The Flag Shop is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Whitney Smith, on November 17, taken too soon by Alzheimer’s disease, at the age of 76.
(Whitney Smith holding the flag of Guyana, which was based on his design.)
Dr. Smith was the President Emeritus, founder and first president of the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA). He was passionate about the pursuit of knowledge of flags, as well as the advancement of the formal study and analysis of flags, coining the term “vexillology.” Throughout his life, he dedicated himself to the pursuit of all things relating to flags. Whitney was truly the greatest of his time and through the work of NAVA, he gave flags immeasurable significance in today’s culture.
As a small boy, Whitney became obsessed with flags and his enthusiasm only grew with the passage of time. In 1961, Dr. Smith and his colleague Gerhard Grahl co-founded the world’s first journal on the subject of flags: The Flag Bulletin #234, and a year later, in 1962, he established The Flag Research Center, as its director and all The Flag Shop locations across Canada came to rely on him for his knowledge and expertise. Indeed, he became known internationally as the foremost vexillological expert, providing influential knowledge about all aspects of flags.
The Flag Shop President, Susan Braverman recalls first meeting Dr. Smith at the age of 13, and says, “I absolutely loved Whitney!! He was bigger than life with a gentle spirit. Growing up, I remember, as a child that no one knew more about flags than Whitney. He was so passionate about sharing his knowledge and was a dear friend to our Flag Shop family! I will miss him so much!”
(Susan Braverman with Whitney and her mother, Doreen, the founder of The Flag Shop.)
Throughout his amazing career, he authored scores of books including Flags through the Ages and Across the World, The Flag Book of the United States and Flag Lore of All Nations. He also wrote more than 250 articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was Whitney’s books that gave a name and deeper significance to what we do. His passion paved the way, sparking interest and dialogue among flag enthusiasts the world over.
Dr. Smith was the designer of flags such as the national flag of Guyana. As Guyana was emerging from British colonial rule, Smith wrote a letter to an independence leader and asked what the new country’s flag was going look like. He learned that a flag had not yet been designed and was asked for ideas. Whitney designed a prototype, depicting a golden arrow-like triangle with an overlapping red triangle against a green background. The flag was adopted, with minor modifications. Dr. Smith learned about the adoption of his flag design six years later, when Guyana gained formal independence.
Before the age of the internet, he was the forefather of the flag movement in North America and internationally. Whitney was known for designing the flag for the Saudi Navy and for advising the Smithsonian Institution about the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner which flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Dr. Smith also contributed to the design of flags for the islands of Bonaire and Aruba. In his lifetime, his vast collection exceeded 4,000 flags.
The Flag Shop extends deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr. Whitney Smith. He will be missed by flag buffs, experts and vexillologists around the world.