Oklahoma State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
Oklahoma State Flag
Blue with an Osage buffalo-skin shield decorated with six painted crosses and seven eagle feathers and crossed with a calumet and an olive branch. The word "Oklahoma" centers underneath the shield.
Symbols: Shield, calumet, olive branch, stylized stars, and eagle feathers. The shield symbolizes self-defense and the state's Native American heritage. The calumet, also known as a peace pipe, is a traditional symbol of peace for the Native American peoples of Oklahoma, as the olive branch is a symbol of peace for Europeans. The two crossed in front of the shield stand for peaceful unity between natives and those of European descent in the state. The crosses on the shield are old Native American star symbols and show high aspirations. Because eagles fly so high, native cultures view them as a link between heaven and the world, and consider eagle feathers sacred.
Colors: French blue, amber, gold brown, red, flesh, green, and brown. The flag's field, officially defined as French blue, PMS285c, symbolizes loyalty. The remaining colors either create a realistic picture or provide contrast. Oklahoma law defines the other colors as amber, PMS465c, for the shield; gold brown, PMS174c, for the thongs and crosses and shading on feathers; ruby red, PMS195c, for the tassel and the pipe's bowl; flesh, PMS468c, for the rest of the pipe and shading on feathers; Dartmouth green, PMS554c, for the olive branch; and brown, PMS469C, for the outlines in the artwork.
Oklahoma became a state in 1907 and adopted its first state flag in 1911. Unfortunately, that flag proved unpopular with Oklahomans. It was red with a white star edged with blue in the center and the number 46 in blue in the star, to show that Oklahoma was the 46th state admitted to the Union. This bright, simple flag might have flown for some time, but it was widely known that Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks were using red emblems and five-pointed stars as identifiers in Russia at the time. Soldiers in Oklahoma particularly disliked the state flag, to the point where it earned the nickname "socialist rag." Those who didn't immediately associate this red flag with socialism often thought it looked like a quarantine flag.
In 1924, the Daughters of the American Revolution sponsored a contest to see if they could choose a more popular design for the Oklahoma flag. The contest winner was Louise Funk Fluke, who had lived in the state most of her life and had studied art at Columbia University and the Chicago Art Institute. Before submitting her design, Fluke reviewed Oklahoma history and consulted the state's historical society to help her choose symbols that represented the state's past and goals. The legislature approved the flag in March 1925.
In 1941, the word Oklahoma was added to the flag. This was a controversial move. Advocates of the change thought the flag needed an additional identifier, especially when seen at a distance. Opponents argued that the design was strong and clearly represented the state, so no word should be needed as a further identifier. Nevertheless, the name was added. Later, in 1988, the colors on the flag were changed slightly and clearly defined to eliminate color variations that had become common among different manufacturers.
In Oklahoma, the state flag usually flies at public offices, agencies, and institutions, particularly at main buildings. Schools fly the flag every day that school is in session. However, the flag is not usually hoisted when weather is bad or on Sundays. Citizens who fly the state flag are encouraged to observe the usual flag etiquette when they do so.
It is generally recommended that state flags be treated with the same care and reverence as the national flag, though the national flag always takes precedence. When the two are hoisted on the same flagpole, the national flag flies above the Oklahoma flag. When they fly on separate poles, the Oklahoma flag is hoisted after and lowered before the national flag. The Oklahoma flag should also fly at the same level as or lower than the national flag.
Approved flag etiquette suggests that the Oklahoma flag should not touch the ground, even during hoisting or lowering, and should hang or fly clear of the ground, the floor, or anything underneath it. It is preferred that the flag not be publicly torn or marked and that damaged flags should not fly. Flags that become too dirty or tattered to display should be replaced and disposed of privately, usually by burning.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
Though the Oklahoma flag is not one of the very many state-seal-on-blue-ground flags so disliked by vexillologists, many viewers have trouble distinguishing it from flags in this category.
Louise Funk Fluke is sometimes called Oklahoma's Betsy Ross.