Harry West Flags: Our rich century old history

Harry West Flags: Our rich century old history

Established in 1908, Harry West Flags is amongst some of the oldest Australian businesses still in operation today. Older than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Wesfarmers and QANTAS, we feel it necessary to ensure we keep our rich history alive, and share what we can with you. In doing this, we have found some relics that really put into perspective how old our company is and how much of a journey it has been on over its 116 years. 

Over our 116 years in operations, the company has been owned and run by three families, not all related by blood but all having known each other. Firstly the West Family opened Harry West Pty Ltd in 1908 as a flag maker and sail maker. They operated in East Balmain in a large sailing making loft for many years. When the West's were wanting to sell the business, they handed it down to their associate Mick Lee who owned the business from 1980-2017. He changed the business name to Harry West Flags as he had his own sail making business, Lee Sails, that worked in conjunction with Harry West Flags. Mick Lee moved the workroom around Sydney, firstly to Mosman and settling in Milsons Point where we remain today. In 2017, the Lee's handed the business down to their son in law (Justin Mulkearns) and his sister (Mia Park), and this is when we stopped making sails and Harry West became strictly a flag manufacturing company. See image below of the way our brand name logo has evolved and changed over the years. 

We have recently added a new collection to our web store called 'Vintage/historical flags'. This collection came to be when we were sorting through our storage boxes that had been moved from location to location over the years. We keep some flags for samples and examples and over the years we had accumulated some that really show our age. Firstly, and potentially most interestingly, we found a flag labelled 'South Arabia' (pictured in the title image). At first when we stumbled across this, we were confused and unsure whether it had been labelled incorrectly by the previous owner, but after some research we discovered that The Federation of South Arabia (FSA) was a federal state under British Protection in what would become South Yemen. The federation was formed in 1962 and abolished a short 5 years later in 1967. This means that the production date of this flag would be between 1962 and 1967, and would have been made in our original East Balmain Loft location, making it over 60 years old. This flag has never been flown and still in incredible condition, showing how well made our flags are, with the highest quality materials, since our establishment. There are a variety of other old, vintage and historical flags in this collection that all tell their own stories and emphasise how old Harry West Flags truly is. 

Another aspect that contributes to Harry West Flags rich century old history, is our presence in museums. The Australian National Maritime Museum is one of our longest standing clients and now we have the privilege of having some of our flags and other old accessories we used to make such as life jackets and safety belts for surf life saving, displayed in their museum. We also have flags and life jackets in various other museums around the country, including The Bendigo Military Museum, The Powerhouse Museum and the RAN Heritage Collection Sea Power Centre with items dating back to the 1930's. These flags and products served the Navy, Surf Life Saving Clubs and various other groups over the years, and they definitely show signs of wear and tear, but with some things being nearly 100 years old, the fact they are still in one piece is something we ought to be proud of. 

Check out some of our historical products here: