Sorry, Montana! America’s best and worst state flags

Mike Rowe’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT Thursdays on CNN.

CNN  — 

There have been many variations of the American flag throughout history, but only one that can lay claim to inspiring the national anthem.

It was sewn together on the floor of a brewery and took 11 men to hoist up the flagpole. After a night of British bombardment, it still flew over Fort McHenry during the “dawn’s early light” on September 14, 1814, as Francis Scott Key wrote in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

That was more than 200 years ago but our flag is still inspiring people like CNN’s Mike Rowe to trace its history.

So, what makes the American Flag so special? One word: Simplicity.

Ted Kaye, who literally wrote the book on good flag design titled “Good Flag, Bad Flag,” says “flags should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.”

The U.S. flag also follows other key principles of good design like use of basic colors, meaningful symbolism and being distinctive enough to be seen from afar or while moving.

“From its start in 1777, the U.S. flag’s design is effective when streaming in the wind, hanging limp from an indoor pole or covering a casket.” Kaye says. “Only simple designs make effective flags.”

Not all flags are created equal

On the latest episode of “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” Mike Rowe pays a visit Fort McHenry where the original “Star Spangled Banner” flew, and a gigantic replica still flies today.

The only difference in the flag that flew in 1814 and the one we see now is the number of stars. That, coincidentally, is the only critique that Ted Kaye has about the current U.S. flag. As the number of states has increased, the stars have had to shrink in size making them harder to see.

While the American flag is great in design, not all of the states it represents have followed its lead with their own flags.

“Some U.S. state flags have great designs, but they are far outnumbered by the terrible ones,” Kaye says. “In fact, nearly half of our state flags sport a seal on a blue field – as a result, they are indistinguishable from one another at a distance. “

So which states have the best flags and which have the worst?

Kaye and the North American Vexillological Association (a group dedicated to the scientific and scholarly study of flags) held an online survey open to the public to rank the state flags. Click through the gallery above and see if your state made the list, for better or worse.

01:11 - Source: CNN
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