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North German Confederation 1867-1871 (Germany)

norddeutscher bund

Last modified: 2013-11-20 by pete loeser
Keywords: germany | north german confederation | norddeutscher bund | historical | eagle | iron cross | cross: formy (black) | cross: scandinavian (fimbriated) | disc (white) | circle (black) |
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[North German Confederation 1867-1871 (Germany)] 2:3 Image by António Martins
Flag adopted 25th June 1867, extended to all Germany 16th April 1871, gradually abandoned after 1919, abolished 31st December 1921


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Introduction: North German Confederation

     After the success of Prussia in the six weeks Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Prussia annexed Schleswig-Holstein, Frankfurt, Hesse-Homburg, Nassau and Electoral Hesse, so that all of Germany north of the river Main were either Prussian or allied with Prussia.
     Prussia then created the North German League (Norddeutscher Bund), complete with Wilhelm I of Prussia as head of state and a North German Reichstag in Berlin.
Norman Martin, 26 January 2001


Civil Ensign 1867-1870 (1871-1892)
(also used as War Ensign 25th June - 1st October 1867)

[North German Confederation 1867-1871 (Germany)] 2:3 Image by António Martins
Flag adopted 25th June 1867, extended to all Germany 16th April 1871, gradually abandoned after 1919, abolished 31st December 1921

The schwarz-weiß-rot (black-white-red) flag was adopted by the North-German Union [Norddeutscher Bund] in 1867, as a combination of the black-white of Prussia and the red-white of the Hanseatic League. In 1871 it was adopted as merchant flag for the German Empire.
Norman Martin, 1998

     Article 55 of the Constitution of the North German League (adopted 25 June 1867) provided "Die Flagge der Kriegs- und Handelsmarine ist schwarz-weiß-rot" (the flag of the navy and merchant fleet is black-white-red). This was subsequently defined as a black-white-red horizontal tricolor with proportions 2:3. It was officially declared to be the merchant flag by the Imperial Ordinance of 25 October 1867.
     It is not completely clear what the significance of this new flag is. The most common theory is that it was a combination of the Prussian black-white and the white and red of the Hanseatic League (this was indeed suggested by the secretary of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce in 1866). Other guesses are the combination of Prussia and the largest sea power Hamburg, or again (much less likely) Prussia and Brandenburg. (The same flag had long been used by the city of Allenstein, but this is probably coincidental). Bismark is quoted as having said in 1871 that any colors would do as long as it wasn't the black-red-gold. With the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, it was maintained.
     Given Art. 55 of the North German League, it might be thought that the black-white-red tricolor served also as the ensign for North German warships from 25 June 1867 until 1 October 1867, when it was replaced by the Kriegsflagge. While I do not know of any direct evidence, I think it more likely that they (or at least most of them) simply used their previous Prussian (or Mecklenburg etc.) flags until the new flags were adopted.
Source: my series [of contributions to FOTW] on the flags of the German Empire of 1998, much material from the article I wrote with Rüdiger Dreyhaupt (Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999) and some other material.
Norman Martin, 26 January 2001

The black-white-red flag was only a civil ensign during 1867-1870, and only gradually became civil flag in the 1871-1892 period, when this use was legally prescribed.
Marcus Schmöger, 31 March 2002


North German Confederation War Ensign
Norddeutscher Bund Kriegsflagge

[War Ensign 1867-1892 (North German Confederation 1867-1871)] 3:5 Image by Jaume Ollé
Flag adopted 1st October 1867

By decree of Wilhelm I (as head of state) on 4 July 1867, the Kriegsflagge (war ensign) of the North German League and the Kriegsgösch (jack) were established. By the Cabinet Order of 10 September 1867, effective 1 October 1867, these flags were flown by all North German (later German) naval ships... The Kriegsflagge was defined as a rectangle whose white field is divided by a black cross cotised white into four fields. At the intersection of the arms of the cross is a medallion-like disk, with a thin black border which carries the Prussian eagle. The upper left field (canton) has the same design as the jack. It had the proportions 3:5... When the Empire was established in 1871, use of these flags was maintained.
Sources: my series [of contributions to FOTW] on the flags of the German Empire of 1998, much material from the article I wrote with Rüdiger Dreyhaupt (Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999) and some other material.
Illustrations (only major vexillological sources): Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999, no. 16; Znamierowski 1999, p. 90.
Norman Martin, 26 January 2001


North German Confederation Navy Jack
Norddeutscher Bund Kriegsgösch

[Jack 1867-1903 (Germany)] 2:3 Image by Jaume Ollé and Antönio Martins
Flag adopted 1st October 1867

By decree of Wilhelm I (as head of state) on 4 July 1867, the Kriegsflagge (war ensign) of the North German League and the Kriegsgösch (jack) were established. By the Cabinet Order of 10 September 1867, effective 1 October 1867, these flags were flown by all North German (later German) naval ships. The jack consisted of the black-white-red national colors with (slightly biased towards hoist) a black Iron Cross (cotised white) 5/9 the height of the flag. It had the proportions 2:3. (...) The height of the jack was set at 3/7 of the ensign on the same ship. When the Empire was established in 1871, use of these flags was maintained.
Sources: my series [of contributions to FOTW] on the flags of the German Empire of 1998, much material from the article I wrote with Rüdiger Dreyhaupt (Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999) and some other material.
Illustrations (only major vexillological sources): Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999, no. 16b; Crampton 1990, p. 42 (which is a copy of Meyers Konversationslexikon, 6 ed., vol. 4, facing p. 799) no. 17; United States Navy 1899, p. 23.
Norman Martin, 26 January 2001


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