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What Is the History of Michigan's State Flag?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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The state flag of Michigan represents the landscape, the fauna, and the history of the state in one flag. As the third flag of the state since its inception, it was enshrined into Michigan state law in 1911. The coat of arms also shares some detail with the Hudson Bay Trading Company.

Several mottos feature on Michigan's state flag. Above the eagle is a banner that declares "E Pluribus Unum," which is Latin for "from many, one." The center shield has the word "Tuebor" on it, which means "I will defend," and this relates to gun and arrow motifs. The banner underneath the shield has the words "Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice," which translate to "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."

The language on the flag is supported by visual elements. Michigan's state flag has a blue background with a coat of arms, which feature several animal species. An elk and a moose stand on either side of the coat of arms. These animals are native to the area.

A shield portrays a man, who holds a gun, standing on a fertile peninsula next to blue water. This image represents the determination of the state's population to defend themselves against invaders and dates from military tensions of the early 19th century between the state and potential aggressors such as Ohio and the British.

Above the shield is a bald eagle, which clutches arrows and an olive branch in its talons. As olive branches are a symbol of peace, the implication is that the state values peace but is also prepared to defend itself. The eagle itself represents the United States as a whole.

According to the state of Michigan, the coat of arms shares some details with the coat of arms of the Hudson Bay Trading Company, which was active in North America in the 17th century. The present-day flag, which dates from 1911, is the third version of Michigan's state flag since the state came into being in 1837. The older versions of Michigan's state flag featured some different representations of the state, such as a picture of a mine, a farmer, and a ship. A train and a representation of logs transported downriver were also features of previous flags. The flag was incorporated into Michigan law by Act 209 in 1911, which states that "the state flag shall be blue charged with the arms of the state."

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