Craig Byrnes




Early in 1996, Craig Byrnes, known to many Washington, DC-area bears as Mr. Baltimore Bear Cub ’93 and Mr. TBLC of Virginia ’94, began presenting area clubs and organizations with a new flag—the “INTERNATIONAL BEAR BROTHERHOOD FLAG.” The flag didn’t appear out of nowhere. In fact, this new symbol of bear brotherhood had an earlier, interesting development.

As a member of the Chesapeake Bay Bears (CBB), he had become involved with first-hand experience of the growing bear movement. During the time of his senior project development, Craig thought it might be fitting to design a flag that would best represent the bear community (since there is no “official” bear flag) and include it with the results of his research. Craig was encouraged by his ex-husbear Bob Nicholson, an Alumni Member of the District of Columbia Bear Club (DCBC).

Bob bought a deluxe box of crayons for Craig's birthday, and Craig began his search of suitable colors for his flag. Craig constructed the original flag drawing from the colors he selected. After scanning the drawing, Craig enlisted DCBC member Paul Witzkoske to create four computer-generated templates from the original artwork made in crayon from which the four variations were sewing machine constructed of lining material. Bob spent several hours on a sewing machine making the first set of 3' x 5' flags out of simple lining material. Craig won approval to display the four prototype flags at the CBB “Bears of Summer” events in July of 1995. Bears were asked to put a quarter in the appropriate box to indicate which flag they thought would best represent the bear community and the proceeds were donated to CBB to add to its AIDS fundraising.

The winning design is the one you find promoted here. It’s a field of simple horizontal stripes with a paw print in the upper left corner—a layout familiar to anyone who has seen the Leather Pride Flag. The colors represent the fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world and was designed with inclusivity in mind.

Bob Nicholson stitched four copies of the winning design out of standard flag nylon. One was sent to a flag manufacturer for the possibility of mass production and distribution to the bear community. Another original was sent to Lurch in San Francisco as a memento of his visit to Washington, DC and his participation as Master of Ceremonies for the “Bears of Summer” contest. Paul was presented an original hand-sewn flag for assisting Craig in making his design into a computer generated graphic, and Craig and Bob kept the last flag as a reminder of the process. Craig is very serious about getting the flag out and visible. Founder of the company—Bear Manufacturing—has become the nameplate for a whole line of bear-focused products.