State Flags through the Decades – The 1900’s

Recently, we featured the first in our series of “State Flags through the Decades”. We started with the 1800’s and noticed a shift from red, white and blue flags to flags with motto’s and different colors. What design changes might occur as we look into flags from 1900 to 1910?

In the first decade of 1900, six states adopted flags in the United States: Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Will there be more five point stars and red, white and blue designs or something new?

New York – 1901


New York’s state flag has a blue background with the coat of arms in the middle. The coat of arms was adopted in 1778 and displays a shield with mast ships in the Hudson River. Behind is a grassy mountain range with the rising sun and to the left of the shield is Liberty with a cap on a pole. Liberty’s left foot treads on a crown which represents freedom from the British. On the right is Justice wearing a blindfold (representing impartiality) and holding scales (to represent fairness) and a sword. The banner below the shield shows the state motto ‘Excelsior’, commonly translated from Latin as “Ever Upward”. The last element to the coat of arms is the crest (an eagle mounted on the world globe).

Ohio – 1902


The Ohio flag has quite a unique shape as it is the only non-rectangular United States state flag. The flag even has its own 17-step procedure for folding! The state flags design consists of three red and two white horizontal stripes representing the roads and waterways of the state. Again, the five point star is present and encased in a blue triangle that represents the mountains and valleys of Ohio. 13 stars surround the “O” representing the 13 original states of the United States. Four stand above the O at the peak of the “mountain” to symbolize Ohio as the 17th state admitted in the union.

Maryland – 1904


The Maryland state flag is also the banner of George Calvert, Lord Baltimore. The black and gold design is the Calvert coat of arms. The red and white design is the coat of arms of Calvert’s mother and features a cross alternating in red and white. This is one of four state flags that do not contain any blue.

Tennessee – 1905


The Tennessee flag was designed by Colonel LeRoy Reeves of the Tennessee National Guard in 1905. It is a red flag with an emblem in the center and a blue bar running vertically on the edge. The emblem is placed in the middle and holds three stars within a blue circle. The stars represent the three “Grand Divisions” of the state, East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. The circle signifies the unity of the “Grand Divisions”. The blue bar is purely for ascetics and to allow the flag more variation when hanging limp.

Pennsylvania – 1907


The Pennsylvania State Flag was first displayed in 1799 with the Pennsylvania Coat of Arms. The coat of arms is a shield adorned by a bald eagle and flanked by horses. Inside the shield are Pennsylvania’s strengths – a ship carrying state good to all parts of the world, a plough to symbolize Penn.’s natural resources and three golden sheaves of wheat that represent fertile fields. Below the shield are cross limbs of an olive branch and cornstalk which symbolize peace and prosperity. The state motto “Virtue, Liberty and Independence are below the limbs.

Maine – 1909


The Maine flag is the state coat of arms on a blue field. The coat of arms is a shield with a moose resting in front of a tall tree line. Flanking the shield are a farmer and seaman representing the sea by the state and the states reliance on agriculture. The North Star represents the state motto: Dirigo meaning “I Lead”. In 2001, North American Vexillological Association ranked Maine one of the worst designed flags.

During the decade of 1900 to 1910, we start to notice the frequent use of state coat of arms on flags. Though the 1800’s held many flags with variations of red white and blue, a new trend is picked up in the early 1900’s in the form of coat of arms. Will this trend continue into the 1910’s or will designs change yet again?

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