Commonwealth Colors – All About the Kentucky State Flag

From the Appalachian culture, the significance of the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln, to Bourbon County and horse racing, Kentucky is a state enriched with authentic heritage, important history and deep traditions.

Kentucky flag on the mast

The Bluegrass State lays claim to many famous people either born or raised as Kentuckians. There were political figures like Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States, and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, musicians such as Loretta Lynn and Skeeter Davis, sports stars like Muhammad Ali and Olympic swimming champion Mary Meagher, actors such as George Clooney and Johnny Depp, and legendary pioneers like James Bowie and Daniel Boone.

The Kentucky flag history

Although there was no official Kentucky state flag until 1918, many flags flew over the bluegrass state representing numerous countries and affiliations. In the 1600s, Spanish settlers camped throughout Kentucky while heading north to new settlements around Lake Onondaga, New York. Unfortunately, they were usually killed before they could reach New York state.

During the early part of the 1700s, famed explorers Iberville, Marquette and LaSalle brought the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the French monarchy to Kentucky. France held on to a southwestern portion of Kentucky until the French and Indian War. As part of the Proclamation of 1763 and 1774’s Quebec Act, the French portion was ceded to Great Britain.

The Union Jack, Great Britain’s flag, flew over what is now called Kentucky before the War of Independence (also known as the Revolutionary War). After the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Kentucky briefly united with the Commonwealth of Virginia as one of their counties.

The Virginia flag flew until 1792 when Kentucky joined the Union and became a state. Both Union and Confederate flags flew over Kentucky during the Civil War. The 15-star flag of the Union remained above Kentucky until the official state flag was designed.

Although the flag was adopted in 1918, it wasn’t until 1928 that an agreement was reached concerning what the flag should look like. Statutes began to incorporate the flag’s drawing the same year.

Designed by art teacher Jesse Cox Burgess from Kentucky’s state capital, Frankfort, the specifications, colors and design of the flag did not receive approval from the Legislature until 1961. There were no significant changes in the design between 1918 and 1962, when it was finally passed into law.

looming goldenrod. Solidago, or goldenrods, is a genus of flowering plants in the aster family, Asteraceae

Flag description

The official flag of the Commonwealth of Kentucky contains the seal of the Commonwealth on a rich navy-blue field, with sprigs of the state flower goldenrod below, and “Commonwealth of Kentucky” written above.

The unique seal portrays a frontiersman wearing buckskins (to represent the residents of the country), embracing a gentleman wearing a formal suit and coat (to represent the residents of the city). The state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” was derived from a patriotic song popular during the American Revolution, “The Liberty Song.”

Pledge of Allegiance

Kentucky’s General Assembly adopted the following Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in 2000: “I pledge allegiance to the Kentucky flag, and to the Sovereign State for which it stands, one Commonwealth, blessed with diversity, natural wealth, beauty and grace from on High.”

Male cardinal bird perching on pole

Etiquette of the Kentucky flag

The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s official state flag must be made either of navy-blue silk, cotton bunting, nylon, wool or another appropriate material. The seal of the Commonwealth must be encircled by a wreath, the lower portion of which is blooming goldenrod and the top portion must contain the “Commonwealth of Kentucky,” directly in the center. It may either be stamped, painted, printed or embroidered on. The crest at the flagstaff’s head on which the flag is displayed must be Kentucky’s state bird, the cardinal. It may be cast in brass, bronze or another appropriate material, and the cardinal must be in a restful but alert pose.

Proportions of the Kentucky flag

The proportions of the Kentucky state flag are 10:19 (width to length). While the actual dimensions of the flag can vary, the length must be 1 9/10 x the flag’s width, and the diameter of the encirclement and the seal needs to be roughly 2/3 of the flag’s width.

Final thoughts

There lies behind the flag an unusually complicated and lengthy history, which mirrors the history of the state. With so many different flags that have flown over the Bluegrass state throughout the years, the modern version of the flag has little relation to flags that came before it.

While it may seem to be a simple design when compared with those of some other states, the longer you look at the Kentucky state flag, the more complex and appropriate it somehow seems. The navy blue portrays a strength that is true Kentucky, and the golden letters of “Commonwealth of Kentucky” leave a lasting impression of prosperity gained after a loss.

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