When a recent inquiry from an SAR member to the staff was made regarding the history of the SAR flag, the staff was surprised to find that unlike most of the society’s symbols and notable events, there was little extant literature of its history. This led to some research into the society’s archives, which revealed an intriguing history of how the flag came into existence.
According Bylaw No. 28 Official Standard, found in Volume 1 page 38 of the current SAR Handbook, “The official SAR Flag consists of three equal vertical bars of blue, white and buff, the blue to be at the hoist. Upon the center or white bar is the insignia of the Society and the name, ‘The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.’”
Unlike some SAR regalia, such as the membership badge and lapel pin, the SAR flag wasn’t introduced at the founding of the society in 1889. It was at the 1897 SAR Congress that the idea for an official flag of the National Society was first introduced. At the next Congress in 1898, there was a discussion about creating a committee to investigate the matter. However, there were many in attendance who did not feel the society needed to adopt a national flag, feeling that it might detract from the importance of the United States flag. In the end, it was decided that a committee would be formed to investigate the issue and was called the “Committee on the Adoption of a National Banner for the S.A.R. Society.”
At the next Congress in 1899 the committee reported their findings to those assembled. The committee also put forth a resolution that the National Society adopt three flags, two for the National Society, and one for the State Societies. The first national flag was to “…be a silk flag of the United States colors, bearing no inscription or device whatever…”, while the second was to “…be of silk material, having thirteen stripes of alternate buff and blue, with a white field, upon which shall be embroidered in gold the cross of the insignia of the Society.” These flags were proposed to be a regulation flag size of four feet four inches by five feet six inches.
The state society flag was proposed to be “…a flag of silk material, of the same regulation size, having three broad perpendicular bars of equal breadth, and in color blue, white and buff, with the blue next [to] the staff. Upon the center of the white bar shall be embroidered in gold the insignia of the Sons of the American Revolution (including eagle.) And in gold letters, either painted or embroidered, the inscription “………..Society S.A.R….”.”
Once the flags were proposed by the committee, a debate ensued regarding whether the society needed its own flag when there was already the United States flag for all to unite under. It was decided to give the matter further consideration and not take a vote on the issue at that time.
At the 1900 Congress, the subject was once again brought to the forefront. Further discussion was held regarding the proposed designs of the SAR flags. Some members felt that the proposed national SAR flag too closely resembled or would deter members from using the United States flag. It was suggested SAR adopt the proposed state society flag, but it would be known as a banner, rather than a flag. This motion was approved. Next, it was proposed that instead of the proposed national SAR flag, the state society banner be adopted as the National banner “…with this change that in place of the name of the State Society, there shall be inscribed the name of the National Society.” This motion was passed, and with it, the SAR gained its official standard which is still in use today.