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What Is the History of Idaho's State Flag?

By Liz Thomas
Updated May 17, 2024
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Idaho's state flag went through three different versions, as the first two did not quite meet the legislative requirements. The first flag was commissioned in 1907, but the original specifications did not meet the legal statute. The statutes were revised in 1927 to clarify that the full state seal was to be included on the flag, but some elements of the design were still not standardized. In 1957, an enhanced version of the state seal was approved, and questions about the seal settled. The design of the flag was based on an earlier military banner.

As with many other state flags, Idaho's state flag originated as a military banner. In 1898, Idaho sent two battalions to fight in the Spanish-American war. Just before these men left to fight, they were presented with a flag from the women of Idaho. The regiment carried this flag throughout the entire war; it is currently on display at the capitol of Idaho.

This first flag was designed by Colonel Charles H. Irvin and created by needle workers in Chicago. It was made of military blue silk with the Idaho State seal embroidered in the center using colored silk threads. A fringe of gold is found on three sides of the flag.

In 1907, the Idaho legislature decided to create an official state flag, and chose a design very similar to the military banner. It was the Idaho adjutant general's job to create this flag. The one major change to the flag was that, in place of the regimental name, the new flag would contain the state name.

The dimensions of the first flag were 5 feet 6 inches (1.67 meters) in width and 4 feet 4 inches (1.32 meters) in height. The fringe was 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) wide and the state seal had a diameter of 21 inches (53.34 cm), located at the center of the flag. The letters for the phrase "State of Idaho" were 2 inches (5.08 cm) high on a red band that was 29 inches (73.66 cm) long and 3 inches (7.62 cm) tall. The band was placed 8.5 inches (21.59 cm) above the lower border of the flag.

The specifications provided by the adjutant general were actually different from what was present in the 1907 law. The main difference was that the entire state seal was not used, only pictorial information with no words. In 1927, the adjutant general's specifications were incorporated into the law, replacing those from the 1907 statute. Controversy about Idaho's state flag continued until 1957, all based on the representation of the state seal. In that year, the state legislature approved an new version of the state seal, which was used on Idaho's state flag from this point onward.

Images on the seal of Idaho's state flag represent the main industries of the state: forestry, agriculture, and mining. The miner on the seal represents mineral wealth and mining. The fruit and vegetables and wheat sheaf represent agriculture. A lone pine tree represents the timber industry, and an elk represents wildlife from forestry.

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Discussion Comments
By Hazali — On May 06, 2014

I really wish we would have learned more about the state flags in grade school. Then again, considering how I live in Illinois, I assume they only wanted to teach us about our state flags. Honestly, I guess that makes sense. Considering how there are fifty states, it would take a very long time to learn about every flag.

By Viranty — On May 06, 2014

Considering the origins of this flag, in my opinion, it's really a representation of how things will change over time, and how nothing is ever set in stone. An example of this is paragraph four. There are times where we think we may have all the ideas right, but in reality, nothing is ever "perfect", until there's a final say.

By RoyalSpyder — On May 05, 2014

Interesting article that goes into detail about the Idaho state flag. Also, I feel it does a really good job a discussing what the flag represents, especially with the mining, agriculture, and forestry. Obviously, the other state flags have some very significant meaning as well, and this is only the icing on the cake. Reading this article has gotten me interested in the history and origin of the other state flags.

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