Kansas State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
Kansas State Flag
Dark blue with the state seal at the center, a sunflower above, and the state name below.
Symbols: State seal and state crest. The state seal's image tells the story of Kansas' pioneer history. In the foreground, a man plowing a field symbolizes agriculture, still an important industry in the state. Beyond him, a settler's cabin and a wagon train show westward expansion. In the background are Native Americans pursuing bison, representing the state's indigenous heritage. The sun rises over hills, a symbol of a new beginning and of the east, where the settlers came from. In the sky above are 34 little five-pointed stars, showing that Kansas was the 34th state. Above the stars appears the state motto, Ad Astra Per Aspera, or "To the Stars Through Difficulties." Above the round seal is the state crest, a sunflower over a twisted blue and gold bar. Sunflowers are considered a state symbol. They are a common crop in the state and are attractive and recognizable.
Colors: Blue, silver, purple, yellow, orange, azure, green, white, brown, and black. No meaning is ascribed to the flag's blue background. Blue commonly stands for truth and loyalty. The rest of the colors create a realistic picture.
Variations: The state banner shows a sunflower centered on a dark blue flag. There is no clear distinction between the use of the state flag and the state banner, but the state banner is rarely used.
Kansas' search for a state flag started in 1915. Governor Arthur Capper began researching how states that already had official flags had conducted the selection process. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) held a contest the following year and chose a design that included three equal horizontal red, white, and blue stripes. This flag had a blue canton with a sunflower in whose center was the state seal. The proposed design came before the legislature in 1917, but was rejected. Discussion of the flag continued, though. The rejected proposal still came into question, and in the meantime Albert Reid, a local cartoonist, was asked for ideas. He came up with a sunflower on a blue background.
In 1925, after years of controversy, legislators chose a state banner rather than a state flag. Though the push for a state flag was strong, many Kansans, particularly members of the Native Daughters of Kansas and the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), were concerned that a state flag would compete with the national flag, a situation they wanted to avoid. Legislators, encouraged by the GAR, thought the banner might be a good compromise. It was designed to hang rather than fly, so competition with the national or other flags would not be an issue. Though the GAR was satisfied, the DAR was not, and preferred to pursue the idea of an actual flag. As it turned out, the National Guard found the banner less than useful because they couldn't march with it. And because it was awkward to hang, the banner couldn't be displayed in Washington, DC, with other state flags. Many less interested people disliked the banner because they simply thought of the sunflower as a weed and considered it unsuitable for a state emblem.
In 1927, Kansas' adjutant general, Milton McLean, decided to try to bring the matter of a state flag to a close. He strongly advocated a flag with a dark blue background, the state seal, and the state crest, a sunflower. A measure based on his proposal finally passed. This flag was modified in 1961 to include the state name at the bottom to distinguish it from the many other blue U.S. state flags with seals. In 1963 the size was adjusted to ensure that the state flag would always be smaller than the national flag.
The Kansas flag generally flies whenever the state is represented. State and public buildings fly the state flag every day, weather permitting. Schools, private or public, are also supposed to fly or display the state flag during the school year when the weather is good. Failure to follow the state's flag law is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of between five and 100 dollars.
Kansas' law is not specific about how the state flag should be handled, but protocol suggests that state flags be treated with the same respect as the national flag.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
No particular meaning was officially ascribed to the colors on the current state flag, but Kansans lost no time in coming up with their own ideas on the subject. One suggestion holds that blue represents how steadfast and loyal Kansans are. Azure, yellow, and pink from the seal would then show Kansan sophistication and how other cultures have influenced life in Kansas. The sunflower shows that Kansans will meet any problem head on.
The Kansas flag was adopted after about a dozen years of debate, but the final design is very similar to one originally suggested to Governor Capper by the Michigan Historical Commission: dark blue with the state seal.
The state sunflower banner's proportions, color, and sunflower size are described in the state's flag law, but the law doesn't prescribe or suggest any uses for the banner.
In 1927, Governor Benjamin Paulen first flew the state flag in Fort Riley for the Fort Riley troops and Kansas National Guard.
Kansas was among the last American states to adopt a state flag. Though many states have changed their flags since 1927, few were without a flag that year. Alaska also adopted its state flag in 1927, but did not actually become a state until much later.
-World Trade Press