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Benny Benson
the story of Alaska's flag

Benny Benson's original submission for the Alaska flag contest. Benny's written explanation reads, "The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaska flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly of the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear -- symbolizing strength." Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Museum.

John Ben Benson Jr., or, as he was better known as, Benny Benson, was born on Oct. 12, 1913 in Chignik, a small village on the Alaska Peninsula. Following the loss of their mother in the catastrophic epidemics that were raging among Alaska Native villages at the time, Benny and his brother were sent to the Jesse Lee Home.

The American Legion, Department of Alaska, sponsored a competition in 1927 among Alaska's schoolchildren to design the state's flag. Benny Benson, by then a 13-year-old student at the Jesse Lee Home, submitted the winning design. His flag featured the Big Dipper constellation, eight stars of gold, on a blue background.

On July 9, 1927, Alaska's flag was raised for the first time at the Jesse Lee Home. Benny Benson and his design for Alaska's flag are a source of pride for the Alaska Native community and all Alaskans. July 9 is still commemorated as Alaska Flag Day.

The flag unfurled

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