Sunday, March 4, 2012

Florida's State Flag: In God We Trust

Happy statehood to Florida!
Florida's state flag

On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state. Its settlement by Europeans, however, dates back to the mid-16th century with Spain. The flags of Spain, England and France all have flown over Florida.

Florida's state flag is a simple design combining the official state seal and a red St. Patrick's cross. Although the state flag of Florida was adopted in 1900, it was not until 1966 that the design became codified.

(Note: In specific vexillological terms, St. George's Cross is an upright red cross on a white background, like a Crusader's Cross; St. Patrick's Cross or saltire is a diagonal red cross on a white background while St. Andrew's Cross or saltire is a diagonal blue cross on a white background. Oftentimes, however, St. Andrew's Cross is used to refer to any diagonal cross design on a flag. Versions of St. Patrick's Cross and St. Andrew's Cross were used in many Confederate flags. It is a design that also harks back to the British Union Jack and the flag of Scotland.)

The Great Seal of Florida, centered in the middle of the state flag, is one of several official versions. This particular version is used in the state flag and also on legislative documents. The seal contains a Seminole woman holding a cascade of red and white hibiscus flowers. The woman is standing on a point of land surrounded by water. A stately sabal palm tree is central to the seal. In the distance is a steam-powered paddle boat illuminated by the rays of the sun. Surrounding the seal is a gold circle with the legend "Great Seal of the State of Florida" emblazoned in red on the upper half. On the lower half of this ring, also in red, is the legend: "In God we trust." The predominant colors of the seal are gold, red, green and a warm, medium blue.

Official governmental seal for the State of Florida
Prior to the current design, Florida's state flag simply included the state seal on top of a white field. This design was adopted by the state legislature on August 6, 1868. The general response to the 1868 flag seems to be that it did not have a strong enough design for a state flag. In particular was the criticism that the white field was too close to a surrender flag despite the distinctive image of the state seal being dominant in the center of the flag.

Florida state flag, c. 1868 (
It was suggested that a St. Patrick's Cross be added to the design. While versions of St. Patrick's red cross and St. Andrew's blue cross were incorporated into Confederate flags during the Civil War, Florida's state flag is not derivative of Florida's Civil War-era flags. This addition, however, does add historical information.

When Florida seceded in 1861, there were several Confederate state flags that were quickly assembled to represent the state's new political standing. One of these was a copy of the Texas Navy's Lone Star flag.

Although it only flew for eight months, it was raised in 1861 and was identical in design to the flag used by the Texas Navy from 1836-1845. It included 13 red and white stripes and one large star on a blue field. The Florida Lone Star flag was an intermediary flag raised by Col. William Chase who commanded Florida's troops at the time of secession.

Florida's Lone Star flag (FL Dept. of State)
The flag chosen by the legislature at this time, however, is the Perry flag, named for Florida's governor at the time of secession. In January, 1861, the legislature directed Perry to design an appropriate state flag. 

In June, 1861, Perry's design was officially adopted. It consisted of three horizontal bar (red, white and red) beside a blue field on which is a military seal surrounded by the legend: "In God Is Our Trust."

The Perry flag
This image of the Perry flag (left) is reconstructed from notes in the state legislature. It is believed, however, the flag was never actually flown (FL Dept. of State).

Let it fly!
partial sources:
Dictionary of Vexillology
Florida Dept. of State 
Illustrated Dictionary of Vexillolofy (NAVA)
Museum of Southern History
State Symbols USA

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