Cornhusker Colors: Symbols in the Nebraska State Flag

nebraska flag waving

The flag is one of the most widely recognized and proudly displayed state symbols. The wide open, blue skies over the plains of Nebraska are the perfect backdrop for proud Cornhuskers to fly their state flag.

History

Nebraska gained statehood in 1867 and is unique among American states. Their legislature is unicameral–not split into a House and Senate–and their representatives are all officially non-partisan. The Nebraska state seal was also adopted in 1867, though it did not appear on the state’s flag until 1925. Nebraska did not have its own state flag until a bill passed in 1925. The bill stipulated the design–the golden state seal centered on a field of national blue.

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Although created in 1925, it was not officially adopted until another bill was introduced and passed in 1963. This bill recognized the Nebraska State Flag. Although many states have changed the design of their flags over the years, most adopted a version of their official state flag within a few years of gaining statehood, so Nebraska is an exception.

In recent history, there has been a push to redesign the Nebraskan flag. There was an unsuccessful attempt by a state senator to create a flag design task force last year. The senator claimed it was time for a new flag after an error at the Statehouse. The flag had flown upside-down for ten days in a row, and no one noticed. While the legislature declined to create a task force, many citizens are still petitioning for a new design.

Symbolism

The state seal holds rich detail that is very meaningful. It is rendered in blue, silver and gold on the flag. The blue of the flag is national blue, the same color as the blue on the flag of the United States. When the color blue appears on a flag, it traditionally represents justice, perseverance and vigilance–morals that every state should be proud to uphold.

In the foreground of the state seal, a blacksmith works at his anvil. This represents the “mechanic arts” which were essential to settlers who came to populate the vast territory. The Missouri River flows behind the blacksmith, with a steamboat traveling along it. There is also a train chugging along behind the river towards the Rocky Mountains, all combining to show the modernity and mobility of Nebraska in its early years as well as the rich landscape it has to offer. A settler’s cabin with sheaves of harvested wheat represents the state’s strong tradition of agriculture.

At the top of the seal, a ribbon banner waves with the state’s motto, “Equality Before the Law.” This motto represents Nebraska’s commitment to justice and equality over political party preferences. The whole seal is surrounded by the words, “Great Seal of the State of Nebraska,” and the date it gained statehood, March 1, 1867.

State law protects the seal of Nebraska, and requests for permission to use images of the seal or the state flag must be made in writing to the Secretary of State.

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Cornhuskers–Pride in a Nickname

Nebraska is also unique among the other American states because it shares its nickname with the largest university in the state. Nebraska has been known as the “Cornhusker State” since 1945, but the University of Nebraska athletics teams have been called Cornhuskers since 1899. Legend has it the state chose the nickname in honor of the impeccable reputation of the university and its athletics.

While Cornhusker is not a particularly inspiring nickname, it definitely shines above previous nicknames for the state and its residents which included Squatters and Bug Eaters. The most popular state nickname before Cornhusker was adopted was the “Tree Planter State,” and residents were known as Tree Planters. Cornhusker was finally favored above Tree Planter to pay homage to the vast quantities of corn grown in Nebraska to feed both the human population and the immense cattle population.

Final Thoughts

The state flag of Nebraska has an enduring legacy of the early years of Nebraska’s statehood. The symbolism in the state seal is the perfect testament to the tradition of hard work and enterprise that has made Nebraska great. Even if a new design comes along soon, a current state flag will be a memento of a state that has stayed true to itself while keeping up with the modern world. Cornhuskers, both the athletes and the residents, can fly their state flag with pride.

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