white masoning.
Philadelphia City Ensign Pittsburgh City Ensign

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Copyright 2000, 2001 by Joseph McMillan