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What Is the History of Florida's State Flag?

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.

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Discussion Comments


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.


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?


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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