The Montana state flag design was born of the initiative of a Colonel Kessler, head of the First Montana Infantry. During the spring of 1898, the First Montana Infantry, volunteers from several Montana communities prepared for the war against Spain at Fort William Henry Harrison. The ladies of Helena provided these men with a 45-star U.S. flag to carry to the conflict as their Regimental Colors. Colonel Kessler felt that his group of fighting volunteers needed a special flag or banner to distinguish his men from other forces. The flag that was constructed displayed an embroidered replica of the Montana state seal on a dark background. This hand-made silk flag displayed "1st Montana Infantry U.S.V." above the Montana state seal. This flag accompanied the First Montana Infantry to war in the fall of 1898 and served the unit well during its tour of duty. When the volunteers of the First Montana Infantry returned to Montana a year later, Colonel Kessler's flag had grown in stature and though not official, it was considered a fitting symbol of the state. In 1905, the Ninth Legislative Assembly proclaimed Colonel Kessler's flag to be the official flag of the state of Montana. The Montana flag as we know today has had two changes made. In 1981, the Legislature passed a bill requiring that the word "MONTANA", in Roman letters, be positioned above the seal. This was to distinguish the Montana flag from the flags of other states at a distance. In 1985, more specific definition of the letters spelling "MONTANA" was approved. Manufacturers of the flag specified "Helvetica bold" to eliminate the wide variety of styles in use. The state motto "ORO Y PLATA" (Spanish for Gold and Silver) is displayed on a ribbon below the seal. The Montana state seal is centered behind the brilliant sun, snowy mountains, forests, cliffs and the Great Falls of the Missouri River to serve as the background for a pick, a shovel and a plow representing Montana's mining and farming past and present.
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