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Historical Flags (Cook Islands, New Zealand)


Last modified: 2005-01-29 by
Keywords: cook islands | new zealand | rarotonga | historical | stars: 3 (blue) | stars: 4 (red) | canton: union flag | disc (white) | palm tree | stars: 15 (yellow) | ensign: green | south pacific trading company | proposal |
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Flag 1850-1888 (Rarotonga Ensign)

[Cook Islands 1850-1888] 1:2
by Željko Heimer

Horizontal triband in red-white-red; in the white stripe three 5-pointed stars in dark blue (positions at 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 of the width). At this time the islands presumably were independent under the name of Rarotonga. I am not quite sure of the size of the stars, but one can argue if such things were fully standardized in the mid-19th century. Source: Hesmer 1992.

Harald Müller, 21 February 1996

"The ensign of Rarotonga, which flies over sundry islands in the Pacific, has a field consisting of three stripes, the upper and the lower red and the middle one white. Upon the white stripe are three five-pointed stars." The flag sounds authentic to me, as isn't the red-white-red flag of French Polynesia supposed to be based on an indigenous flag tradition?

Roy Stilling, 20 February 1996

I have found a reference to the flag of the South Pacific Trading Company (a New Zealand based company formed in the 1870s) which is the same as Josh [Fruhlinger?]'s GIF [?], with the addition of "S P" on the top red band and "T Co" on the lower one. My source (New Zealand Encyclopedia 1966) says the company's flag "...placed the initial letters of the company's name on the red panels of Queen Makea's (of Rarotonga) personal standard".

Stuart Park, 21 February 1996

Flag 1888-1893

[Cook Islands 1888-1893] 1:2
by Željko Heimer

In 1888 a British protectorate had been established, the name presumably was still Rarotonga (no sources on that!). The Union Jack in the upper hoist corner is added to the 1850 flag. Note that, assuming the usual dimensions of the UJ (i.e. covering one fourth of the flag), two of the stars are partly hidden. Source: Hesmer 1992.

Harald Müller, 21 February 1996

Flag 1893-1901

[Cook Islands 1893-1901] 1:2
by Željko Heimer

The three stars were removed from the 1888 flag. The flag is red-white-red plus the Union Jack. In the center of the Union Jack a white disk bearing a palm tree is added (dimensions like the blue disk on the Union Jack in Niue's flag). The palm tree probably stands on a piece of soil (according to a picture in a bank note catalogue). I have found no details, so natural colors (green leaves and soil, brown trunk) can be assumed. The name was by now most likely "Cook Islands" (at least the above-mentioned bank note was issued in the name of a "Government of the C.I."). Source: Hesmer 1992.

Harald Müller, 21 February 1996

To further confuse the issue, Farrow 199x has, "Between 1888 and 1901 Raratonga had four versions of a red/white/red horizontal triband with a Union Flag in the canton (one version having the Union defaced with a badge)". A Gale and Polden flag chart of about 1900 shows the version with a palm tree in a circular badge defacing the Union and labels it, "Federal Flag of Cook Island Group (Samoa)".

David Prothero, 4 October 1997

Flag 1901-1902

[Cook Islands 1901-1902] 1:2
by António Martins

Flag 1902-1973

[Cook Islands 1902-1973] 1:2
by António Martins and Željko Heimer

After 1901 the Cook Islands were administered by New Zealand. No flag was used until the 1970s. This would be the Green Ensign adopted in 1973, and later the Blue Ensign in 1985. Source: Hesmer 1992.

Harald Müller, 21 February 1996

Flag 1973-1985 (Green Ensign)

[Cook Islands 1973-1985 (Green Ensign)] 1:2
by Jaume Ollé
Flag adopted 11th January or 23rd July 1973

On 4 August 1965 the Cook Islands (located in the Pacific Ocean) acquired autonomy, in an address by Premier Sir Albert Henry. In 1973 a national flag was announced, being green in colour (as the colour of life and everlasting growth) with fifteen stars (in the culture of the Cook Islands the stars represent faith in God) in yellow (yellow represents the people, their friendliness, their hope, faith, dedication, love, and happiness) in a circle symbolizing the unity of the fifteen islands and the union between the land and the people. The design was considered equally powerful in either a horizontal or vertical orientation. In 1975 Premier Sir Albert Henry generously sent me various details on the flag, including some photos with the national flag flying in the background and some stickers of the flag made in New Zealand. The proportion is 1:2.

Jaume Ollé, 17 July 1996

I understand that this design was not quite official. Or was it? Smith 1975 shows it, dating it 1973, and claiming that Cook Islands used several other flags as an independent country and protectorate before, but does not describe them. In Smith 1975 all the stars are pointing up (as on the European Union flag), and not outwards (as on current Cook Islands flag). By the way, Smith 1975 lists this flag as i.e. used for all purposes on land. Does that mean that Cook Islands had/has an army?

Željko Heimer, 20 July 1996

In Inglefield 1979 the stars are pointing up too. However, in the photos and flag stickers sent [to] me by Sir Albert Henry the stars are pointing outwards.

Jaume Ollé, 17 July 1996

According to Barraclough and Crampton 1981, p. 212:

The Cook Islands achieved internal self-government on 4 August 1965 and adopted a distinctive flag on 23 July 1973. This is one by two with a green field bearing a ring of fifteen gold stars on the fly. It was designed by an inhabitant of Titikaveka and was the winning entry in a competition. The stars represent the islands of the group.
But according to Crampton 1989, p. 126:
The previous flag had been adopted on 11 January 1973, following the achievement of internal self-government.

Santiago Dotor, 4 January 2000

Len Staples' 1973 Proposal

[Len Staples' 1973 proposal (Cook Islands)] 1:2
by Santiago Dotor

According to Barraclough and Crampton 1981, p. 252, "The present flag is not unlike that originally submitted by Len Staples in the 1973 competition. His design had a smaller Union Jack, a light blue field and yellow stars".

Santiago Dotor, 4 January 2000