The flag is evidently based on former English red ensign, to be flown, principally, by merchant ships. In Massachusetts Bay Colony, a local variant showed the flag without the cross (i.e. only a red flag with a white canton), because Puritan settlers considered the cross a symbol of "Anti-Christ".
The use of pine trees to represent New England colonies is known as early as 1686, the date of a drawing by lieutenant John Graydon (although there the tree looks like an oak tree). Possibly, the use of pine trees was inspired by "Massachusetts pine tree shilling", accepted as currency on all Northeast. Flags like the one above could be commonly found until 1707, when a proclamation by Queen Anne determined the substitution to British then red ensign. But there are sources that shows flags like this:
The New England flag was revived in 1775, by rebels during American Revolutionary War, purposely without St. George's cross:
This variant, known as "Bunker Hill flag", is often erroneously colored blue instead of red, that generated this a-historical flag copyrighted by Ebinger brothers (you can see my opinion about copyrighted flag here).
A happy 2014 to all blog readers!
Comments are welcome.