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The Chequered Flag

Last modified: 2012-01-06 by rob raeside
Keywords: chequered flag |
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[Formula 1 chequered flag] image by Phil Nelson

See also:

Reported Origin

I found this page on the origin of the chequered flag:

Whether the reference is correct I don't know.

Last week, I asked what was the origin of the chequered flag to signify the end of a motor race? The 'real' answer was given to me by one of my motoring mates, Vic Garra, as I had tried last year to get an answer and failed! According to Vic's research, the Americans claim the origin. I quote, "One flag which is widely used today is the checkered flag. This flag indicates that the racing event is over or concluded. It owes its past to the ladies of small mid western towns. These townships would sponsor a horse racing event and would have competitors come from miles around to either race their horses or just watch the festivities. The town's ladies would cook up huge meals and serve them on the race grounds. It has been written that when the meal was ready to be served, the ladies would start waving a checkered table cloth to indicate to the spectators and racers that the racing was over and it was time to come and eat. The use of the checkered table cloth carried over to when automobiles replaced horses and somewhere along the way, the big meals on the grounds were no longer prepared. But the checkered table cloth remained as the indication that the race is over. It is used extensively today to indicate the Winner and a Champion."

anonymous, 14 July 2005

"Origins of the chequered flag
The exact origins of the use of a chequered flag to end races are lost in history, although there are many theories. A possible though unlikely theory is that horse races during the early days of the settlement of the American Midwest were followed by large public meals and that to signal that the meals were ready and racing should come to an end, a chequered tablecloth was waved. Another origin theory claim is that the chequered flag's earliest known use was for 19th century bicycle races in France. A more likely explanation is that a high-contrast flag would be more conspicuous against the background of a crowd, especially when early races were run on dirt tracks (and therefore dust reduced the driver's visibility).

The earliest known photographic record of a chequered flag being used to end a race was from the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race held in Long Island, New York. (picture seen here:

A 2006 publication "The Origin of the Checker Flag - A Search for Racing's Holy Grail", written by historian Fred Egloff and published by the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, traces the flag's origin to one Sidney Waldon, an employee of the Packard Motor Car Company, who in 1906 devised the flag to mark "checking stations" (now called "checkpoints") along the rally-style events of the Glidden Tour.

Use outside auto racing
The chequered flag has become so well recognized that it is often used to indicate the conclusion of many things unrelated to auto racing. For example, some software installation programs display a chequered flag to indicate that a computer program has been installed successfully. Chequered flags were also posted at each corner of the end zones in the original Yankee Stadium when the facility was used by the New York Giants of the National Football League from 1956 through 1973."


Esteban Rivera, 24 December 2011