The Incredible History of Flags in Every State
Why do some state flags have multiple dates? Get the answer and learn other fun facts about our state flags here.
Alabama adopted its state flag in 1895 and it includes a cross of St. Andrew on it. State Representative introduced it as an homage to the 60th Alabama Infantry Regiment’s battle flag used in the Civil War. The bars cannot be less than six inches board. St. Andrew’s Cross is seen in several flags across the world. See the flags that fly from some of the most remote castles in the world.
Benny Benson, a 13-year-old Alaskan designed the state flag back in 1927 when the state held a contest. Benson, who lived at the Jesse Lee Home for Children in Seward at the time, beat out around 700 entrants with his design that features eight stars arranged to resemble the Big Dipper and the North Star. Benson won $1,000 for his design and received an engraved watch. Check out some DIYers who became extremely successful inventors, like the man who invented the Stormy Kromer.
The flag of Arizona has 13 rays of red and yellow light, which symbolize two things. The number 13 refers to the 13 original colonies while the red and yellow refer to the flag of Spain. The copper star is a nod to the state’s copper industry and the blue symbolizes the Colorado River.
Colonel Charles Wilfred Harris came up with the design in 1910 during a rifle competition in Ohio. The Arizona National Guard was the only team at the event without a flag. Arizona adopted the flag in 1917 but then Governor Thomas Campbell did not sign the law that passed to make it the state flag.
Arkansas didn’t have a state flag officially until 1913 after Willie Hocker designed one with help from the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Pine Bluff DAR wanted to present a flag for the commissioning of the USS Arkansas but realized the state had no state flag. It held a contest and Hocker’s design was picked.
The diamond shape in the flag is supposed to represent that Arkansas is the country’s only diamond-bearing state, which it was at one time. There are 25 stars on the flag, which commemorates Arkansas status as the 25th state in the country. The stars around the Arkansas hold meaning, too. The three stars below the name of the state represent the three nations Arkansas has belonged to: Spain, France and the U.S. The star above Arkansas is a reference to the Confederate States of America. Learn 10 other fun flag facts you didn’t learn in history class.
Ever wonder why California has a bear in its flag? Well, it’s reference to the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt. For 25 days in 1846, the California Republic was an unrecognized breakaway state. A group of 33 American immigrants rebelled against the Mexican government because they weren’t allowed to buy or rent land. The immigrants had been threatened with expulsion from California because they entered there illegally.
As more Americans entered California, hostilities between the U.S. and Mexico rose and the Mexican-American War was launched. The flag has a red star that represents the California Lone Star Flag of 1836. The bear, named Monarch, used for the flag was mounted and preserved at the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park after its death. Get in a patriotic spirit with these American holiday themed party decorating ideas.
Colorado’s flag has gold, blue, white and red to represent different aspects of the state. The gold is a nod toward the gold in the state that people have mined. The blue symbolizes the blue sky, the white for the snowcapped mountains and the red is a symbol for the earth.
It was adopted in 1954 as the state flag, though Andrew Carlisle Carson first designed it in 1911. Love the look of the Colorado flag? You might love this chair made out of old skis.
The Latin phrase, “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” translates to “He who transplanted still sustains.” The flag was approved in 1897, though it was first introduced in 1895, though it’s incorporation of the grapevines goes back more than two centuries.
The Seal of Saybrook Colony, designed back in 1639, used grapevines and the design got passed along to Connecticut Colony’s seal. The three grapevines represent the oldest settlements of Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor. Ever wonder what the biggest house in Connecticut looks like? Find out and the see the biggest houses in each state.
The interesting feature of Delaware’s state flag is the colors. The colors: a yellow-brown diamond and colonial blue outside the diamond represent the colors of the uniform George Washington wore. The flag shows the state’s coat of arms. The coat of arms contains wheat, corn, an ox, a ship, along with a farmer and a soldier. The coat of arms was adopted back in 1777 while the flag was adopted in 1913.
See the house that cost’s a small fortunate in Delaware that you won’t believe.
Florida has had several flags through the years beginning with the banner of the Spanish Empire, which flew in what later became Florida, in 1513. The current flag keeps elements of that flag with the red saltire. Changes were made to the state seal in 1985 and the current flag reflects that change. Check out the coolest tiny home in Florida, it’s built with pieces of an old airplane.
Georgia’s flag has seen several changes in the last 17 years. The flag the state used from 1956 to 2001 featured the Confederate battle flag. In 2001, Georgia introduced a new flag with a gold state seal and displayed past state flags, including the controversial 1956 flag, which had the Confederate battle flag. That flag lasted just three years before a state referendum was held to choose between the 2001 flag and the 2003 version. The 2003 design won the referendum.
Hawaii’s flag remains unique because it features the flag of a foreign country within it, namely the Union Jack of the United Kingdom. The Union Jack is in the upper left hand corner in reference to the British Empire’s five-month occupation of Hawaii back in 1843 and the relationship the two have enjoyed. The state holds Ka Hae Hawaii Day each July 31 as the state’s flag day.
Idaho adopted its state flag in 1957 and it features a cornucopia of elements, including two cornucopias. The flag includes the seal of the state, which features a miner and a woman, who symbolizes equality, liberty and justice. The seal also includes representations of nature: mountains, an elk’s head, a man plowing a field, the state flower, the wild Syringa, and ripened wheat. Stop living in your own private Idaho and see the 15 things your neighbors want you to stop doing.
The state flag of Illinois has a clean design amid a white backdrop. It simply features the state’s seal, an eagle on a rock that clutches the Union Shield in its talon. The shield contains 13 stars and stripes. The original flag in 1915 didn’t include Illinois in it but in 1969 the flag was altered to include the state’s name.
The flag Illinois used for the first 100 years of statehood was a blue and white design that featured one blue stripe in the middle. It had 21 stars total but the blue stripe divided the stars equally into 10 on each side. There was one star in the middle of the blue stripe. The 10 stars on each side represented the 10 northern states and the 10 southern states that existed back in 1818.
Unlike several other flags, Indiana’s has remained unchanged since its adoption in 1917. The Daughters of the American Revolution held a contest in 1916 as part of the state’s centennial anniversary to design a flag. The winner received $100.
The torch in the flag symbolizes liberty and enlightenment. The 19 stars signify that Indiana was the 19th state to join the U.S. Let the torch of Indiana’s flag spark some inspiration for a fire pit by checking out these 37 sensational fire pit ideas.
Iowa’s blue, white and red flag is an homage to the state’s history. It was once part of the French Louisiana Territory. Dixie Cornell Gebhardt, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Iowa, designed the flag back in 1917.
The French have some pretty brilliant things with their name in it like this French cleat design for the garage.
Kansas’ flag includes a big sunflower atop the state seal. The seal includes several elements like a rising sun, a steamboat, a settler’s cabin, a wagon trail and American Indians hunting buffalo. There are also 34 stars to signify Kansas’ entry to the U.S. as the 34th state.
With such an agricultural background you can bet people in Kansas know how to add farmhouse charm to the home. You can too with these 20 easy tips on how to add farmhouse style.
Contrary to popular belief, Kentucky’s state flag of a frontiersman and a statesman are not specifically Daniel Boone and Henry Clay. Instead, the two men are said to represent all of the frontiersmen and statesmen of the state. Could’ve fooled us though. No fooling, here are the 20 best hiding places in your home.
The state of Louisiana has used a flag with a pelican feeding three chicks as far back as 1861 with some slight variations. In 1912, color was added to the beak and the nest. Then in 2006, three drops of blood were added on the pelican’s chest as it feeds the chicks. The blood is meant to symbolize the state’s willingness to sacrifice for its residents but it’s also a symbol that goes back to medieval times when people thought pelicans fed their chicks with their blood.
You might not have pelicans around your area but don’t let that stop you from checking out these 16 seriously cool birdhouses.
Maine’s flag holds the state coat of arms and the coat of arms holds several depictions of the state. The word “Dirigo” means “I lead” and it rests just below a representation of the North Star. There is a farmer and a seaman on opposite sides to represent agriculture and the sea. A moose also rests under a pine tree.
Pine trees get used for Christmas trees but find out once and for all what’s really the best Christmas tree to buy.
Maryland’s striking flag comes from the banner of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore. The black and gold design comes from the Calvert coat of arms while the red and white design is the coat of arms from Calvert’s mother’s family, the Crosslands. Maryland was founded by Cecilius Calvert, George’s son. It’s just one of four flags in the U.S. that don’t use the color blue.
Massachusetts’ state flag is full of symbols that can be missed if not observed closely. The flag is the state’s coat of arms, which is an Algonquian Native American with a bow and arrow. The arrow is pointed down as a symbol of piece. Then there’s the floating right arm above the shield, which is meant to represent Myles Standish, the military advisor hired by the Pilgrims, and the thought that one would rather lose their right arm than live under tyranny.
The words: “Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem” stand out on a banner. The words mean “By the sword we seek peace but peace only under liberty” and is the state motto. Feel like you’ve got to defend your cubicle, then check out this extremely cool desk catapult.
Michigan’s state coat of arms appears on the flag and the coat of arms features representations of peace, the fight for statehood and Latin mottos.
A man with his arm raised and his other arm holding a gun symbolize peace and the gun signals the fight for statehood. The elk and moose come from the Hudson’s Bay company coat of arms and the bald eagle is a symbol of the state coming from the Northwest Territory.
The Latin phrases are: “E Pluribus Unum,” which “means out of many, one.” “Tuebor” means “I will defend,” and “Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice” translates into “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you,” which is the state motto. Elk, moose and deer are beautiful creatures but deer can wreak havoc in a garden, check out humane ways to deal with pests.
In 1893 a women’s auxiliary group held a contest to design the flag. Out of 200 entries, Amelia Hyde Center won $15 for her design. The flag has received criticism for its busyness in the past. It includes a farmer plowing a field as he watches a Native American ride by on horseback. The state flower, the Pink and White Lady’s Slipper, appears like a wreath around the scene. There are three dates on the seal, 1819, which is when Fort Snelling was founded, 1858, the date of statehood and 1893, the adoption of the state flag.
Minnesota’s known as the State of Hockey and as such there are plenty of backyard rinks in the winter. See the can’t-miss tips on how to create a rink right.
Mississippi has used the same flag since it adopted it in 1894 despite efforts to change it because it includes the Confederate battle flag’s saltire. It’s the last state in the U.S. to include the Confederate battle flag in its design and several cities and schools have refused to fly the flag until the battle flag is removed.
Missouri also pays tribute to its French influence by intentionally using red, white and blue in its colors. Missouri was once part of the Louisiana Territory. The state seal sits in the middle of the flag and includes two bears on each side, along with a crescent moon, a belt buckle and another bear. (Bet you didn’t know you could open a beer bottle with a belt buckle)
The bear signifies the strength and bravery of the state and the crescent moon stands for the state’s newness. The belt buckle is a way to say the state can secede from the union, if necessary. The state’s motto, “Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto” means “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.”
Montana’s state flag simply features the state’s name and its seal. The seal shows a water scene with mountains in the background, mining tools nearby and the words, “Oro y Plata” below. “Oro y Plata” means gold and silver and Spanish. The falls in the background represent the Great Falls on the Missouri River.
The blue flag of Nebraska features the state seal in the center. Nebraska was one of the last states to adopt a state flag when it decided to do so in 1963. The seal depicts several features of the state, beginning with a blacksmith in the foreground to harvested wheat, a settler’s house, a steamboat and a railroad faraway.
For a state that has Las Vegas, the flag is pretty understated. The Nevada state flag holds just an emblem in the upper left-hand corner with the words “Battle Born.” That phrase refers to the state becoming part of the U.S. during the Civil War. The state’s flower, sagebush, is represented at the bottom with yellow flowers. Add some gorgeous flowers to your home after looking at these 49 colorful plants that will lighten up your garden.
Nevada held a contest to design the state flag back in 1926 but the government argued over the placement of “Nevada” on the flag. A compromised was reached in 1929 and the flag was adopted. Sixty years later a researcher found the bill sent to the governor in 1929 did not reflect the legislative agreement. Previously the letters of “Nevada” were in a complete circle around the star but in 1991 they were moved to below the star.
New Hampshire’s state flag takes the Great Seal and rings it with golden laurels. The seal is a depiction of the USS Raleigh, which was one of the first 13 warships for the U.S. navy in 1776. The yellow land is meant to signify New Hampshire’s granite. Get a glimpse of these water crafts that double as amazing Airbnb sites.
New Jersey pays tribute to its agricultural background with three plows on a shield in its state seal, which is centered on the yellow state flag. New Jersey is known as the “Garden State” and you can do yourself a favor and learn these awesome gardening tips.
The shield is surrounded by two female figures: Liberty and Ceres. Liberty, on the left, holds a liberty cap on the end of a staff, while Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, holds a cornucopia.
There is also a horse’s head on the crest of a forward-facing helmet, meant to show that New Jersey governs itself.
New Mexico’s flag was ranked the best flag in a 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association. It uses the red and yellow of old Spain to commemorate the time the area spent under Spanish rule.
The emblem used is an ancient sun symbol called the Zia Sun symbol, which was used by the Zia people in New Mexico on pottery. Four lines extend from the circle in each direction because four symbolizes the four times of day, four stages of life and the four seasons.
New York’s coat of arms makes up the state flag and includes two female figures as well. On the left is Liberty, whose foot stands on top of a crown. On the right is Justice. Meanwhile the word “Excelsior” is below them. Excelsior means higher, superior or ever upward. The shield includes imagery of ships on the Hudson River with a grassy shore and a mountain range in the background. Apartment living is the norm in New York. Check out these ideas for personalizing your apartment.
North Carolina’s flag holds two dates on it: May 20, 1775 and April 12, 1776. The May date refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which claims to be the first declaration of independence by the 13 colonies. It remains disputed if the story is true about the papers but the early North Carolina government maintained that it was the first Americans to declare independence.
The second date refers to the Halifax Resolves, which was the first resolution calling for independence from Great Britain.
The North Dakota flag borrows from the Great Seal of the United States with its design with an eagle holding 13 arrows and an olive branch with three red berries. It’s similar to a banner the state’s troops carried in the Philippine-American War between 1899-1902. North Dakota became a state in 1899 but the flag wasn’t adopted until 1943.
Ohio has the only non-rectangular flag in the U.S. and instead uses a swallowtail design. The flag is called the Ohio Burgee and was designed in 1901. It was adopted a year later and has an official folding procedure that calls for it to be folded 17 times.
There are 13 stars around the “O” for the 13 colonies and the four stars to the right of the “O” make 17 total to symbolize Ohio’s place as the 17th state admitted to the Union. The number 13 is supposed to be unlucky, right? Here’s some ways to avoid bad luck when Friday the 13th strikes.
Oklahoma’s flag bears an Osage Nation buffalo-skin shield with seven eagle feathers. It is covered by a ceremonial pipe and an olive branch to represent symbols of peace for Native Americans and European Americans. There are also six golden brown crosses, which signify stars in Native American cultures.
Oregon is the only state to have a two-sided flag. On one side is the state seal and on the other side a beaver.
The state seal features a covered wagon, an elk, the Pacific ocean, a British man-of-war ship leaving and an American steaming coming in, a sheaf, plow and a pickax. Got an ax that needs sharpening? We’ve got your covered on how to sharpen an ax.
Pennsylvania’s flag is its coat of arms on a blue backdrop. The coat of arms represents several things with a plow, a ship and harvested wheat. Below the shield a stalk of corn and an olive branch interweave while the shield is flanked by two horses. The corn stalk and olive branch symbolize peace and prosperity.
Rhode Island’s anchor symbol on its state flag goes as far back as the 1640s when it was found on the Rhode Island Seal. The anchor could have been inspired by Bible verses and the sea. The word “Hope” was part of the seal as well and continues to be part of the flag. The 13 stars around the flag symbolize the 13 colonies. Flags are essential for nautical adventures, just don’t try a nautical theme with your home decor and these other mistakes.
South Carolina’s blue and white flag with a palmetto tree and a crescent moon has been around in some form since 1775. It, however, didn’t get officially adopted until 1861 when the palmetto tree was included.
The palmetto tree played an important role in Colonel William Moultrie’s defense of Sullivan’s Island in the Revolutionary War. The trees, which were used to build walls filled with sand were able to withstand British cannons. The British navy hadn’t lost a battle in 100 years but withdraw after a day of bombardment to New York.
The flag of South Dakota has held the state seal since 1963 but its color changed in 1992. It went from a darker blue to a sky blue in 1992 and it changed its nickname from “The Sunshine State” to “The Mount Rushmore State.”
It holds remnants of the former sunshine flag with the rays of the sun protruding from the state seal. The seal portrays a river with a boat, a farmer, mine and cattle to represent the state’s commerce, agriculture, industry and natural resources.
The three stars in the center of the Tennessee state flag represent the different geographic regions of the state: the east, middle and west. The blue circle is meant to represent the unity of the regions.
The state adopted the flag back in 1905 and it has remained unchanged since.
There is an urban legend that the state flag of Texas is the lone flag in the union allowed to flag at the same height as the U.S. flag. But there aren’t any special provisions in the annexation agreement of Texas stating the flag can be flown at the same height. Any state flag can be flown at the same height as the U.S. flag, the U.S. flag just needs to be on the left side as you view it.
Utah’s state seal adorns its flag and within that state seal is a beehive, for the “Beehive State” as well as the state flower, the sego lily. Bees are struggling, by the way, see what flowers you need to plant to help bees.
The date 1847 in the seal refers to the year Mormons first entered the Salt Lake Valley. Utah’s flag is also one of the few state flags to include the U.S. flag in its design.
Vermont’s flag incorporates the outdoors with pine tree branches surrounding the state’s coat of arms. The coat of arms includes a picture of wheat, a cow and a deer head atop with the Green Mountains in the background.
This is actually the fourth version of the state flag. The first was a flag the Green Mountain Boys used from 1791 to 1804. The second version looked similar to the U.S. flag and the third flag from 1837 to 1923 replaced the stars with the state coat of arms.
Virginia’s flag has historical overtones with its state seal. Seal makers Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, George Wythe and Robert Carter Nicholas chose a seal that steered away from a British coat of arms and designed one that hearkens to ancient Rome. The flag shows Virtus dressed as an Amazon with a spear resting in her right hand, the spear pointed down. In her left hand is a sword point upward while her left foot is planted on a man, representing tyranny, lying prostrate. The words “Sic Semper Tyrannis” or “Thus always to tyrants” in English are printed below the man.
Washington’s flag holds a couple of distinctions. It’s the only green flag in the country and it’s the only flag with a picture of a president on it. Can you guess which one?
The flag with George Washington’s picture is the state’s seal as well and was adopted in 1923.
Rhododendrons adorn the West Virginia flag along with its coat of arms. The coat of arms consists of two men: a farmer and a miner on either side of a boulder. The farmer has a plow and pickax next to a cornstalk while the miner has a pickax, anvil and sledge hammer next to him. There are two rifles in front of the boulder and a “Cap of Liberty” where the rifles intersect. The state’s motto, “Montani Semper Liberi,” which translates to “Mountaineers are always free,” is written below the two men. Be sure to light up your flag at night. Learn how to install outdoor lighting here.
Wisconsin added its state name and its year of statehood in the 1980s to distinguish it from other flags that use a blue background. Wisconsin’s state coat of arms appears in the center.
The coat of arms depicts a plow, an arm and hammer, an anchor, and a pick in four quadrants of a shield. Atop the shield is a badger while two men, a sailor and a yeoman stand beside the shield. Below the shield is a cornucopia and 13 lead ingots. The lead ingots are representations of the mining industry. Lead’s not so great to have in the house, see how to test for led paint.
Wyoming’s flag is a silhouette of a buffalo with the state seal inside the silhouette. The red border of the flag is said to represent the blood of the Native Americans and pioneers who give their lives while the white is a symbol of purity. The blue is intended to represent the sky and mountains. The seal includes a listing of the state’s industries: oil, mines, livestock and grain. Did you know you can use PVC pipe for storing your flags? Plus: Check out 56 more brilliant PVC hacks for your home.