The tradition of state flags had begun before states were even states. The colonies used them as a rallying point for groups of militia, and they have been a symbol of state pride ever since. Maryland has one of the most unusual state flags. It stands out from the mostly blue banners of other states and, since Maryland was one of the original colonies, it has a long and rich history represented in its colors.
From colonization to modern day, Maryland had a few different flags. The colony of Maryland was granted to Cecil Calvert, Second Baron Baltimore, by King Charles I. Naturally, Lord Baltimore used his own family’s coat of arms for the first flag of the colony. The Calvert colors are the gold and black seen in two quarters of the modern-day flag and are still incorporated in the flag for the city of Baltimore.
The red and white trefoil cross appeared as a flag during the American Civil War. Much of the population of Maryland sympathized with the Confederacy, even though the state officially stayed with the Union. These Confederate sympathizers began flying the red and white flag, as red and white were the colors of secession. To aid in reconciliation after the war, the two flags were merged to create a banner similar to the one used today.
The current Maryland flag is their second official state flag. When they first gained statehood in 1788, their flag was very similar to many other state flags. It featured the state seal on a blue background. The modern flag was first flown in 1880 after the Civil War, but it was not officially adopted until 1904. It has remained unchanged since and has been ranked one of the best state flags in the United States. It is the only state flag to be based on British heraldry.
The coat of arms that inspired the Maryland flag belongs specifically to Cecil Calvert, the Second Baron Baltimore. It combines the coat of arms from his mother’s family – the Crosslands – with the coat of arms from his father’s family – the Calverts. The gold and black Calvert coat of arms was awarded to a distant Calvert ancestor, supposedly for valiantly storming a fortification during a battle. The pattern is intended to create the look of the crenellations of a palisade.
The Barons Baltimore were allowed to incorporate the first Baron Baltimore’s mother’s coat of arms into their own because she was the heiress of the Crossland family. The Crossland colors are red and silver, and the coat of arms also features a cross bottony or trefoil cross. The colors of the cross are counterchanged, meaning opposite of the color in the quadrant.
In the heraldic coat of arms, the crest is supported by two leopards and topped with two pennants flying from a ducal coronet. Their motto was in Italian, “fatti maschii, parole femine,” meaning “manly deeds, womanly words.” The line of the Barons Baltimore ended in 1771 with the death of the sixth Baron, Frederick Calvert.
The Maryland state flag has some interesting traditions and pops up in many places in Maryland culture. Maryland is the only state that has regulations on flagpoles, in addition to flags. Any flagpole bearing the state flag is supposed to have a finial in the shape of the cross bottony, like the one displayed on the flag itself. While the flagpoles at the State House and other government buildings follow this rule, most individuals and businesses do not.
The sports teams at the University of Maryland are very supportive of the state flag. The flag is painted in both end zones of the football stadium, and football players have an emblem of the flag on their uniform. Lacrosse players also have the design of the flag on their uniform. Many universities throughout the state use the flag’s colors in their logos and as their school colors. Even the professional sports teams sport the flag. The Baltimore Ravens football team and the Baltimore Orioles baseball team both utilize the flag on their uniforms or as alternate team logos.
Residents of the state of Maryland are fiercely proud of their unique banner. Many tout its intricate designs while others take pride in the fact that it is one of the only flags not to feature the state seal or the color blue. Those of British ancestry also enjoy the heraldic significance of their state’s flag. The Maryland flag is one of the oldest in the country and can fly proudly at your home. Just don’t forget the finial!