It was July 9, 1929 that the then-territory of Alaska flew its flag for the first time.

And the flag, which is still used today, was designed by a 13 year old.

Alaska wouldn’t become a state until 1959, but back in the 1920s the push for statehood was already underway.

The territorial governor thought having a flag would make Alaska look more ready to become a state.

And the Alaska American Legion held a flag designing contest for kids in grades 7-12.

Now that could have just been a way to build public support for statehood, but in the end the winner of the contest wound up designing the flag the legislature chose.

The designer was Benny Benson, a Aleutian seventh grader from the southern village of Chignik.

He was living at an orphanage at the time, separated from his father and siblings because of a series of family tragedies.

It was there that he came up with his design: a blue flag, to signify the flower known as the forget-me-not as well as the Alaska sky, and two familiar sights in that sky.

It had the Big Dipper, which is part of the constellation Ursa Major.

Bears are, of course, found in Alaska, and Benson thought the Great Bear represented strength.

And it had the North Star, since Alaska was the northernmost part of the U.S.

It signified the future.

For his achievement, Alaska gave Benson a watch with his design on it, and a $1,000 scholarship.

He also had several streets named after him, and a species of wild grass, “Benson beach wild rye.”

Alaska’s state song describes the flag in much the same way as its creator did, back when he designed it at age 13.


While Alaska marks July 9th as the birthday of its flag, pastry lovers in Maine mark today, too.

It was this day in 1872 that John F. Blondel of Thomaston received a patent for a spring-loaded doughnut hole cutter.

A key moment in the history of fried dough.

Benny Benson: An Alaska Kid Who Made History (Alaska Historical Society)

The Hole Truth: Celebrating a Huge Day in Doughnut History (The Fiscal Times)

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Photo by Kim F via Flickr/Creative Commons