During his years in office, our first president, George Washington, set an example and a precedent to which our leaders have adhered for generations. Fittingly, the United States pays homage to him in a variety of ways.
His image appears on our currency, and his name is many great buildings in the nation’s capital to memorials around the country. The 42nd state of Washington decided to further honor this great leader by putting his image on the state flag.
As many states did before it, Washington became a state without an official flag. It was recognized as a state on November 11, 1889, but a flag was not adopted until 1923. In the first 30 years of statehood, citizens used a variety of unofficial flags. The most popular was a military flag that displayed the profile of George Washington in gold on blue bunting. Some citizens gravitated toward the state’s official seal, displaying it on a field of purple or green.
The state government began a campaign to design a flag in 1913, and Governor Ernest Lister encouraged citizens to submit designs for consideration. This campaign was heavily opposed by the Sons of the American Revolution and the Sons of Veterans. These patriotic groups held the idea that a state flag would be detrimental to the importance of the national flag.
While the state debated the suitability of adopting the flag, the Washington chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution were taking matters into their own hands. In 1914, the national chapter of the DAR requested a Washington state flag to display at DAR Memorial Continental Hall in Washington DC. When the Washington chapter realized the state lacked a flag, they designed one and had it produced for the national DAR.
After years of lobbying for official adoption of their state flag, the Washington DAR succeeded in gaining the support of those groups who were originally opposed. Their unofficial state flag was adopted into law on June 7, 1923, which became Washington’s Flag Day. Subsequent laws have standardized the appearance and regulations of the Washington flag, but the original design by those industrious ladies of the DAR holds true today.
The flag of the state of Washington is very unique among state flags of the United States. Just as Washington is the only state named to honor a former president, its flag is the only state flag to bear the likeness of a historical figure. Washington is also the only state with a green flag, which is fitting for its nickname, “The Evergreen State.” Washington’s flag does have one resemblance to many other state flags; it features the official state seal at its center.
Washington’s state seal was adopted long before the official state flag. Before Washington became a state, they had a territorial seal that was much more elaborate. It featured a woman surrounded by a log cabin, a wagon and a fir forest in front of the sea and a mountain range.
The jeweler commissioned to engrave the seal when statehood was imminent suggested a simpler, more iconic design. The current state seal features a portrait of George Washington surrounded by a gold band bearing the words, “The Seal of the State of Washington” as well as “1889,” the year Washington gained statehood.
When the flag was originally adopted, the state legislature stipulated that, on some ceremonial occasions, the flag should be bordered with a green fringe. Just a couple of years later, they changed to gold fringe decorating the edge of the flag.
The green color of the flag’s background is to represent the “verdant fields” of the western part of the state while the gold seal represents the wheat fields in the east. The vibrant green reminds everyone who sees it of the incredible landscapes of “The Evergreen State.” Some also see the green color as a reminder and commitment to preserve the natural resources that make the state so beautiful.
Washington stipulates the exact colors to be used in the flag by using the Standard Color Reference of America as well as the Pantone Matching System. The green background is specifically Irish Green. The border of the seal is Spanish Yellow while the interior is Oriental Blue. George Washington’s face is Eggshell, and the lettering is Standard Black.
Although the design of Washington’s flag is not necessarily unique, the distinctive elements make it stand out amongst all the other U.S. state flags. The bright green background really pops against the many banners of red, white and blue.
The image of George Washington pays homage to the great leader whose name graces the state. That image should inspire the leaders and citizens of Washington to follow his example of leadership, honesty and humility. Washington residents proudly fly their state flag at every opportunity.