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Article: Pennant Flags

American History

Pennant Flags

Pennant flags have been around for centuries. They are used in a variety of places and circumstances and uniquely harbor important messages in their design.

A pennant is a versatile flag that to relay different meanings and messages. It can have several shapes, such as triangular, tapering, or a burgee style. The pennant was one of the principal varieties of flags carried during the Middle Ages. The traditional pennant resembles the guidon flag in shape, but is normally only half the size. It does not often contain coats of arms, but rather crests, mottos, and heraldic and ornamental designs. There are many different types of pennants, and all vary in shape, coloring, material, and purpose.

 

"Country/Honor/Duty" Vintage Army West Point Pennant

 

A commissioning pennant is a pennant flag that is flown from the masthead of a warship. The history of flying a commissioning pennant dates back to the days of chivalry, with trail pennants flown from the mastheads of ships they commanded. Today, the commissioning pennants are hoisted on the day of commissioning and are not taken down until they are decommissioned. Some ships have a custom of flying a "paying off" or "decommissioning pennant," the length of which often reflects the length of service of the warship.

A naval commissioning pennant is flown at all times as long as a ship is in commissioned status, except when a flag officer or civilian official is embarked and flies his personal flag in its place. This commissioning pennant, shown below, has 7 stars and bold red, white, and blue colors. This commissioning pennant was most likely from a launch or small Navy boat.

 

7-Star Naval Commissioning Pennant

 

A sports pennant is used to show support for a particular athletic team. Pennants have been used for all types of athletic levels from high school to collegiate and even professional. Traditionally, pennants were made of felt and fashioned in the official colors of a particular team. Often graphics, usually a mascot or team symbol, as well as the team name were displayed on pennants. The designs were either stitched on with contrasting colored felt or were screen-printed.

Today, vintage pennants with rare images or honoring special victories have become prized collectibles for sporting enthusiasts and are interesting pieces to collect. While pennants are can be associated with athletic teams, pennants have also been made to honor institutions and vacation spots, often acting as souvenirs. New pennants are made of stretched canvas over a wood frame and are used for youth sport awards and special recognition. The sport pennant is a popular branding item that can be impactful on large audiences.

 

New York Yankees Baseball Pennant

 

Pennants can also be created in recognition of events, such as a centennial. Pennants for a centennial would have been created to waive or display during one of the many events. Other commemorative pennants were produced in remembrance of specific events, to highlight clubs and exclusive memberships, and even for presidential elections and campaigns.

Shop our complete collection of flags and pennants on our website here.

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