During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged U.S. citizens to fly the flags of their Allied partners. Calling themselves the "United Nations," the list eventually grew to 47 countries, making it quite difficult for people to display. Taking on the challenge to sum up the nations resisting the Axis powers, designer Brooks B. Harding crafted what is known as the United Nations Honor Flag or Four Freedoms Flag.

It was rather simple: four pillars, bright red on a field of white. But the simplicity made it memorable and underscored its symbolic power. The four vertical bars represented the “Four Freedoms” that FDR had outlined in a 1941 address: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Harding scrambled to have the flag made. He enlisted a Washington seamstress named Sue Siady to worked overtime to sew what was being called the United Nations Honor Flag or the Four Freedoms Flag. It was first formally displayed in Washington on June 14, 1943, Flag Day. A week later, it was raised at Dumbarton Oaks, the Georgetown estate where, a year later, the seeds of today’s United Nations were planted. The flag caught on. You’ll spot it in old photos and on newspaper graphics illustrating the Allied advance across Europe. The British even included the design on packets of cigarettes distributed to their soldiers.

However, Harding's flag would not be adopted by the United Nations when it was founded in 1945, opting for the blue flag bearing the intergovernmental organization's emblem we all recognize today. Head over to the Washington Post to read the full story.

Feature image via John Collier/Library of Congress