Idaho State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
Idaho State Flag
A blue flag with a two-and-a-half-inch gilt fringe. Idaho's state seal centers in the field, and a red ribbon with a gold border and the words "State of Idaho" sits below.
Symbols: The state seal of Idaho. The state motto, Esto Perpetua or "May it Endure Forever," centers at the top. Beneath the motto, an elk head symbolizing wildlife, surmounts a shield showing an Idaho landscape, including a pine tree that stands for the state's timber industry. Below it are a sheaf of wheat and two yellow cornucopias representing agriculture and plenty. Justice personified, a woman holding a scale, stands to the left. A miner with a shovel and pick stands to the right and represents the state's historically important mining industry.
Colors: Deep blue, red, yellow, black, green, white, sky blue, gray, and brown. The flag's deep blue background color was adopted from the national flag. The other colors make a realistic picture.
Variations: Most Idaho flags are made in the standard American manufacturers' sizes, 3:5, 5:8, and 2:3. Many Idaho flags do not include the fringe required in the flag's legal description.
When the United States Congress declared war against Spain on April 19, 1898, the Secretary of War asked each state to allot troops for the upcoming war. Though still just a U.S. territory, Idaho sent two infantry battalions, each made up of four companies. At the governor's request, the First Regiment reported to the capital before leaving. There, the women of Idaho presented the soldiers with what was to become the model for the first state flag. Charles H. Irvin, a colonel, had developed the general design, which was "military" blue with the state seal in the center. Rather than stitch the flag themselves, the ladies had the flag professionally sewn and embroidered in Chicago. The solders carried this flag with them throughout the war and returned it to Idaho afterwards.
In 1907, a state flag was needed for other purposes. A new act defining the flag said only that the flag should be blue and have the state's name on it, and otherwise gave the state's adjutant general quite a bit of freedom to design the flag. C.A. Elmer, a National Guard brigadier general, used the First Regiment's Spanish-American war flag as a model. The embroidered panel on the original flag was rectangular. The new state flag was to have a round seal, and the state's name would appear below as stipulated in the law, where the regiment name had been on the original. The brigadier general's design specification was, in the end, much more specific that the original law.
This changed in 1927. A new, clearer law was passed, defining how Idaho flags should look more specifically. The seal's design was updated in 1957, so the flag changed again as well, but the basic elements on both the seal and the flag remained the same.
Whenever the Idaho flag flies alongside the United States flag or other national flags, the national flag takes precedence. When hoisted on the same pole, the U.S. flag should be at the top and the Idaho flag below. The U.S. flag should also be hoisted first and lowered last. At parades, the state flag should never be placed in front of the U.S. flag or to its right. In an auditorium, the state flag should be on the speaker's left and the U.S. flag on the speaker's right.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
Though the brigadier general's description was quite detailed, it did not include the gold rim saying "Great Seal of the State of Idaho" that appears on the seal as a matter of course. Flags without this border were common in early days and were still sometimes seen late in the 20th century.
Mrs. Calvin Cobb, the woman instrumental in getting the First Regiment's flag professionally sewn and embroidered, was the wife of the publisher of the Idaho Statesman and a Chicago native. Her mother, Mrs. J.B. Lyon, supervised the needlework from Chicago and sent the flag back to Idaho. This is significant because at the time, Idaho was still just a territory. As such it had relatively few women, and still fewer who had the training or time to spend on this kind of project.
-World Trade Press