Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Idaho state flag

In 1907, Idaho adopted a very simple design for its state flag: Centered in the middle of a dark blue field would be the official state seal and a banner declaring the state name. A gold fringe is to encircle the entire flag.

The Idaho state flag
 Although the design for the state flag has not changed, the state seal has been revised a few times since its original design when Idaho was a territory. Here is that history.

Starting Points: The State Seal

Silas D. Cochran was a clerk working in the Idaho Secretary of State's office. He is the designer of the Idaho Territorial Seal, c. 1863.

The territorial seal includes an illustration of an eagle with wings spread above a shield. Inside the shield is a mountain landscape with the sun's rays spreading outward. It bears the legend "The Union", a powerful slogan for a nation at war, occupied with counting "free" and "slave" areas as territories are granted statehood.
Idaho's first territorial seal, c. 1863

In 1866, however, then-governor of Idaho 's territory, Caleb Lyon, redesigned the seal. Lyon's design features two women surrounding a shield featuring a view of mountains and birds. An elk's antlers rise above the shield; the legend, "Salve" is below it. Salve is Latin for "hello." Lyon's seal was used until 1890, Idaho's year of statehood.
Idaho's second territorial seal, c. 1866
Celebrating Statehood
In celebration of statehood, Idaho holds a contest for the design of its State Seal. The prize is $100, a generous amount in those days, approximately $2,784 is 2012 dollars (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis).

Miss Edward's original painting (Idaho State Historical Archives)
Miss Emma Sarah Edwards eventually is chosen as the winner. A recent graduate from an art school on the East coast and the daughter of Missouri's former governor, Miss Edwards was visiting friends on her way to California when she fell in love with Idaho and decided to stay and teach art. Miss Edwards' design became the State Seal of Idaho in 1891. Her original painting is in the Idaho State Historical Society. As for Miss Edwards, herself, she later married and became Mrs. Emma Edwards Green.

Designing her version of the State Seal

From Miss Edwards' version of events (link to state archive), she interviewed legislators to get the inside track on what they thought the seal should represent. Given her family background, she had their access – and she used it. Many of the legislators also were miners who encouraged her to include a miner in the seal – which she did.

The seal includes a woman (a virginal icon representing both liberty as well as suffrage) and a man (the miner). The elk horns and the mountains remained from Gov. Lyon's design. Above the mountains, however, Miss Edwards included a sunrise. Above the shield is the legend, in Latin, "Esto Perpetua," meaning, in perpetuity or, more aptly, Idaho forever. 
The 1957 Idaho State Seal

The Idaho State Seal was "updated" in 1957 by Paul B. Evans with some of the key images standardized or more clarified to better illustrate the state's natural resources and main industries of agriculture, mining and forestry. Technically, this design is the official state seal (

Let it fly!

Sources used:
Federal Reserve of Minneapolis inflation calculator (www.

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