All 50 U.S. states have a flag to represent its history, foundation and what it stands for. A variation of the current Massachusetts flag had been used as an unofficial representative since 1776. During the Civil War, the Massachusetts volunteer regiments carried a version of the current Massachusetts state flag with a white background and a blue shield along with the National Colors. Flags are strong story tellers that allow countries, states and citizens to inform everyone about the past that brought them to the present.
The first state flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was officially adopted in 1908. However, it was used unofficially throughout the American Revolution. The 1908 state flag was very similar to the one that currently represents Massachusetts today. One side of the flag displayed the state’s coat of arms on top of a white background, while the other side featured a blue shield with a green pine tree on it, which symbolized the significance of wood value emphasized by Massachusetts settlers. The 1908 state flag was revised on June 2, 1971 to feature the coat of arms on both sides. This is the current version of the state’s flag.Symbolism
Each symbol featured on the Massachusetts state flag has a meaning. All the symbols combined together tells a story about the founding of the state. The state flag has a white rectangular background with a centerpiece of the Massachusetts coat of arms in the center of a blue shield, an arm above it holding a broadsword, and a ribbon with the state’s motto — adopted in 1885 — written on it.The blue shield symbolizes the Blue Hills that stands in Canton and Milton, Massachusetts. The coat of arms centered on the blue shield features an image of a golden Algonquian Native American wearing a long shirt and moccasins. He is holding a golden bow in his right hand and a golden arrow pointing down in his left hand, which symbolizes peace. In the upper right hand corner next to the Native American’s head is a five-pointed white star that represents Massachusetts as being one of the 13 colonies of the Unites States of America.Above the blue shield that holds the coat of arms is the state’s military crest, which is a gold and blue wreath that holds the golden bent right arm of Myles Standish, grasping a golden broadsword. The arm symbolizes the Goliad symbol, which conveys the philosophy that those represented would prefer to lose their right arm than ever abide under tyranny, while the upward stance of the broadsword’s blade tells the story of how liberty was won through the American Revolution.
The blue ribbon that outlines both sides of the shield and curves around the bottom has the state’s motto written in Latin in golden letters: “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem,” meaning, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts state flag is important to state government and its people. Typically, the flag is flown over all state buildings directly under the United States flag.