South Dakota State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
South Dakota State Flag
Sky blue with the South Dakota state seal at its center, framed by golden triangles. The inscription "South Dakota" encircles the top of the seal, while the words "The Mount Rushmore State" outline the bottom.
Symbols: Golden triangles and the state seal of South Dakota. The golden triangles around the seal represent the sun's rays and point to South Dakota's old nickname, The Sunshine State. They also represent the message contained in the loyalty pledge of South Dakota that associates South Dakota with the sun. The Mount Rushmore State is the state's current nickname.
The seal shows a farmer plowing a field near a river. In the background are cattle grazing, a steamship and a smelter both billowing smoke, and mountains. These images symbolize the state's industries and resources. The farmer stands for agriculture. The billowing smoke represents sailing and commerce, and the smelter is a symbol of mining and manufacturing.
Colors: Sky blue and gold or yellow. Blue symbolizes the sky. Gold or yellow represent the sun and identify South Dakota as The Sunshine State.
The state seal, symbolizing life in South Dakota, was adopted in 1885, four years before the state was admitted to the Union as the 40th state on November 2, 1889. Both the state seal of 1885 and the year 1889 became elements of the official state flag adopted in 1909.
The idea of a state flag for South Dakota came from U.S. Marshall Seth Bullock, who approached State Senator Ernest May, of Deadwood. May, working with the secretary of the South Dakota Historical Society, Doane Robinson, fostered the process of getting the flag made. Senator May approached Ida Mae Anding McNeil, who was a former operator of KGFX radio of Pierre and later a stenographer in the historical society offices, with a request to design the flag. McNeil's design had the image of the sun on the front, ringed by the words "South Dakota" and "The Sunshine State." The seal of the state of South Dakota was on the reverse.
A flag with a different design on each side was relatively expensive to produce, so for years the state had only a few flags. In 1963, Representative William Sahr of Hughes County, conscious of the cost of manufacturing the flag and even more so of its rarity in the state, introduced a bill to change the flag and make it the same on both sides. This bill was signed into law by Governor Archie M. Gubbrud on March 11, 1963.
In 1992, the state's nickname, The Sunshine State, changed to The Mount Rushmore State. This change was made to avoid mistaking South Dakota for Florida, which is commonly referred to as "The Sunshine State."
It is recommended that the flag of South Dakota be handled with due respect, including standing alert and saluting when it is hoisted or lowered. When the flag flies with the flags of other states, all state flags must be hoisted at equal height. When the flag of South Dakota is hoisted with the U.S. national flag, the flag of South Dakota must be lower, indicating that the national flag takes precedence over the state flag.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
According to a 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), South Dakota's flag ranks among the lowest of U.S. and Canadian state flags in design quality. Unnecessary repetition of the state name and a state seal that is difficult to see from a distance are among the flag's supposed design flaws.
Seth Bullock, the man whose suggestion got the ball rolling on the creation of a flag, was a typical frontiersman and embodied the history of South Dakota. As a territorial senator, he helped create Yellowstone National Park. He opened a hardware store and later a hotel in the notorious Deadwood, South Dakota. After he became sheriff of Deadwood, he felt that it was safe enough to bring his wife and daughter to town. A good friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Bullock earned the rank of captain in the Rough Riders. After South Dakota gained statehood, Bullock was appointed to the position of U.S. Marshal.
The flag's original designer drew inspiration from a song, "South Dakota Is the Sunshine State," as well as the state's nickname.
-World Trade Press