The Allegheny County Flag
to the Moon and Back
In July of 1971, the Allegheny County flag was carried to the moon on the flight of Apollo 15, man's fourth lunar landing expedition. Lt. Colonel James B. Irwin, the first astronaut born in Allegheny County was the man who carried the flag. The Allegheny County flag is the first county flag ever to have made the trip to the moon and back.
Colonel Irwin, who was born in Beechview and lived in Brookline until he was 10, said he was proud to have been asked to take the 6 by 6 ½-inch flag among the $17 million cargo that was aboard the lunar module Falcon.
The late Allegheny County Commission Chairman Leonard C. Staisey asked Col. Irwin to take the flag on his moon mission as a prelude to honoring the astronaut here as a native of the county. Irwin agreed to add the county flag to the Falcon's cargo with plans to return it to the county for permanent display for the citizens of Allegheny County.
The flag features the county seal on a background of royal blue. The seal dates back to colonial days and features a shield bearing a ship, which symbolizes the vast commercial traffic which Allegheny County carries on; a plough, signifying subterranean and earth-related resources; and sheaves of wheat typifying the county's harvests, both agricultural and as a result of human industry. Surrounding the seal are a cornstalk signifying abundance; an olive branch which stands for peace; and an eagle, which denotes sovereignty.
Col. Irwin presented the flag to Commissioner Staisey at the annual Allegheny County Fair and Western Pennsylvania Exposition on Labor Day, September 6, 1971. In return, Commissioner Staisey presented to Col. Irwin a gift from the citizens of the county made of Allegheny County products. The 17-pound glass sculpture rests on a mahogany base. The carving depicts an outline of Allegheny County in which an astronaut is implanting the American flag on the moon's surface. In the distance is etched the earth. It is the only sculpture of its kind in existence.
The moon flag along with the photos of Col. Irwin standing on the surface of the moon, with a back pack containing the flag, have been enclosed in a glass container through the courtesy of PPG Industries.
The county's Bureau of Public Information conceived the idea of the "moon flag" and engineered all aspects of the plan. The county's Public Works Department specially created the silk-screen emblem which fit in the astronaut's backpack.