Share on Facebook

The Meaning Behind All 50 State Flags

Stars and stripes are obvious, pelicans, the Big Dipper, and trees less so. Find out the history behind every flag of the United States.

Hawaii Waving Flagmemodji/Shutterstock

Hawaii

Hawaii's official state flag is an amalgamation of the red, white, and blue "Stars and Stripes" of the United States and the British Union Jack. However, there is another flag that Hawaiians identify as their own, and that's the personal flag of King Kamehameha I, with a color scheme of red, yellow, and green that represent different groups within Hawaiian society (royal, landed gentry, and commoners). Another Hawaiian gem: America's only royal palace.

State Flag of IdahoJoseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Idaho

Idaho's state flag is blue, with the words "State of Idaho" in gold lettering below the state seal. The seal itself is based on a painting by Paul Evans that reflects Idaho's main industries: mining, agriculture, and forestry. It's no secret that Idaho has some main industries, but these best-kept secrets in every state are more shocking.

Illinois (U.S. state) flag waving against clear blue sky, close up, isolated with clipping path mask alpha channel transparency, perfect for film, news, compositionrailway fx/Shutterstock

Illinois

The Illinois State flag might seem simple at first glance in that it's the Illinois state seal on a white field with the name, "Illinois" underneath. The seal shows a bald eagle, with a red banner in its beak proclaiming the state's motto, "State Sovereignty, National Union." In 1867, then-Secretary of State Sharon Tyndale had wanted to reverse the order of the phrases to show support for the Union during the Reconstruction era but was overruled by the state Senate. He did, however, place the word "sovereignty" upside down to make it harder to read. Check out which famous foods were invented in your state. 

Indiana (U.S. state) flag waving against clear blue sky, close up, isolated with clipping path mask alpha channel transparency, perfect for film, news, compositionrailway fx/Shutterstock

Indiana

The state flag of Indiana, the 19th state admitted to the Union, is blue and bears 19 stars, a torch that stands for liberty and enlightenment, and rays that represent Indiana's far-reaching influence. Discover the strangest unsolved mysteries from every state.

Iowa (U.S. state) flag waving against clear blue sky, close up, isolated with clipping path mask alpha channel transparency, perfect for film, news, compositionrailway fx/Shutterstock

Iowa

Iowa didn't adopt an official flag until 1921, almost 75 years after its admission to the Union, and only after the stationing of state troops along the Mexican border during World War I drew attention to the fact that the Hawkeye State didn't have a flag of its own. The flag consists of three vertical stripes of blue, white, and red (similar to France's flag), with a bald eagle on the white stripe carrying a blue streamer bearing the state motto: "Our Liberties We Prize, and Our Rights We Will Maintain."

Kansas (U.S. state) flag waving against clear blue sky, close up, isolated with clipping path mask alpha channel transparency, perfect for film, news, compositionrailway fx/Shutterstock

Kansas

The state flag of Kansas consists of the Kansas state seal, a golden sunflower, and the word "Kansas" on a blue background. Between the sunflower and the seal is a gold and blue bar that symbolizes the Louisiana Purchase (through which Kansas was acquired from France). Want to show your state pride? Start with the best gifts to give from each state.

Kentucky Waving Flagmemodji/Shutterstock

Kentucky

Kentucky's flag, adopted in 1918, was designed by an art teacher and features the Bluegrass State's seal in the center of a navy blue field. The seal, as Kentucky requires by law, features a man wearing buckskin (representing the frontier) and another in a suit (representing statesmen). These two men have evolved throughout the years; previous iterations included two men in formal wear embracing and two men in buckskin embracing. The seal also includes the phrases, "United We Stand," and "Divided We Fall," a goldenrod wreath (goldenrod is Kentucky's state flower), and the words, "Commonwealth of Kentucky."

State Flag of LouisianaJoseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Louisiana

The state flag of Louisiana is azure blue and features an angular pelican that is tearing its own breast in order to feed its young its own flesh and blood, signifying the state's willingness to sacrifice itself for its citizens. The three drops of blood shown have been required since 2006 by law. You can learn more about Louisiana and other states by visiting the most historic landmark in every state.

State Flag of MaineJoseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Maine

The current state flag, dating back to 1909, is the Maine state seal, which features a farmer with a scythe, a sailor with an anchor and a moose under a pine tree and a banner reading "dirigo" which is Latin for "I lead." We say "current" because there is a movement underway in the state's government to revert to a version of the flag featuring a blue star and green pine tree, which was used from 1901 to 1909. Stay tuned...

The flag of the state of Maryland against blue skyChris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock

Maryland

With its "bold colors, interesting patterns, and correct heraldry," the Maryland flag has been described as "the perfect state flag," according to Maryland's Secretary of State. Its design comes from the shield in the coat of arms of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore and colonial proprietor of Maryland, alternated with the red and white colors and symbolic cross of the Crosslands, Calvert's maternal family. Don't miss the strangest fact about Maryland... and all the other states.

View Slides 21-30
View Slides 1-10