It’s Flag Day

Today is a holiday commemorating the history of the American national flag, and all that it stands for. Additionally, each of the 50 states has its own flag—here are some stories about those.

US State Flags

The Alaska state flag predates Alaskan statehood. It depicts the North Star and the Big Dipper in gold against a dark blue background. The winning design was created for a 1927 Alaskan American Legion contest by Benny Benson, a 13-year-old boy from Seward, Alaska.

Connecticut is among the oldest states, and oldest American colonies. The design of the Connecticut flag is based on the Saybrook Colony seal, which settled in what’s now Connecticut in 1639. The flag’s three grapevines represent Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford, the state’s oldest settlements.

What European power held Iowa before it became an American state? The vertical blue, white, and red stripes of the Iowa state flag are a big clue—it’s modeled after the French flag. Iowa was part of the Louisiana Purchase that President Thomas Jefferson acquired from France. (Atop the stripes are an eagle holding a ribbon, which reads, “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”)

The Alabama state flag consists of a red “X” across a white background. It is reminiscent of the design of the flag of the Confederacy, but that’s merely coincidental. It does have a Civil War origin, however. Introduced in 1895, it’s based on the flag used by the 60th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

Hawaii’s flag is the only American state flag to feature the United Kingdom’s famous red-white-and-blue “Union Jack.” That’s a reference to the time before Hawaii was a state (but after when it was an independent kingdom) to when it was a protectorate of the British empire.

The first flag of Nevada, adopted in 1905 was co-designed by its governor, John Sparks. Atop the same blue of the national flag were a bunch of gold and yellow stars, and in huge letters, the words “SILVER NEVADA GOLD.” In the 1920s, the state did away with that flag and adopted one that is all blue, and the state’s emblem shrunk down and placed in the corner.