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No law has ever been passed to make the Union jack the national flag of the United Kingdom. Instead, it has become so through precedent. Its first recorded recognition as a national flag came in 1908, when it was stated in Parliament that, "the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag." A more categorical statement was made by the Home Secretary, Sir John Gilmour, in 1933 when he stated that, "the Union Jack is the National Flag." It is still officially a flag of the monarch, however, rather than the country. Civilian use of the Union Jack is permitted on land, but non-naval/military use at sea is prohibited. On land, the Union Jack can be flown by any individual or organization on any day they wish. Until very recently, however, government was strictly regulated. Prior to 2007, it could only be flown on government buildings on certain specified days, such as those marking the birthdays of members of the Royal Family, the wedding anniversary of the Monarch, Commonwealth Day, Accession Day, Coronation Day, The Queen's official birthday, Remembrance Sunday and on the days of the State Opening and prorogation of Parliament. At sea, different rules apply. Prior to 1864, the Red Ensign, White Ensign and Blue Ensign were all flown by ships of the Royal Navy (RN). In that year, all RN ships were ordered to fly the White Ensign and it became the sole naval flag of the United Kingdom. Until the mid- to late
1960s, the White Ensign was also flown by Canadian, Australian and New Zealand warships. The Blue Ensign was reserved for merchant vessels whose masters are qualified Royal Naval Reserve [RNR] officers and which meet certain other requirements, while the Red Ensign became the British civil ensign. When flown from the bows of RN ships, the Union Jack is the British naval jack. When flown from the mast in 2:3 proportions, it is the rank flag of an Admiral of the Fleet. At sea, the Union Jack is reserved for the RN and no other British ships are permitted to fly it.
PRESS-DYED FLAGS IN THE U.S. AND GREAT BRITAIN:
Press-dyed wool flags have a nicer appearance and more interesting texture than flags printed on cotton or silk. Most printed flags were made of cotton, because cotton was inexpensive and such flags were often intended for one day’s use at a specific parade, political rally or some other patriotic event. But some events, such as World’s Fairs, often lasted for six months and required decorative flags that would last for a longer period. Pressdyed wool flags were made for precisely this purpose in America, because wool sheds water and is more appropriate than cotton for extended outdoor use. They were also produced to serve as military camp colors and small boat ensigns for the U.S. Navy. In America, press-dyeing received its first patent in 1849. It was initially thought to be a novel idea that would improve efficiency in manufacture, but it never gained great popularity, probably because it was found to be less effective and efficient than sewing. Since it was a resist-dye process, to achieve red stripes, strips of waxed fabric or paper had to be cut out and carefully placed on both sides of a length of white wool bunting, which was then pressed very hard and dyed red. The areas where the fabric or paper was placed would not absorb the dye and thus be left white. The process was then repeated to create the blue canton with white stars. This inexact art would often add crude characteristics, such as stripes with irregular borders, in various widths, and stars with inconsistent shapes, in varied sizes. It is likely that this resulted in lost product and wasted time, from flags that had bleeding or misprint issues and were of too poor quality to sell. In the U.S., the method seems to have disappeared entirely by the mid-1890s British manufacturers, however, had far greater experience with printing patterns on wool, which is extremely difficult, even today. In Britain, the popularity of press-dying flags seems to have taken hold in the late 1890s, just after America had abandoned it, and it continued at least into the 1960’s. These flags are much crisper than their American-made, 19th century counterparts. ITEM DESCRIPTION: British Union Jack, made sometime between approximately WWI (British involvement 19141918) and WWII (British involvement 1939-1945), probably on the early side of this date bracket. Construction: Press-dyed wool bunting, bound on all four sides with machine stitching. Mounting: The flag is not currently mounted. For more information, please visit Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques’ page on CollectorsNet.com.