Chicago Flag: A Fascinating City’s History on Display

Chicago city flags waving

Nothing symbolizes pride quite like a flag. Every American smiles to see our nation’s banner flying in front of a house or a school. Sports fans spot their fellow fanatics by the banners in windows and yards.

There is a flag for everyone—flags for causes, countries, and even cities. One of the oldest city flags in the United States is in the City of Chicago. The Chicago flag is a rich example of everything a flag should be—exemplifying the history and pride a city’s residents feel regarding their home. Continue reading

Texas State Flag Spotlight

Texas state flag decorWhile all state flags have interesting histories, few states have a flag story as remarkable as that of Texas. The Lone Star State is one of the only states in America that had to fight for its right to fly its flag, as well as its independence from Mexico. The history and design of the Texas state flag are just as unique and patriotic as the people it represents.

History of the Texas Flag

Throughout history, Texas has flown seven flags, and six of these were national flags, which signified who ruled the state at the time. These include the French, Spanish, Mexican, Confederate, American and the Republic of Texas flags. Even today, Texans flies all six of these flags in public and private displays of patriotism. Continue reading

Maryland State Flag Spotlight

Maryland state flag graphicThe tradition of state flags had begun before states were even states. The colonies used them as a rallying point for groups of militia, and they have been a symbol of state pride ever since. Maryland has one of the most unusual state flags. It stands out from the mostly blue banners of other states and, since Maryland was one of the original colonies, it has a long and rich history represented in its colors. Continue reading

State Flag Spotlight: Montana

Montana state flag

American states and territories have been adopting flags since the first colonization, with official flags appearing as early as the 1860s. The trend was more popular in the 1890s and, by World War I, most states proudly flew their flag just below the country’s banner. Most states have since tweaked their original designs – Utah just adopted a new design in 2011. The state flag of Montana has remained unchanged for years and contains a wealth of information about the state in its imagery. Continue reading

State Spotlight: California

Golden Gate Bridge

For most of its history, California has been a dream that people chase looking for an opportunity at a new life in one form or another.  People came to the territory of California in a push for freedom and expansion, then for gold, and finally fame. Today, California offers vast opportunities for those seeking a new start and different dreams for people to follow.  But, first, it started with a flag, a group of people looking for a change, and the dream of new land. Continue reading

State Flag Spotlight: The Florida State Flag

florida flag divider The Florida state flag

The State Flag of Florida

  • 27th state to join the United States of America
  • Nickname: “The Sunshine State”
  • Capital: Tallahassee

The state flag of Florida consists of three major elements: the white background (or field in vexillology terms), the intersecting red bars, and the state seal. The white background with the crossing red bars is almost identical to the state flag of Florida’s neighbor to the northwest, the state of Alabama, except a small variation on the exact hue of red used.

Added in 1900, the red bars harkened back to the southern cross pattern that appeared on the flag used by the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. It is interesting to note that, as well as the southern cross, the red cross pattern is very similar to the flag of the Spanish empire which consisted of the original Europeans to inhabit what we know today as Florida.

This flag was originally the flag of the Duke of Burgundy, whose family eventually ended inheriting the Spanish empire. The flag was made up of a white field with two intersecting jagged red bars running from corner to corner in an X shape. Before 1900, and after 1868, the flag was made up of the state seal in the center of the white field of the flag.

The Floridian State Seal serves as a very complex and interesting focal point of the flag. On August 6, 1868, due to the requirements of the state’s newly adopted constitution, a resolution was passed dictating “That a Seal of the size of the American silver dollar, having in the center thereof a view of the sun’s rays over a high land in the distance, a cocoa tree, a steamboat on water, and an Indian female scattering flowers in the foreground, encircled by the words, ‘Great Seal of the State of Florida: In God We Trust’, be and the same is hereby adopted as the Great Seal of the State of Florida.”

In the year 1970, over a century since the original seal was designed and adopted by the government of the state of Florida, a small, and some would say, minor change was made to the official resolution describing the flag, which changed the “cocoa tree” to a “Sabal palmetto palm” tree.

In 2006 the phrase “In God We Trust,” which graces the banner at the bottom of the original seal and would later be moved to the bottom half of a banner encircling the modern seal, was adopted by the state of Florida as its official motto. After a few different variations in art style and overall design of the seal, as well as the correction of what were viewed as historical errors in the seal, the current version of the seal, the one that is now located at the center of Florida’s official state flag, was adopted in 1985.

florida flag sealDissecting the Meaning Behind the Seal

  • The woman on the seal is a member of the Seminole native American tribe who inhabited parts of the state before the Europeans began to settle the area.
  • The tree is a sable palm tree, which is the state tree.
  • The woman is dropping flowers which represent Florida’s name, referencing its abundance of flowers.
  • The rising sun is a representation of Florida’s being famously known as “the land of sunshine.”
  • The water is supposed to be the meeting of the lakes and rivers scattered throughout the state.
  • The steamboat appears to be an homage to Florida’s booming industry and trade that helped build the state.


Changes in the Sealmodern florida flag seal

  • The native American woman originally in the seal was wearing clothing from the Plains Indian tribes.
  • The tree from the first seal was changed from a cocoa tree to a sable palm tree.
  • The first seal had a banner reading “In God We Trust” across the bottom. This was then removed and replaced with a banner encircling the seal reading “Great Seal
    of the State of Florida” across the top and “In God We Trust” at the bottom .
  • The art style has also changed, from a very realistic painting, to a simpler version of the scene, to the current and more abstract art style the seal has now.


City Flags of Note – And Why You Should Note Them

Just like countries, many cities across the world sport flags. Some of these are resplendent banners that portray an aspect of their city with dignity and clarity. Some of these are dreadful errors. A few examples of intriguing city flags follow.

We’ll start with some of the better ones, in no particular order.

Buffalo, New York


Now that’s a flag! Stars you can see on any number of flags, but lightning bolts are awesome. Throw in a pleasant old-style ship and lighthouse on the seal, and everyone in Buffalo has more to be proud of than just wings.

Nantucket, Massachusetts


Any flag with an animal on it is automatically pretty good. An animal that is also a giant whale is automatically even better, even if it is representing the city’s former reliance on the whaling industry. Clearly this whale is so over that, you guys. Look at his happy smile. Plus, the nonstandard flag shape demonstrates that Nantucket doesn’t feel they need to conform to The Man’s old-fashioned dependence on rectangles.

Jacksonville, Florida


Ordinarily, words on flags are a big design flaw, but Jacksonville makes up for it by the completely awesome Andrew Jackson on horseback in front of the rising sun. The colors are great, and very evocative of Florida, so we’ll give the “you are here” branding a pass. You do you, Jacksonville.

Baltimore, Maryland


Check that out. A great combination of colors in a fantastic pattern (the coat of arms of Baron Baltimore) with a blazon of the Battle Monument in the center. One hundred percent class; Baltimore doesn’t have to prove anything to any of you.

Easton, Pennsylvania


Fantastic! An inversion of the Stars and Stripes, this flag supposedly dates back to 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was read aloud in Easton on July 8th. It may be one of the early designs of the United States flag, although it has been pointed out that those designs at the time generally had fifteen stripes and stars. Also, eight-pointed stars instead of the more common five. Still, it’s a great design.

Richmond, Virginia


Good use of the red, white, and blue; nice circle of stars; dramatic silhouette of a man poling a bateau down the James River. Simple and effective. Everyone is happy.

Wichita, Kansas


Simple and symbolic: The blue circle represents happiness and contentment, with the Hogan symbol in the center representing a permanent home. The red and white rays alternating represent the freedom to come and go as you please, reflective of Wichita’s status as the Air Capital of the World. You didn’t know that? The city hosts several aircraft design and production facilities.

St. Louis, Missouri


Strikingly different from most flags with its wavy lines (representing the joining of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers) and bold red field, plus an attractive fleur-di-lis representing the state’s French heritage. Simple and effective, like a flag ought to be. St. Louis could be giving lessons to some of the following cities.

Bridgeport, Connecticut


This is pretty nearly the laziest possible design for a flag. You already have a seal, so just throw it on a background. Done. Oh, wait, put the name of the city on there. Yes, it’s already on the seal, but trust us, no one who sees a seal on a flag is going to look at it even a little bit. May as well use some of that vast expanse of blue for something. Stitch on the name of the state, too, and you can ensure that schoolchildren who come visit the city council buildings on their field trips will be too dazed to run around and shriek at everything.

Gainesville, Florida


All right, we apologize. This is the laziest possible design. It’s even a white flag, so as little effort went into this as could be. Sorry, Bridgeport, we were lashing out.

At least it’s a pretty neat train?

Tampa, Florida


The other approach isn’t always successful, either. Clearly the Tampa Flag Commission made an effort, but after what we’re guessing were twenty-two months of debate and discussion and “donations,” they would up with this extremely busy banner.

We like the fact that it’s not rectangular … always nice, but so many colors! So many little strips of color! Stars on stripes! A seal managing to somehow break up any bit of flair the flag itself might have eked out!

Let’s see what they tried to evoke with the symbolism: hmm, well … designed by one F. Grant Whitney, so, no committee … okay, includes an “H” and a “T” for Hillsborough County and Tampa, respectively; nothing about a “K”―although there is clearly one there if we’re playing that game.

Colors and elements are derived from the various countries that helped settle and establish the area: United States (red, white, blue, stars, stripes); United Kingdom (um, red, white, blue, stars, stripes―but angled ones this time); France (red, white … some kind of pattern seems to be developing … blue); Spain (gold, red, vertical stripes); and Italy (red, white, green). Very inclusionary, Mr. Whitney, but … ugh.

Detroit, Michigan


We feel a little bad for picking on Detroit, here, because―again―so much effort clearly went into it. Maybe too much effort. Four quadrants, all with their own device, plus a seal in the center. Well, let’s sort it out.

The seal is actually a pretty nice one, representing the city’s nearly complete destruction in the fire of 1805, with the Latin inscriptions “Spearamus Meliora,” meaning “We Hope for Better Things,” and “Resurget Cineribus,” meaning “It Will Rise From the Ashes.” The figure on the left is weeping over the devastation, while the one on the right is gesturing to the rebuilt city. Powerful and meaningful, and apparently the seal was redesigned in 2000 to be less busy, so they were trying, we will give them that.

The quadrants are for France (lower-left corner), England (upper-right corner), and the United States (upper-left and lower-right), all representing countries that controlled the fort that became Detroit in the past. A good sentiment, but more a coat of arms than a flag, really.

We’re feeling generous after breaking it down; feel free to copy and paste this section back into the top part under the better examples. But, let that be a lesson to future city flag designers: If you need to have a guide explain each part of your flag to onlookers, you might want to pare it down a bit.

The History of the Washington State Flag

Which state flag features a deep green background and is the only one to have a picture of a person (think Founding Fathers)? If the title of this article didn’t already give it away, you were still probably able to guess that the answer is Washington. One of the most distinctive flags in the United States, the Washington State flag is easy to remember once you’ve seen it.


Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889, but it wasn’t until March 5, 1923 that their state flag became official. The Washington State flag itself is arguably the most distinct flag in the entire United States of America. Everything from the iconic emblem in the middle of the flag to the flag’s color scheme make it stand out from the others without standing apart from them.

Here is a brief history on how the Washington State flag came to be and what makes it unique from the other 49.



You would be hard-pressed to argue that the most prominent part of the Washington state flag is anything but the portrait of George Washington. To emphasize its importance, Washington’s portrait is enclosed by a golden border that brandishes the year 1889. The picture of George Washington was, naturally, intended to pay homage to the first President of the United States, the man after whom the state was named.

Not only was featuring Washington’s picture on the flag a way of conveying its connection to the union as a whole, it also made the flag stand out as the only one in the United States to feature a president (or any person, for that matter).


The color of a flag provides a backdrop for everything else. It’s essentially the canvas on which the picture is painted. The green field featured on the Washington state flag is intended to represent the state, which is known as the Evergreen State.

If you’ve ever driven through Washington, you know what an accurate nickname this is, as more often than not you find yourself surrounded by towering evergreens as you speed down the interstate. For most states, it would seem odd to base their flag’s color on a feature of its natural environment, but Washington’s forests give the state such a unique distinction that, in this case, it makes perfect sense.

Washington State Flag Design and History

Even though Washington entered the union in 1889, more than three decades passed before it had its own flag. In fact, it wasn’t until 25 years later, in 1914, when the Daughters of the American Revolution wanted Washington to provide a state flag which could be displayed in Washington, D.C., that it was noted the state still had not come up with a design for the flag.

Soon after, the Daughters of the American Revolution formed a committee that would come up with ideas and design the flag so that the capitol would have a flag to display to represent Washington. Finally, in 1923, Washington officially adopted the flag after a vote by the state legislature.

The seal of the Washington state flag was designed by the Talcott brothers, who were silversmiths. Besides serving as a tribute to America’s first president, George Washington’s image was also an unofficial oath that the citizens of the state would strive to embody his characteristics and principles. The green background represented not only the deep green forests in Washington, but also served as a declaration that Washington citizens would be committed to preserving their land and protecting their natural resources.

There have been many variations of the Washington state flag over the years, partly due to a fairly vague original description of it. Finally standardized in 1967, nearly a half-century after it was officially adopted, this is the flag that waves over Washington’s capital in Olympia and represents the state and those who live there to this very day.

In Conclusion

It’s fitting that Washington’s state flag has a picture of the state’s namesake right in its center, and just as fitting that the lush green on the flag is what can best be described as forest green. The only thing which is surprising is that Washington, one of the last states to join the union, was the first to give a nod to one of the Founding Fathers, a group of men who played such a significant role in our history.

A couple things are for certain – without them, our country would not have been as great as it was, and Washington State would not have come to be, and neither would its flag.

The Bear on the California State Flag


The California state flag is something of an oddity even among the peculiar field of its fellows. It’s not the only one with a star; not even the only one with a single star. It’s not the only one with an animal: Several other states feature an eagle or two on their flags; Michigan has a pair of deer flanking its seal, Pennsylvania has a pair of horses, Missouri has a pair of bears itself. But that’s clearly symbolism derived from heraldry, and therefore those flags can get away with it by a simple nod to historical precedent. It’s not even that it doesn’t have any blue in it; neither do those of New Mexico, Alabama, nor Maryland, and they seem to be fine with it.

No, the California state flag has a whopping big bear taking up most of its face, meandering toward a single star in the upper hoist side, striding over a red stripe on the bottom of the flag. It’s definitely a bold choice. The only other flags that approach it are probably the Wyoming flag, with an outlined bison containing the state seal, and the Oregon flag, with a single large beaver sitting quietly on the obverse side, and even those are stylized, clearly harmless, and representative beasts, not looking for trouble. Not so the California bear.

In 1846, California was a Mexican territory, and there was the threat that Mexico and the United States of America were going to go to war. A group of settlers in the area decided that if it came to that, they were going to go with America. In fact, they decided not to wait, and went ahead and seized the city of Sonoma themselves.

Of course, they needed a flag to represent the new Republic of California, so they asked one of the settlers, one William “I’m Abraham Lincoln’s Wife’s Nephew” Todd to design it. He took a scrap of brown cloth and some brownish paint (or blackberry juice) and painted a crude representation of a bear heading toward a star. The bear represented strength and power as the biggest, baddest predator on the continent, and the star was reminiscent of Texas’s Lone Star. The combination was entirely meant to strike fear into the Mexican government, and to impress them with the seriousness of the situation.

This was the rough settler equivalent of declaring your house an independent state, then electing a shark mayor and inviting people to debate it via fisticuffs, which made it a little anticlimactic when the settlers found out within a month that the United States and Mexico were already at war. At that point, they replaced the Bear Flag with the Stars and Stripes, and California became an official state a few years later. In 1911, they adopted an updated version of the flag as the state flag.


The new flag needed a bear front and center, and hopefully one that looked more like a bear and less like a suckling pig this time. The designers wanted to use an actual bear as reference, but the California golden bear was almost extinct in the area. Luckily, twelve years prior, William Randolph Hearst had begun performing his famous publicity stunts, and one of his first was to bring a live California golden grizzly to San Francisco.

He sent Allen Kelly, a reporter with no hunting experience, to fetch one, and, to everyone’s astonishment, after several months and several close calls, he succeeded. At 1200 pounds, Monarch was the largest bear ever kept in captivity; some sources (well, Hearst) claimed that 20,000 people showed up to see him brought in.

After a few years, though, the novelty wore thin, and Monarch died in 1911. His skeleton was mounted and donated to the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and his pelt was stuffed and donated to the California Academy of Sciences. It was here that the illustrators were able to make detailed sketches and convert the image to the mighty representation now adorning the state flag.

Some state flags are clearly just placeholders until something interesting happens. Fortunately, California seems to have had that covered for over a hundred years.

Does your own state flag have as interesting a history? Keep an eye out for future explorations; perhaps you’ll find out soon!

History of the Massachusetts State Flag

yhst-45748600749679_2256_43636358As we rebuild after the Boston Marathon bombings, we told you about the history of Boston’s City Flag. Now, here’s some history of the Massachusetts State Flag.

All 50 U.S. states have a flag to represent its history, foundation and what it stands for. A variation of the current Massachusetts flag had been used as an unofficial representative since 1776. During the Civil War, the Massachusetts volunteer regiments carried a version of the current Massachusetts state flag with a white background and a blue shield along with the National Colors. Flags are strong story tellers that allow countries, states and citizens to inform everyone about the past that brought them to the present.

The first state flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was officially adopted in 1908. However, it was used unofficially throughout the American Revolution. The 1908 state flag was very similar to the one that currently represents Massachusetts today. One side of the flag displayed the state’s coat of arms on top of a white background, while the other side featured a blue shield with a green pine tree on it, which symbolized the significance of wood value emphasized by Massachusetts settlers. The 1908 state flag was revised on June 2, 1971 to feature the coat of arms on both sides. This is the current version of the state’s flag.Symbolism
Each symbol featured on the Massachusetts state flag has a meaning. All the symbols combined together tells a story about the founding of the state. The state flag has a white rectangular background with a centerpiece of the Massachusetts coat of arms in the center of a blue shield, an arm above it holding a broadsword, and a ribbon with the state’s motto — adopted in 1885 — written on it.The blue shield symbolizes the Blue Hills that stands in Canton and Milton, Massachusetts. The coat of arms centered on the blue shield features an image of a golden Algonquian Native American wearing a long shirt and moccasins. He is holding a golden bow in his right hand and a golden arrow pointing down in his left hand, which symbolizes peace. In the upper right hand corner next to the Native American’s head is a five-pointed white star that represents Massachusetts as being one of the 13 colonies of the Unites States of America.Above the blue shield that holds the coat of arms is the state’s military crest, which is a gold and blue wreath that holds the golden bent right arm of Myles Standish, grasping a golden broadsword. The arm symbolizes the Goliad symbol, which conveys the philosophy that those represented would prefer to lose their right arm than ever abide under tyranny, while the upward stance of the broadsword’s blade tells the story of how liberty was won through the American Revolution.

The blue ribbon that outlines both sides of the shield and curves around the bottom has the state’s motto written in Latin in golden letters: “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem,” meaning, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts state flag is important to state government and its people. Typically, the flag is flown over all state buildings directly under the United States flag.

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