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Memel Historical Flags (Prussia, Germany)

now klaipėda, lithuania

Last modified: 2012-09-27 by pete loeser
Keywords: prussia | memel | klaipėda | swallowtailed |
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Memel Civil Ensign 1818-1823
Reported 1848 and 1862

[Memel 1818-1823 (Prussia, Germany)] Image by Jaume Ollé

A black-white-black horizontal triband, swallow-tailed. In the white stripe the letters "MEMEL".
Norman Martin, 20 January 1998

The Prussian government allowed ship owners and sailors to add the name of their own town or province on the white stripe of the merchant ensign (which was the same as the national flag) of the period 1818-1823. The ensign was often swallowtailed. Hamburger (c. 1848) and Norie and Hobbs 1848 report correctly the flag with the name "MEMEL". In conclusion the black-white-black swallowtailed flag with the word "MEMEL" should be considered as a variant of the Prussian 1818-1823 merchant flag used by ships from Memel. It is not to be excluded that such a flag could have been used for some time even after the adoption of the new Prussian ensign in 1823, but it surely would not have survived too long.
Mario Fabretto, 11 August 1998

Norie and Hobbs 1848 shows under "126: Memel" the above flag, except white letters outlined black and slightly smaller.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 12 November 2001

Memel - Variants

[Memel 1818-1823 (Prussia, Germany), variant]     [Memel 1818-1823 (Prussia, Germany), variant swallowtailed]
Images by Jaume Ollé

A variant in Bromme's Atlas shows the Memel flag in dark blue — this may be a printing error.
Norman Martin, 20 January 1998

Memel Civil Ensign reported 1862

[Memel 1862 (Prussia, Germany)] Image by Jaume Ollé

A black-white-black horizontal triband, swallow-tailed.
Norman Martin, 20 January 1998

Memel 1685 and 1737

[Memel 1685 and 1737 (Prussia, Germany)] Image by Jaume Ollé

Reported dubiously as a horizontal triband green-yellow-green. (Memel is a city then in Northern Prussia, now in Lithuania, where it is called Klaipeda).
Norman Martin, 20 January 1998

I seem to recall that the supposed green-yellow-green flag or ensign for Memel was based on a mistranslation. The design was actually for the Mamelukes of Egypt, but after the initial error in translation to another language the mistaken identification was subsequently repeated often in later works.
Ned Smith, 8 June 1998

I got the reference from Siegel 1912. He dates it 1737 and generally flags he dates 1737 are from Van den Kieboom 1737. I do not have a copy of Van den Kieboom 1737 as such. Most other Memel flags are black and white, or red and yellow. There have been other massive errors on old flag charts so that this cannot be ruled out.
Norman Martin, 13 June 1998

I looked in a copy of Norie and Hobbs 1990. It has both flags listed. Memel is under the Prussian section and uses the black-white-black horizontal triband with a split fly and "MEMEL" written on it. The flag of Egypt, shown in the Turkish section, is a green-yellow-green horizontal triband.
Calvin Paige Herring, 13 June 1998

I have found a reference dealing with my previous question of whether the green-yellow-green horizontal triband ever belonged to Memel or was a mistaken identification of the Mameluke flag. In The Flag Bulletin September/October 1985 issue (volume XXIV, number 5) on page 184, in a section entitled Dubious and Inauthentic Flags, is the following statement, "In addition to distortions, there are wrong attributions - as, for example, when the horizontal green-yellow-green of the Mamelukes was reported in some books as the flag of Memel." Since no author is given, the statement presumably came from Whitney Smith, the editor. However, if it was an error, it must have a long history. A 1685-86 flag chart by William Downman shows the green-yellow-green as "Memer". It appears on the chart among northern European flags, not with eastern Mediterranean flags (reprinted in Wilson 1986, page 68, plate IV).
Ned Smith, 16 June 1998

I agree. I missed the flag in Downman. This is particularly interesting since its elements of incompleteness suggest it may have more direct observational input than many charts. Given the very early date, we have a number of problems: Is there any evidence other than flag charts that the flag was ever used for Memel, and if so, when? Is there any evidence other than flag charts that the flag was ever used for the Mamelukes, and if so, when? Even if the answer to the second question were positive, unless we have reason for Mameluke use prior to 1685, we cannot assert with any confidence at all that that is the source of the alleged Memel flag.
Norman Martin, 17 June 1998

Hamburger (c. 1848) contains a very strange plate (clearly added after the completion of the work), with some flag for Brandenburg (but under the title "PREUSSEN") where a green-white-green horizontal flag with the word "MEMEL" on the white stripe reproduced. The plate is strange because it does not show new flags (as one would expect in an addendum) but old flags. It is to be supposed that the green-white-green flag is a mistake deriving from the confusion between Memel and Mamelukes made by other chart compilers in the past. It also seems that the compiler of the second part of Hamburger could have been a different person with respect to whom compiled the first part, given the very good quality of the latter and the rather poor quality of the former with many old and wrong images.
Mario Fabretto, 11 August 1998

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