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What Is the History of Florida's State Flag?

Florida's state flag, adopted in 1900, intertwines rich history and symbolism. Its red cross recalls the Confederate battle flag, while the state seal showcases native flora and fauna, signifying Florida's diverse natural beauty. This emblem reflects a complex past, from Spanish rule to Civil War echoes. What stories might the flag's evolution reveal about Florida's identity and heritage? Explore further to uncover its tapestry of tales.
Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins

The flag that flies over the southern state of Florida in the beginning of the 21st century is the same flag from a century before. Created three years after the end of the Civil War, the modern state flag originally featured just the state seal on a vast field of white. In 1890, however, then-Governor Francis Fleming suggested that the flag, limp on a pole, could resemble the white flag of surrender. In 1900, the modern flag was complete, when the legislature, followed by the voters, changed the state constitution to add the red "X" of St. Andrew from corner to corner.

This is not the only time that Florida's state flag has included a blood-red cross. The Cross of Burgundy flew over Florida when the state fell under the rule of Spanish viceroyalty in the 14th to 17th centuries. St. Andrew was the patron saint of Spain's colonial viceroyalty, the House of Burgundy, and the cross's "X," or saltire, is barbed in that version of the flag, as if twigs have been shorn from two, overlapping branches.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

According to the Florida Division of Historical Resources, these red, diagonal lines on Florida's state flag were meant to represent the branches of the tree from which St. Andrew was lynched. The state of Alabama also bears St. Andrew's diaganol cross, but does not include its state seal. No other state flags follow this symbolic pattern.

The historic seal at the middle of Florida's state flag, officially adopted by voters in 1868, is a reflection of some of Florida's attributes. A Seminole Indian woman is spreading flowers along the green land that meets a blue shore. On the distant waters is a gleaming sun and steamboat. Originally, the Native American woman was dwarfed by a cocoa tree, but in 1953, the sabal palm was adopted as the state tree, replacing the cocoa tree on the seal.

Between the end of Spanish rule in 1821 until the end of the Civil War in 1865, Florida's state flag had a few styles, none of which looked anything like the modern version. Shortly after the state was adopted as the 27th U.S. state in 1845, Florida's state flag was the same as the historic "lone star" flag of Texas. After succeeding from the union, several versions were adopted and then later scrapped, until the eventual loss to the North and the dawn of the modern American era.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was the current Florida state flag adopted?

The current Florida state flag, featuring a red saltire on a white field with the state seal in the center, was adopted on November 6, 1900. This design was finalized after several iterations and modifications to previous flags used by the state since it joined the Union in 1845.

What does the red saltire on the Florida flag represent?

The red saltire, which is reminiscent of the Cross of St. Andrew, is said to have been added to Florida's flag in the late 1890s. It was suggested by Governor Francis P. Fleming, who served from 1889 to 1893, to distinguish the flag from a white flag of truce and to reflect the state's Southern heritage.

What elements are included in the Florida state seal that is featured on the flag?

The Florida state seal, which is at the center of the flag, includes a variety of symbols representing the state's natural beauty and resources. It features a Seminole woman scattering flowers, a steamboat sailing, a Sabal palmetto palm, and a brilliant sun. The seal also includes the words "Great Seal of the State of Florida" and "In God We Trust."

Has the Florida state flag ever been controversial?

Yes, the inclusion of the red saltire has been a subject of controversy, as some interpret it as an echo of the Confederate battle flag, which can evoke the painful history of slavery and segregation. Discussions about the flag's symbolism have been part of a broader national conversation about Confederate symbols and their place in modern society.

How has the Florida state flag evolved over the years?

The Florida state flag has undergone several changes since the state's admission to the Union. Initially, the flag did not have the red saltire; it was a plain white field with the state seal. The red saltire was added around 1899. Before that, during the Civil War, Florida had a flag with a different design, reflecting its secession from the Union. The current flag's design has remained consistent since its adoption in 1900.

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Discussion Comments

Drentel

Until reading this article, I didn't know a coconut tree was once pictured on Florida'a state flag. How out of place does that seem? I think the powers that be made the right decision when they switched the coconut tree to the palm tree.

Animandel

The Seminole Indians have a significant role in Florida's history, so I think it is great that the flag has been altered to represent this. However, I think other elements could be added to reflect the unique characteristics of the state. When I think of Florida, I think of alligators, oranges, colorful birds, water, sunshine and so on. Couldn't some of these elements be added to the flag to better reflect what comprises the state?

Laotionne

How terrific is it that a Native American woman is on the Florida flag? Indians have been portrayed so negatively in American history. Putting a Native American on the flag is a tribute to Indians in general, and the fact that a female Indian is on the flag is doubly amazing since we know how women have been slighted by recorded and accepted American history.

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