Rhode Island State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
Rhode Island State Flag
White background, with a yellow anchor encircled by 13 yellow stars. The word "hope" in yellow appears on a blue ribbon beneath the anchor. The flag has a yellow fringe on all sides except the hoist.
Symbols: Anchor, motto, and 13 five-pointed stars. The anchor and the word "hope" are borrowed from the state seal, and together are probably a reference to the biblical quote "hope is our anchor." As such, the two are a reference to the state's history, since religious dissenters from Massachusetts founded Rhode Island. The 13 stars represent the original colonies and states, of which Rhode Island was one.
Colors: White, gold, and blue. White and blue have appeared on Rhode Island flags since the American Revolution, and together provide a link to the state's history. In general, white stands for purity, blue for truth and loyalty, and yellow or gold for wealth.
Variations: Though the Rhode Island flag law stipulates fringe, flags flown outdoors usually do not have this feature.
Though the current state flag was adopted in 1897, flags with anchors on them have flown in the state since colonial times. In 1794, a white flag with a blue anchor and rope flew in the state, but was not officially adopted. During the American Civil War, Rhode Island regimental flags included the anchor and the word "hope." In the late 1800s, the anchor within a ring of stars began to emerge as a motif. A white, non-military flag came into use in about 1877. It had a blue anchor and rope in the center within a red frame with "hope" in white at the top. Around that was a ring of 38 blue stars, showing the number of states in the Union at the time. In 1882, the design was simplified and made to look more like the coat of arms, which was also adjusted that year. The new flag had a blue ground. In the center was a yellow anchor within a ring of 13 stars.
Legislators responsible for the flag's design chose colors and patterns historically used on flags in the state. Though the flag has been tweaked a little since its adoption, it has flown virtually unchanged ever since its adoption.
It is generally recommended that state flags be treated with the same respect as the national flag, though the national flag should always take precedence. Normally, people stand and salute when the Rhode Island flag passes or is hoisted. When it flies alongside the United States flag, it is hoisted to the same height or lower, and is hoisted after and lowered before the national flag. It is recommended that the Rhode Island flag be hoisted briskly at dawn and lowered ceremoniously at dusk, though flags that are properly lit at night fly round the clock. It's also usual only to fly flags in good weather, though modern all-weather flags can fly in the rain.
The Rhode Island flag is to be handled with care so as to avoid damaging it. It shouldn't touch the ground even during hoisting and lowering, and should hang or fly clear of the ground, the floor, or anything beneath the flag. Flags should not normally be deliberately marked or damaged in public, and should not fly or be displayed if they are damaged. Flags that become tattered through normal wear and tear should be replaced and disposed of privately, usually by burning.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
The combination of colors on the Rhode Island state flag is not in line with heraldic tradition. Yellow on white can be difficult to differentiate, especially when the flag flies in dim light, so the combination is usually avoided.
Of the original 13 states, Rhode Island was the third, after New York and New Jersey, to adopt a state flag.
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