Illinois State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
Illinois State Flag
White with the state seal in the center and the word "Illinois" below.
Symbols: The Illinois state seal. A bald eagle perches on a rock on which the dates 1868 and 1818 appear. He holds a shield decorated with 13 stars and 13 stripes with one foot and a red banner with the state motto, "State Sovereignty, National Union" in his beak. The dates represent the year Illinois became a state, 1818, and the year the state seal was redesigned, 1868. This seal is based on the U.S. national seal and shows allegiance to the federal government, important because the design dates to a time when the Union's survival was uncertain.
Colors: White, red, blue, green, brown, yellow, and grey. White normally represents peace and purity. The other colors make a realistic picture.
Proportions: 2:3, 3:5, or 5:8
The state of Illinois officially adopted its first flag on June 6, 1915. It happened because Ella Park Lawrence, State Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), noticed that her state had no state flag on display in the nation's capital. Determined to remedy the situation, Lawrence had local DAR chapters organize contests to collect possible designs and personally lobbied state officials to persuade them that adopting a state flag was important enough to warrant their attention. The Rockford DAR chapter won the prize—$25—and the General Assembly approved the design. It was a white flag with the modified state seal at the center. The words "State of Illinois" and the statehood date were deliberately left out. The General Assembly passed a bill making the flag official, although Governor Edward Dunne chose not to sign the bill. Lawrence immediately acquired five flags, which were hand-painted on silk rather than embroidered. She gave one each to Illinois Secretary of State Lewis Stevenson, Governor Edward Dunne, and the State Historical Society. She also gave one to the national DAR and one to the state DAR.
Though people who lived in Illinois could probably recognize their state flag, it had no identifiers linking it strongly to the state. This became more of an issue as time went on, until soldiers from Illinois actually complained that no one recognized their state flag during the Vietnam War. The state name was added below the seal, and a few adjustments were made to the seal at the same time. The governor, Richard Ogilvie, set up a committee including the State Historian, the Director of the Illinois Information Service, and the State Records Archivist to clearly define the flag's specifications so that flags could be consistently produced. The Secretary of State and the Governor accepted the committee's final design, and it was adopted on July 1, 1970.
The flag of Illinois should be treated with the same respect as all other U.S. state flags. Generally this means it should not be allowed to touch the ground, even during hoisting and lowering. It should be protected from damage and not be deliberately torn or marked. Flags that look worn because of normal use should be replaced and disposed of privately. When the flag of Illinois flies with other U.S. state flags, the flags must all be hoisted to an equal height. The national flag takes precedence and flies higher or takes the place of honor.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
Wallace Rice, a Harvard graduate and writer, submitted a design that was not chosen in the DAR contest but did eventually fly. A modified version of his flag became the Illinois Centennial flag. It was white with a dark blue horizontal stripe across the middle. Near the hoist in the stripe was a large white five-pointed star. In the white area were twenty much smaller dark blue stars, ten above the blue stripe and ten below, arranged in rows of four, three, two, and one, moving away from the stripe. The twenty-one stars were intended to represent Illinois' status as the 21st state. Rice also designed a Chicago city flag.
-World Trade Press