Do You Know the Story Behind Your State’s Flag?

Each of the 50 states of the United States of America has a distinct flag that gives us a glimpse into its rich history. While some citizens may see their flag as a piece of cloth that happens to represent their home-state, others believe that they are of high significance, and go as far as to consider them sacred.

 

Nevertheless, considering the unique nature in which the country was founded, the stories behind each flag will leave you in awe pondering, how did fifty ‘mini-countries’, holding vastly different ideologies at times, eventually unite to create the great empire as we know it today!?

Ready to test your knowledge? Read on to find out the story behind your state’s flag.

Alabama

People from Alabama already know that quite a few historic figures grew up under this state’s flag. Like, Helen Keller, the first deaf and blind person to earn a college degree, and Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist, best known for her central role in the Montgomery bus boycott.

On February 16, 1895, 76 years after Alabama joined the Union, it finally came time for Sweet Home Alabama to officially adopt their own flag. They decided to go for a “crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white” (characteristic of the Confederate flag). According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the flag’s design was intended to “preserve in permanent form some of the more distinctive features of the Confederate battle flag,”.

 

Alabama’s flag is also on the (short) list of state flags that don’t include the color blue. You’ll understand how rare that is as you read on. The other three states are California, Maryland, and New Mexico.

Alaska

Many (non-Alaskan) Americans may not realize that Alaska is the largest state in the union! It’s twice the size of Texas and approximately 1/5 of the entire U.S.A.

In 1926, the Alaskan-American Legion, in cooperation with the territorial governor, held a flag-designing contest for children. The unanimous winner was a flag designed by 13-year-old , John “Benny” Benson, from an orphanage in Unalaska, Alaska.

Benson said that he looked to the sky for inspiration, as his design incorporated the familiar constellation he’d admire every night. Eight stars- the Big Dipper constellation, and the North Star, on a field of blue, also a reference to the Alaskan sky and its prominent Forget-me-Not flower (which later officially became the state flower).

 

Benson had even attached his interpretation of the design with his submission: “The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly in the Union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear—symbolizing strength.” He was awarded US$1,000 and an engraved watch for his great achievement.

Fun fact: Did you know that the current flag of the U.S.A, with 50 stars and 13 stripes, was also designed by a teenager? In 1958, 17-year-old, high school student, Robert G. Heft, of Lancaster, Ohio submitted his flag design in competition, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower chose it out of 1,500 entries!

Arizona

Arizonans are usually very proud of their state flag, and they aren’t the only ones who admire it! Back in 2001, in a poll conducted by the North American Vexillological Association, the Arizona flag ranked sixth of 72 North American flags, making it one of the “10 best flags on the continent,”.

The Arizona state flag was adopted in 1917. According to the Arizona Secretary of State, the flag was purposely designed to consist of two distinct halves.

 

The top includes 13 alternating red and yellow rays represent the original 13 colonies. The yellow and red colors are an ode to the Spanish flags carried by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado when he explored Arizona but also represent the state’s picturesque horizon.

The bottom half is solid blue, a tribute to the U.S.A. flag, while the large copper-hued star in the center represents Arizona’s status as the number one producer in the nation. What a beautiful flag indeed!

Arkansas

Did you know that you’d be breaking state law if you mispronounce the word “Arkansas” while in the state? Arkansas was named by French settlers, so, like many French words, the “s” at the end of “Arkansas” is silent. Make sure you practice before visiting!

Esthetically speaking, unlike the Arizona state flag, not many people are fond of Arkansas’ flag. To its defense, it may appear to be simple, but in fact, it is rich in symbolism. According to the Arkansas Secretary of State, the large diamond represented its status as “the only diamond-bearing state in the Union” at the time it was designed (before diamonds were found in Montana and Colorado).

 

The 25 stars bordering the diamond reminds us that Arkansas was the 25th state admitted to the Union, while the three blue stars below the state’s name in the center of the flag have a double meaning. Arkansas has been part of three countries: Spain, France, and the United State, and it was also the third state to come out of the Louisiana Purchase. Three seems to be a pretty significant number in the state’s history.

The top lone star, added in 1923, represents the Confederacy, and you may also notice how the border around the white diamond evokes the iconic saltire on the Confederate battle flag.

California

If you can’t bear a crowd (no pun intended), then stay away from California, or at least from its big cities. With 39.56 million residents, it is the USA’s most populous state, and three out of the ten largest cities in the country are located  in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose

Officially adopted in 1911, the flag of California made its debut way before then in 1846, as an act of rebellion against Mexico, its governer at the time. The California grizzly bear, once ubiquitous to state, symbolizes strength but was also intended to intimidate Mexican authorities. The red star is said to be an ode to the “lone star of Texas.”

 

If the image of a bear doesn’t exactly bring a picture of California to mind, it’s because they’re no longer there. California was formerly known as the Grizzly Bear State; however; the once iconic California grizzly bear is now extinct. So, California later became known as “the Golden State.”

Today, some Californians have expressed their desire for a new state flag. Not only is the bear image misleading but some feel that it’s strongly associated with a period that no longer reflects the state’s spirit.

What do you think? Can you think of any U.S. flags that are due for a makeover?

Colorado

Coloradans most likely know that their state’s name is Spanish for ‘red-colored’, referring to its red-hued earth.

Colorado’s is another state flag that was adopted in 1911, and it was heavily inspired by its scenic nature. The blue represents the state’ open blue skies and the white stripe symbolizes its snowcapped Rockie mountains.

 

The letter “C” in the center of the flag is the same red used in the U.S. flag but also represents Colorado’s rich red earth, and the golden disk inside the “C” celebrates the state’s abundant sunshine.

Connecticut

Did you know that Connecticut is officially known as “the Constitution State”? It refers to the state government’s establishment of the Fundamental Orders in 1639, which is considered the first written constitution in North America.

The Connecticut state flag had already been widely accepted as the state’s official flag for decades but was officially adopted in 1895. This blue flag includes a white shield with three grapevines on it that stand for religion, liberty, and knowledge, as well as the three original colonies— Saybrook, New Haven, and Connecticut (Hartford)—that merged together to become one state.

 

The Latin banner below the shield was inspired by the official seal bought from England by Colonel George Fenwick’s who oversaw Saybrook. It displayed the quote (and state motto)- “Qui Transtulit Sustinet,” which translates from Latin to “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains.”

Delaware

Delawareans may even be oblivious to this fact but did you know that reggae pioneer, Bob Marley, once called Delaware home! He lived in the state during the years 1965-1977, and his son, Stephen Marley, was born in Wilmington.

Although the state’s flag colors may give off a tropical vibe, it has nothing to do with the Marley’s, its history goes back much further. Adopted on September 4, 1787, the colors on the Delaware state flag- buff, and colonial blue- represent those of a uniform worn by (then) General George Washington who later would become the first American president.

 

Delaware is nicknamed the “First State” because it was the first state to ratify the federal Constitution, on December 7, 1787, making it the first state admitted to the union. So naturally, they proudly display the monumental date on their flag.

Florida

If you fancy beaches, you’ll definitely want to visit “the Sunshine State”. Florida has the second-longest coastline in the country, second only to Alaska, so there’s plenty of beach for everyone.

Florida was actually the first southern state to adopt their own flag after the Civil War; however, it has gone through several designs before taking on its current form in 1900. The state’s seal appears in the center of a crimson St. Andrew’s cross (a reappearing theme in former Confederate state flags).

 

The state seal features a shoreline on which a Seminole woman is pictured spreading flowers. You may be thinking “Hey, Florida’s flag also doesn’t include the color blue”, but if you look closely, it’s on the Native-American woman’s skirt.

Georgia

If you ever visit Georgia, you must visit the Cyclorama Building, in Atlanta, home of a 385 ft long painting, which happened to be the largest mural in the world till 2004. The painting depicts a panoramic view of the Civil War battle of Atlanta.

Having had three different state flags since 2001 alone, Georgia has had a pretty high flag turnover rate. The reason being is the debate around whether or not, and to what degree, the state flag should reference the Confederate flag.

Just for a little background, the now disputable flag first made its appearance during the American Civil War when seven southern states rebelled against President Abraham Lincoln’s anti-slavery legislation and seceded from the United States.

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Centuries later, the Confederate flag continued to be flown during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s to intimidate African-Americans from rioting and was even adopted by the Ku Klux Klan. The flag eventually became a symbol of segregation and white supremacy. So, you could imagine why some people may feel uneasy when they see it.

The current flag was chosen after a statewide vote in 2004. While it is still based on the Confederate flag’s characteristic “stars and bars”, it no longer includes the St. Andrew’s cross it once had. For comparison, in the photo, the current state flags can be seen on the left, on the upper right is the Confederate battle flag, and beneath it the official flag of the Confederate States.

Hawaii

Need some space? Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world. It’s 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China, and 5,673 mi from Australia.

Hawaii adopted its official state flag in 1845, it’s a mash-up between the red, white, and blue stripes of the U.S.A flag and the classic British Union Jack of the U.K. The eight stripes also represent the eight main islands in the chain: Hawaii, Lanai,  Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Kahoolawe, Niihau, and Oahu.

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Something unique about Hawaii is that the native Hawaiians also acknowledge another flag as their own- the personal flag of King Kamehameha I. The flag’s color scheme of red, yellow, and green represents the different groups within Hawaiian society: royal, landed gentry, and commoners.

Idaho

Idaho is sometimes called “the Gem State”. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to find one of the 72 types of precious stones there.

You’ve probably always recognized the reoccurring theme among the nation’s state flags with blue fields, as it identifies as the color used in the United States flag. Idaho’s state flag is also navy blue, with the state seal in the middle. However, something distinctive about Idaho’s flag is that it includes the only state seal designed by a woman, Emma Edwards.

 

The words “State of Idaho” are on display in gold lettering below the seal. And as you can see, Edwards’ art reflects Idaho’s main industries: mining, agriculture, forestry, and wildlife.

As the topic of women’s right to vote was being debated at the time, Edwards made it a point to place a man and woman next to one another and at equal heights representing equality, liberty, and justice.

Illinois

The Illinois State flag seems pretty straight forward at first glance- a white field with the name, “Illinois” underneath, with a seal at its center, showing a bald eagle, with a red banner in its beak flaunting the state’s motto, “State Sovereignty, National Union.”

 

In 1867, then-Secretary of State Sharon Tyndale had wanted to reverse the order of the phrases to show support for the Union during the Reconstruction era but was overruled by the state Senate. He did, however, place the word “sovereignty” upside down to make it harder to read.

Indiana

The state flag of Indiana incorporates symbolism reflective of the country’s history alongside tributes to the state itself. The dark blue flag has a torch in its center that stands for values that the American people hold in high regard, liberty and enlightenment. The rays that emanate from the torch represent Indiana’s widespread influence.

 

There is a total of nineteen stars on the flag, as Indiana was the 19th state admitted to the Union. The thirteen outer stars circling the torch represent the original thirteen colonies, while the five inner stars stand for to the next fives states expected to join the Union. The largest star at the top of the flag, right below the name of the state, represents the state itself. With such a powerful symbolisms it’s no wonder Indiana’s first official flag and has remained unchanged since it was adopted in 1917.

Iowa

Iowa didn’t adopt an official state flag until 1921, almost 75 years after it joined to the Union. As the story has it, it was only after stationing state troops along the Mexican border during World War I did it dawn on people the fact that they didn’t have a flag of their own.

 

The current, tri-color, Iowa flag was created by Dixie Cornell Gebhardt, and it’s evident that he designed it with the state’s history in mind. The verticle red, white, and blue colors are an ode to the flag of France. The broader white stripe in the center is said to represent the Native Americans that resided in the land prior to it being colonized by Europeans. Finally, the Bald Eagle in the center of the flag symbolizes Iowa’s union and integration into the United States of America. The eagle holds is a blue banner in its beak bearing the state motto: “Our Liberties We Prize, and Our Rights We Will Maintain.”

Kansas

Adopted in 1927, the state flag of Kansas lay on a dark-blue background that includes the state seal in its center and a wild sunflower which is the state flower.

 

You’ll notice that between the sunflower and the seal there’s a gold and blue bar that represents the Louisiana Purchase (flashback to high-school history classes) through which Kansas was acquired from France. The seal displays the state motto that tells the story of Kansas, “Ad Astra per Aspera,” a Latin phrase meaning “To the Stars through Difficulties.” The thirty-four stars below the motto remind us that Kansas was the 34th state to be admitted into the Union. The word “Kansas” was added to the bottom of the flag later in 1961.

Kentucky

The Kentucky state flag was adopted in 1918. It was designed by Jesse Cox Burgess, an art teacher from  Frankfort, and features the Bluegrass State’s seal in the center of a navy blue background. The seal features two men, one wearing buckskin, representing the frontiersmen, and the other in a suit, representing the statesmen. It’s believed that these two figures embracing each other also represent the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” that circles them. The seal also includes a goldenrod wreath, goldenrod is the state flower, and the words, “Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

 

It is widely believed is that the buckskin-clad man is Kentucky’s loved frontiersman, Daniel Boone, one of the first folk heroes of the U.S., and that man in the suit is Kentucky’s most famous statesman, Henry Clay.

Louisiana

Before Louisiana was purchased from France by the United States in 1803, the state proudly flew the flags of France, Spain, and Great Britain. There was even a period of two months that Louisiana flew a flag as an independent nation for after seceding from the Union in 1861.

 

Today, the state flag of Louisiana is beautiful azure blue and what is described as a “pelican in her piety,” a heraldic charge that shows a mother pelican “in her nest feeding her young with her blood”. This dramatic display is said to signify the state’s willingness to sacrifice itself for its citizens. Louisiana’s state motto- “Union Justice Confidence,” is also present below.

Maine

The current state flag dates back to 1909. It features the Maine Coat of Arms on a blue field that exhibits a farmer with a scythe and a seaman with an anchor representing Maine’s traditional reliance on agriculture and the sea. There’s also a moose resting under a large pine tree pictured.

 

Between the shield and the North Star is the word, “Dirigo,” the state’s motto meaning “I lead.” there another banner beneath the seal with the”Main”.

Maryland

This version of the Maryland state flag was adopted in 1904, and Marylanders must be very pleased with it as some coin it “the perfect state flag,”. Its “bold colors, interesting patterns, and correct heraldry,” were inspired by the shield in the coat of arms of the Calvert-Crossland families of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore (1579–1632).

 

The yellow-and-black arms represent his paternal family, the Calverts, while the red-and-white colors and cross-bottony design represent his maternal family, the Crosslands. George Calvert believed wanted to create a settlement where Catholics and Protestants could coexist in harmony and Maryland was hoped to be that place.

Massachusetts

Let’s start this one off with a fun state fact. Massachusetts, as peculiar as it may seem, has three official flags: a state flag, a governor’s flag, and a maritime flag (despite it no longer having its own navy). Go figure. The state flag consists of the Massachusetts coat of arms on either side. On the coat of arms, there’s an Algonquin Native American from the Massachuset tribe, carrying a bow and arrow pointing downward symbolizing peace. Above him is a single white star that represents the Bay State as one of the 13 original colonies of the United States (and the 6th state admitted into the Union). On a blue ribbon around the lower part of the shield bearing the state motto “Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem” Latin for “By the Sword We Seek Peace, but Peace Only under Liberty,”. The motto is also reflected by the bent arm at the top of the shield holding up a sword.

 

The Massachusetts state flag is one of only three state flags, along with Florida and Minnesota, to a have Native American prominently featured in its heraldry, and it’s the also is one of only two states in the U.S. to have a two-sided state flag, the other being Oregon.

Michigan

Michigan’s state flag was adopted in 1911 and is another flag that showcases national and state values. It’s blue and includes the state’s coat of arms, which include the Bald Eagle holding an olive branch and arrows (the U.S. national emblem) above a shield displaying a sunrise over a lake, and a man standing on a grassy peninsula waving with one hand while holding a rifle in the other. The man is said to represent the desire for peace but will to fight for state and nation whenever necessary. The shield is supported by an elk and a moose, the great animals of Michigan.

 

There are three state mottos that encircle the coat of arms: E Pluribus Unum; Tuebor; and Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice, which translate from Latin to “From many, one”; “I will defend”; and “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you” respectively. If you notice, the shield of arms depicts them pictorially. What a masterpiece!

Minnesota

The official flag for the state of Minnesota includes its state seal surrounded by a wreath of flowers on a blue background. It bears many dates, like a historic timeline: 1819, the year the first settlement at Fort Snelling was established; 1858, the year Minnesota became a state; and 1893, the year the first official flag was adopted. The red ribbon at the top of the seal displays the state motto: “L’Etoile du Nord,” which translates from French to “star of the north”. The largest star at the top represents the North Star, and Minnesota. You’ll notice that there nineteen stars surrounding referencing Minnesota as the 19th state to join the union (after the original 13 colonies). And of course, there’s also the word “Minnesota” located at the bottom.

 

Fun fact, the original flag accidentally displayed white lady’s slipper flowers on the wreath that’ not native to the state. This was corrected in 1957, and the flag now displays pink and white lady’s slippers, that is also the state flower.

Mississippi

Most state flags have evolved over the year to reflect its residents’ current temperament and the ones that haven’t are highly controversial topics today. Mississippi’s state flag resembles Georgia’s, except that unlike Georgia, they chose to keep the Confederate battle flag blue-star-adorned cross. It remains the only state flag that continues to bear the tendentious symbol; however, many non-minority Mississippians are pretty adamant about it keeping it.

 

In 2001, a proposal to remove the Confederate battle flag once and for all was soundly defeated by Mississippi voters, thus the original design remains.

Missouri

In 1820, Missouri was the 24th state to join the Union but for nearly a century after achieving statehood, it did not adopt an official flag. So, when they finally decided on one in 1913, they made it a point to pack it with symbolism. The flag was designed by Marie Elizabeth Watkins Oliver, who was in part, inspired by Missouri’s historic coat of arms which displayed a Bald Eagle with olive branches (peace) and arrows (war), a grizzly bear (strength and courage), and a crescent moon (bright future). On top are the words “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

 

The horizontal stripes of red, white, and blue are reminiscent of the state’s French heritage, the coat of arms is supported by two additional grizzly bears standing on a scroll inscribed with the words “Salus populi suprema lex esto” which translates to “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” Below the scroll are the Roman numerals for 1820 all circled with a band of 24 stars denoting Missouri’s induction into the union.

Montana

Officially adopted in 1905, at first glance, the Montana state flag looks like an ad for a nature resort. The current flag is an adaptation of Colonel Harry C. Kessler’s flag, head of the 1st Montana Infantry,  created in 1898, to distinguish his troops from other forces during the American-Spanish war.

 

The seal shows are a miner’s pick and a shovel with the Great Falls of the Missouri River running nearby surrounded by picturesque mountain scenery. A ribbon beneath the mining tools displays the Spanish words “Oro y Plata” (gold and silver), the state motto, and the state’s name “Montana” appears above the seal.

Nebraska

Nebraska is known as being one of the last states in the U.S. to officially adopt a state flag, which it finally did in 1963. Better late than never. To be fair, for decades, the good ol’ state seal on a blue background, was unofficially recognized as the state flag, as was common practice in many states back in the 19th century.

 

The Nebraska state seal pictures a blacksmith using a hammer and anvil symbolizing the mechanic arts, and wheat sheaves, stalks of corn, and a settler’s cabin, representing agriculture. In the background, there’s a steamboat on the Missouri River, and a train on the transcontinental railroad headed west toward the Rockies. The banner above the landscape bears the state motto: “Equality Before the Law.” Circling the seal are the words “Great Seal of the State of Nebraska” and “March 1st, 1867,” the year Nebraska was admitted into the Union.

Nevada

The state of Nevada has had several state flags throughout its history but eventually settled for their current (and much more subtle) flag. On what is described as a ‘cobalt blue’ background, are several of the state’s symbols: a wreath consisted of two crossed sprays of sagebrush (the state flower), with a silver star (the state metal) at the center, and the word “Nevada” positioned underneath the star in yellow.

 

A ribbon above the wreath contains the words “Battle Born” in recognition of the fact that Nevada gained its statehood during the Civil War.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire, named after Hampshire, England by Captain John Mason, became the ninth state to join the Union way back in 1788. Although the New Hampshire state flag has been in use since 1784, the state legislature officially adopted the flag in 1909.

 

The New Hampshire state flag features the State Seal on deep blue background. On the seal is the frigate Raleigh in front of the rising sun. The Raleigh is famous for being one of the first warships to carry the American flag in battle during the British in the Revolutionary War. If you look closely you’ll spy a gray granite boulder near the ship, referencing the state nickname-“the Granite State”. Around the frigate are the words “Seal of the State of New Hampshire” with the date “1776” below it. Encircling the seal are yellow laurel wreaths alternating with nine stars that symbolize New Hampshire as the ninth state admitted to the Union.

New Jersey

the first president of the United States, then General, George Washington, is credited with choosing the original colors of “the Garden State” flag- buff and ‘New Jersey blue’, in honor of the original Dutch settlers. The flag features the state seal, which includes many symbols.

 

The helmet and horse’s head is symbolic of New Jersey’s status as one of the first states as it was the third state to sign the U.S. Constitution. The two women holding the shield represent lady Liberty, holding a staff with a liberty cap and Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, (and the love a mother bears for her child) who holds a cornucopia filled with the many fruits of the land grown in the state. The shield in between the two women also exhibits the state’s agriculture with three rows of plows. Beneath the shield is a ribbon that displays the state’s motto “Liberty and Prosperity” and “1776” the year New Jersey became a state.

New Mexico

Like Arizona’s state flag, New Mexico’s flag strayed far away from the traditional U.S. flag design. With its simplistic yet profound Zia symbol and vibrant colors, it doesn’t come by surprise that New Mexico was voted to having the ‘Best State Flag’ in a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association. In 1920, Dr. Harry Mera, a physician, and archeologist from Santa Fe, won a competition to create a new design for the state flag. Fascinated by the Zia sun symbol, he used it for inspiration. This symbol, scared to the Zia Native Americans, depicts the sun as a circle, representing the Circle of Life, with four groups of rays (with four rays in each group), radiating from it at right angles in four directions. In each group of rays, the two inner rays are longer than the two outer ones.

 

On New Mexico’s state flag, the Zia sun is bright red, centered on a brilliant yellow background. The colors were chosen to honor the Spanish who came to explore Mexico in the 1500s. You may have noticed the reappearance of the number four in the sun symbol. The number four is a sacred number to the Zia people, representing the four winds, four seasons, four directions, and four sacred obligations: a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others.

New York

New York’s state flag features the state seal, adopted back in 1788, on a blue background. It may sound redundant; however, the detail on the seal is a masterpiece in its own right. On either side of the coat of arms are two goddesses, Liberty, in a blue gown, holding a staff with a Liberty cap and Justice, in gold, blindfolded and holding her scales. They symbolize “Liberty and Justice for all,”. If you have a good eye for detail, you may have already noticed the discarded crown at Liberty’s feet, symbolizing freedom from British control.

 

Above the shield, is an American eagle looking toward the west, sitting atop a globe, signifying New York’s unique place in the world, Western expansion, as well as opportunity and optimism. Below the seal appears a banner with the state motto, “Excelsior”, Latin for “Ever Upward”. On the shield itself, there are two ships sailing the Hudson River, with three mountains in the background, and a sun rising.

North Carolina

Red, white, and blue, with the state’s initials… North Carolina’s state flag is pretty straightforward but still manages to have a bold presence. A golden ribbon above the state initials “N” “C”, separated by a white star, bears the date “May 20, 1775,” commemorating the “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence,” the day residents declared themselves “free and independent people”. And a similar ribbon below displays the date “April 12, 1776,” the date of the “Halifax Resolves.” when the North Carolina delegates at the Continental Congress were to vote for independence.

 

Throughout the Civil War, the “The Old North State” Infantry carried a regimental and Confederate flag but besides that period, the 1885 design remains unchanged to this day.

North Dakota

The North Dakota state flag features elements that are familiar to most Americans. The classic bald eagle carrying an olive branch in one foot and a sheath of arrows in the other, a national symbol representing “peace through strength.”

 

On the eagle’s breast is a red, white, and blue shield with 13 strips and above the eagle are 13 stars, referencing the original 13 states. The eagle’s beak holds a banner displaying the national motto “E Pluburus Unum,”, “Out of Many, One” in Latin, which is also found on the United States currency. There is also a red banner beneath the eagle displays the state’s name “North Dakota.”

Ohio

Adopted in 1902, the Ohio state flag, with its burgee shape, is the only none-rectangular state flag in the United States. The triangles formed by the five alternating red and white stripes represent hills and valleys, while the stripes themselves represent roads and waterways. The circle has a few meanings; it represents the Northwest Territory, the initial letter of “Ohio” and is also suggestive of the state’s nickname the “Buckeye State.”

 

The 13 stars to the left of the circle represent the 13 original states and the four additional ones to the right denote Ohio as the 17th state to join the Union.

Oklahoma

The Oklahoma state flag was inspired by its original Native American residents. The flag, designed by a Louise Funk Fluke, features an Osage warrior’s buffalo-skin shield with seven eagle feathers hanging from it. In front of the shield is an olive branch crossed be a peace pipe laying. This seems to symbolize peace between Europeans and Native Americans; although some say the shield denotes that Oklahoma is willing to defend itself if challenged.

 

The six small white (sometimes red) crosses represent stars that symbolize the high ideals of Native American cultures. The shield is centered on a blue background, the color burrowed from the flag carried by Choctaw soldiers during the Civil War. The flag was officially adopted in 1925, and the state name in white letters was added to the bottom in 1941.

Oregon

Adopted in 1925, Oregon has the only U.S. state flag with a different design on each side. While both sides are navy blue with a gold design, one side shows the state seal, while the reverse side features a beaver, the state animal, and a symbol of Orgon’s long history of beaver trapping and trading The top front of the flag proudly displays the words “State of Oregon.” Below it lay the heart-shaped shield surrounded by 33 stars. The stars and date (below it) denote Oregon as the 33rd state to join the Union in 1859.

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At the crest of the shield is the American bald eagle, and below it, the state shield picturing a rising sun, mountains, forests, and a wagon at its forefront. In the background there two ships sailing the Pacific Ocean- a British ship departing and an American trade vessel arriving- symbolizing commerce and the emergence of the United States as a new power. In addition, there’s a sheath, a plow and a pickax appear beneath a banner with the words “The Union.”

Pennsylvania

In 1787, Pennsylvania was the second state to join the Union, and it authorized its first State Flag in 1799- the State Coat of Arms on a deep “Old Glory” blue field. On it, are two black horses supporting the shield, and on top of it a bald American eagle, representing the states’ absolute loyalty to the Union. The shield itself pictures a ship (represents commerce), a plow (rich natural resources), and three sheaves of wheat (agricultural fertility).

 

Below the shield is a corn stalk crossed with an olive branch, symbolizing peace and prosperity. Below them, a red ribbon reads the state motto “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.”

Rhode Island

Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 colonies to join the Union, and it took the state over 100 years to formally adopt a state flag (in 1897). Although the flag’s main feature, the golden anchor, became the official seal in the mid-1600s. On a white field is the gold anchor, encircled by 13 gold stars representing the 13 original colonies. Beneath the anchor is the state motto “Hope” in gold letters on a blue ribbon. The stars and anchor are outlined in the same hue of blue. The colors were carried over from flags flown by Rhode Island regiments during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War.

 

In case you were wondering about the anchor, well it seems to have a double meaning: Rhode Island is an important maritime port, but the use of the word “HOPE” together with the anchor may also suggest a biblical reference containing this phrase: “hope we have as an anchor of the soul.”

South Carolina

The state flag of South Carolina is one of the most readily identifiable, thanks to its strong symbols. According to the South Carolina Legislature “The Palmetto at the center symbolizes the heroic defense of the palmetto-log fort on Sullivan’s Island against the British fleet on June 28, 1776.” It is said that the softwood of the palmetto helped keep the soldiers safe as they were able to absorb the force of the cannonballs launched by British ships.

 

To the upper left of the flag is a crescent-moon-shape, a reference to the shape of the silver emblem worn on the front of the caps of the Revolutionary war soldiers. In addition, the flag’s dark blue field signifies the color of the uniforms worn by South Carolina’s soldiers during the War.

South Dakota

You’ll want to observe the South Dakota state flag closely to really catch note the detail in the seal that lay in the center a gorgeous sky blue field. The dark blue and white drawing shows a picturesque scene of a steamboat on a river with a farmer plowing a field with cattle, corn and a smelting furnace and mountains in the distance. Above the scene on a ribbon that reads “Under God the People Rule,” the state motto.

 

In addition, the sentence “South Dakota, The Mount Rushmore State” is arched around the sun—symbolizing the state’s pride in being the home of Mount Rushmore. Originally South Dakota was nicknamed “the sunshine state”,  thus the sun rays, before they gave the name to Florida, and replaced it with “the Mount Rushmore state” in 1992.

Tennessee

The flag of Tennessee consists of an emblem featuring three stars on a blue circle, on a field of bright red, with a strip of dark blue on the fly.

 

The state flag of Tennessee was designed by Capt. LeRoy Reeves of the Tenessee infantry. In 1917, after a National Geographic magazine article came out with its own (and wrong) interpretation of the flag, Reeves explained its symbolism as follows: “The three stars are pure white…bound together by the endless circle of the blue field, the symbol being three bound together in one—an indissoluble trinity.”

Texas

Texas’ official state flag is probably one of the most recognizable flags in the United States thanks to its famous “lone star.” According to Texas Hill Country, the simplistic but iconic star “symbolizes Texan solidarity after declaring independence from Mexico,”. In addition, the blue stripe stands for loyalty, the white purity, and the red bravery incorporating both Texan and American values.

 

Author, Adina de Zavala, once described how each point stands for the characteristics of a star citizen, and those are fortitude, loyalty, righteousness, prudence, and broadmindedness.

Utah

Utah’s state flag features its state seal, adopted in 1896, encapsulated in a golden ring in the middle of a deep blue field. Utah, often nicknamed “The Beehive State”, made it a point to feature a beehive on the state flag, it symbolizes hard work and industry. The beehive is flanked by sego lilies which is the state flower but also a symbol for peace. The state motto “Industry” is displayed above the beehive with the word “Utah” below it. Above the seal, there’s an eagle seemingly ready for flight, with six arrows beneath it, and two American flags on either side of the coat of arms.

 

There are also two notable dates on the flag: 1847, the year Brigham Young, religious leader and the first governor of Utah, along with his Mormon followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, and 1896, the year Utah became the 45th state to be admitted into the Union. The Utah state flag design has remained relatively untouched since 1913; however, rumor has it that Utah legislators are currently debating whether to adopt a new state flag.

Vermont

Vermont is famous for producing some of the finest dairy products in the nation, so it’s no surprise that the state chose to showcase a red heifer on its flag. Along with it in the state’s coat of arms is a large pine tree, and three sheaves of wheat, with mountains rising in the background representing their scenic nature and rich agriculture.

 

On top of the coat of arm is a buck’s head, and on each side of it are two pine boughs crossed under a red banner with the words “Vermont”, and the state’s motto, “Freedom and Unity” below.

Virginia

Ironically, the state flag of Virginia was officially adopted when the state seceded from the Union back in 1861 on the eve of the Civil War.

 

The bright blue flag features Virginia’s seal, which itself features Virtus, the Roman goddess of virtue holding a spear facing downward and a sword facing up. She’s pictured standing atop a man, Tyranny, with his fallen crown off to the side, symbolizing Virginia’s release from the monarchical control of Great Britain. In addition to the name “Virginia,” atop, the state motto: “Sic Semper Tyrranis,” which means “Thus Always To Tyrants,” appears below. Pretty hardcore we might add.

Washington

One popular misconception is that Washington’s capital city is Seattle, when if fact it’s Olympia! This is an honest mistake as Seattle is its most popular and populated city, close to 60 percent of residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area.

Finally, after several blue backgrounds, we get a pleasant surprise with Washington’s state flag is green! And at its center is the state’s seal featuring the one and only, President George Washington. The State Seal is composed of a bust of the first American president, on an “oriental blue” background, and is encircled by the words “The Seal of the State of Washington” on a yellow background with “1889” at the bottom, the yeah Washington achieved statehood.

 

Because the State Seal appears on both sides of the flag, it is one of the most expensive ones to produce. The Washington State Flag is also the only flag with a green field and a person, much less an American president. Name a more iconic seal! (We’ll wait).

West Virginia

If you love camping you can never go wrong with West Virginia as nearly 75 percent of the state is covered by natural forests. Get your tents and marshmallows ready.

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia broke away from the state of Virginia and joined the Union as an independent state. Later that year, the legislature adopted an official State Seal, which is the central part of the West Virginia Coat of Arms, and eventually became the most prominent feature of the state flag.

 

The State Seal pictures a boulder flanked by two men- one a farmer and the other a miner- which represent the state’s two major industries agriculture and mining. On the boulder the date “June 20, 1863”  is displayed. Two crossed rifles lay in front of the men and boulder, and a red liberty cap, a symbol of freedom, rests on top of the rifles.

Below is a red ribbon with the state motto: “Montani Semper Liberi” Latin for “Mountaineers are always free”. Above the seal floats a red ribbon with the words “State of West Virginia” and encircled by a wreath of “great laurel,” the state flower. What a powerful flag!

Wisconsin

If you love ice cream then you have something in common with Wisconsinites, as they consumed nearly 21 million gallons of ice cream produced.

Despite their love for the frozen desert, they decided to leave it off the state flag. Instead, it includes the state coat of arms—which is literally jam-packed with symbolism. The flag design features the state motto “Forward” at the top and just below it, is the state animal, the badger.

 

The state seal in the center of the blue field has a sailor and a miner flank supporting it on either side. They represent the industrious state’s citizens who work the land and in the sea. The shield itself has four quadrants, each bearing symbols that describe the state’s main industries: Navigation (the anchor), Mining (the pick and shovel), Agriculture (the plow) and Manufacturing (the arm and hammer). The cornucopia and lead below the seal are said to highlight the states farm products and minerals.

In 1979 the flag was amended to include the name of the state “Wisconsin”, as well as the date of statehood “1848” when it became the 30th state to be admitted to the Union.

Wyoming

Wyoming may not come to mind when you think of the “island life” but did you know that there are 32 name islands in the state’s territory?!

The Wyoming State Flag was designed by 24-year-old Verna Keays, as part of a contest in 1916. It’s navy blue base is framed with a red (outer) and white (inner) border symbolizing the blood of the pioneers and Native Americans, and purity. In the heart of the flag appears a silhouette of an American bison, and on its side, as though branded, is Wyoming’s state’s seal.

 

The seal features a draped figure, likely lady Liberty, holding a staff with a banner that reads, “Equal Rights.” This is fitting, as Wyoming was the first U.S. territory to grant women the right to vote. On either side of the women are two male figures that represent the livestock and mining industries.