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Brazilian Empire: Provincial Flags

Last modified: 2010-11-27 by ian macdonald
Keywords: provinces | merchant marine | registration |
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About Provincial Flags under the Brazilian Empire

During the Empire the Brazilian provinces did not have flags. Only after the Republic was proclaimed and the provinces turned into states were they allowed to have flags. In fact, many of the state flags have some relation to regional republican uprisings during the Empire.
Vantuyl Barbosa, 21 January 1998

Some months ago I read in Clóvis Ribeiro that the provinces of the Empire had their own flags, but that these flags were not used in the provinces themselves. The flags just signified the origin of the ships coming to the port of Rio de Janeiro. But I found a document of the Government of Rio Grande do Sul justifying the reintroduction of the state flag (the document is from the 1930s) saying that even the imperial provinces had their own flags, used in the provinces as regional symbols, and referring to the Carlos Piquet Collection as proof. Well, this collection of flags is in the Brazilian Historical Museum, and there I found--yes, in the register--Bandeiras Provinciais do Império (Provincial Flags of the Empire). The museum staff member, Ms. Ana Maria, said that almost all the flags in the collection had been destroyd by time, including the flags of the provinces. She told me that the flags had been very simple (according to her memory). So I had a feeling that the [merchant ship registration] pennants showed on the Flags of the World pages on the Brazilian states were indeed, in other proportions, also the symbols of the Brazilian provinces. So let's see:

  1. 1.Some of these flags were used as flags of the states until an official flag was introduced, such as Espírito Santo and Ceará. Ms. Ana Maria recognized the old Ceará flag as resembling a flag in the Carlos Piquet collection.
  2. 2.Some flags are very similar to the flag of today, such as Rio de Janeiro, [pre-1963] Alagoas (the ancient flag plus the coat of arms), and Rio Grande do Norte (blue changed to green).
Considering that these flags were used by the states under the republic, the hypothesis that they were used only as signals under the empire seems very remote. Also, the Cisplatine Province had its own flag, and I didn't find any law of the Empire that forbade the provinces from having their own flags.
André Pires Godinho, 11 May 2003

Imperial Merchant Marine Registration Pennants

The French Navy's Album de Pavillons of 1858 shows a set of galhardetes (normally translated pennants) flown by Brazilian merchant ships to indicate their province of origin. The galhardetes were rectangular, approximately 1:6. They were all simple geometric patterns, more or less like signal flags.
Joseph McMillan, 17 April 2001

Links to Imperial Merchant Marine Pennants

These flags look very similar to the "registration flags" used in France, Spain, and Mexico at the same period. The French arrondissement flags are sometimes erroneously presented as provincial or local flags, especially those used for the ships registered in the colonies. The equivalent Spanish flags have been indeed the source of modern provincial flags. All these flags have rather simple geometrical design, most probably because they should be identified from far away and in bad weather conditions. The Brazilian flags are also fairly simple.
Ivan Sache, 13 May 2003