Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Making Things Official: Kentucky's State Flag

Kentucky horse farm (Photo: Gene Burch© 2005)
Kentucky, like Massachusetts, Virginia and Pennsylvania, is one of four state to call itself a commonwealth. On June 1, 1792, it was recognized as the 15th state.

Though one of the older states, Kentucky took its time deciding on the details of its flag. In 1918, for instance, Kentucky had an "authorized" flag design but no actual state flag ­– not one with specific dimensions, at any rate.
Soldiers from Camp Zachary Taylor, 1918 (Photo: monroe.ilgenweb.net)

Then comes the end of World War I. On March 30, 1920, Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, a training camp for US soldiers during WWI, was scheduled to be closed. Camp Zachary Taylor had trained 125,000 soldiers for the war and was one of only 16 such camps in the entire country. Its closing was a big deal.

The closing required a formal ceremony, and the ceremony required the official flag of the Commonwealth of Kentucky to be flown. A flag, as described on the books, was made and flown. Sources vary in terms of what exactly was so wrong with the flag. One source (kynghistory.ky.gov) indicates that the flag was "constructed in haste" and not terribly attractive (though the design then is not so different from the current one).

Presidents Hoover and Coolidge at Hoover's inauguration (Photo: Life©)
In general, however, the lack of official dimensions (official elegant dimensions?) apparently did not inspire a great deal of pride in flag. Be that as it may, not much was done to resolve the situation over the coming decades. 

Another early version of the state flag was created later in the 1920s. The designer, Mrs. Jessie Cox, was an art teacher. Three versions of the flag were made from her drawing. Of these, two survive, one of which was carried in Pres. Herbert Hoover's 1929 inauguration. (See photo below, courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society and kynghistory.ky.gov.) 
Section of the Kentucky flag c. 1929 (KY Historical Society)

In 1961, Major Taylor L. Davidson and Governor Combs decided to sort out the flag's dimensions once and for all. A revised flag with official dimensions was finally adopted in 1962. Like its predecessor, it consists of a blue background "with the seal of the Commonwealth encircled by a wreath" of blooming goldenrod along the bottom half of the seal. The words, "Commonwealth of Kentucky," encircle the upper half of the seal.

As for those dimensions, well,  the official Kentucky flag is unique in its length.  The flag  of the Commonwealth is required to be 1 and 9/10 times the flag's width. The seal, centered along the middle of the flag, is required to be 2/3 of the flag's width. 
The official flag of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

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