More than 30 years before Alaska became a state, the Alaska Department of the American Legion sponsored a territorial contest for Alaska children in grades seven
through twelve. A flag was needed to represent the future state of Alaska and someone thought it would be a good idea to tap into the creativity of these kids.
The competition rules were distributed in January 1927 throughout the Alaska Territory. The rules stipulated that the first phase of the competition should be local.
Each city would form a jury that would identify the ten best local designs and forward them to Juneau, where the final contest would take place. A total of 142 designs
were forwarded to Juneau.
Submissions examined by the Juneau Flag Committee represented some interesting concepts and eventually were rejected. All of these concepts were rejected as being too
specific for one or another particular aspect of the vast Alaskan territory. A few designs focused on polar bears. A design showed a polar bear on an iceberg. Another had
a polar bear balancing on top of the globe. Others depicted images depicting Alaska's fishing and mining industry. About 1/3 of the entries focused on the territorial
The winner of the competition was a seventh grade student, thirteen-year-old John Bell (Benny) Benson from Chignik. He lived at the time of the competition in an orphanage in Seward, the Jesse Lee Mission Home.
He designed the current Alaska National Flag with a blue background to represent the sky and forget-me-not flower. On this background, eight golden stars were placed to represent the Big Dipper and the North Star. The Big Dipper forms part of the constellation Ursa Major or Big Bear; symbolizes strength. * The North Star represents the future state of Alaska, the northernmost in the Union. Benny's simple, elegant design was adopted by the Alaska Territorial Legislation in May 1927.
For his efforts, Benny received the first prize, a gold watch engraved with his flag design. In addition, the Alaska Legislatury Benny awarded $ 1,000 for a trip to Washington, DC to present the Alaska flag to President Calvin Coolidge. Unfortunately, the trip to Washington never took place due to past commitments by the President. Although Benny never made it to Washington, his territorial flag became the official "national flag" when Alaska joined the Union in 1959. The Alaska Legislature decided to use Benny's $ 1,000 prize for his education. Benny opted for diesel engines.
In 1967, the state of Alaska adopted "North to the Future" as its official state motto linking its geographic position to the promising future prospects of the northernmost state.
On January 17, 2002, on the occasion of the opening of the Alaska State Museum's exhibition commemorating the 75th anniversary of the flag's inauguration, Alaska's Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmar Benny Benson has been honored.
"Benny Benson has had a major impact on Alaska's history as he submitted his contribution to the Big Dipper and the North Star, and his story is a wonderful example of how a young person can really make a difference in the meaning of ideas and to hear opinions of young people. "
Benny's contribution was honored by the city of Anchorage, where you could walk along Benson Boulevard and Kodiak, where you could walk along Benny Benson Drive. The
Benny Benson Secondary School at Anchorage is a S.A.V.E. II School (Specialized Academic and Vocational Training) specializing in a Work-Study Educational Program for students.