How many state flags do you know?
From fish and birds to flowers and even dinosaurs, America's 50 states choose all kinds of symbols to represent their histories and contributions to the country. There are state gemstones, state songs, state amphibians, and state colors—but none carry the weight of the state flag. While Old Glory represents the country, that country is a collection of 50 unique and semi-autonomous cultures, and each one of them has a flag all their own.
Some state flags are the result of elaborate contests while others were drafted through legislative haranguing. Some show off the state's official seal or famous animals. In some cases, symbolism is used to highlight the state's natural beauty or resources, while other flags use imagery to highlight important dates or to chronicle the state's leap from territory to full-fledged member of the Union. Still others represent ongoing controversy: Five states still incorporate Confederate symbols in their flags, while Mississippi stands as the last state to incorporate a Confederate battle flag in its design. Mississsippi's state legislature voted in June 2020 to update its official state flag and do away with the Confederate battle emblem for good.
Here's a look at all 50 of America's state flags, their histories, any changes they underwent over the years, and the stories that their images, colors, and symbols represent.
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Flag #1: Alabama
One of the simplest designs of any state banner, the Alabama flag contains only a crimson cross in the shape of an "X" over a white background. According to state law, the flag can be square or rectangle, as long as the bars measure at least 6 inches across.
Flag #2: Alaska
The state flag of Alaska features the Big Dipper constellation, which is also called Ursa Major or Great Bear. The image, which was created by a 13-year-old child in an orphanage, also contains an image of the North Star, which for centuries guided sailors, explorers, hunters, and other adventurers who embody Alaska's wild spirit.
Flag #3: Arizona
The flag of Arizona dates back to a rifle team that flew the banner during a competition in 1911, the year before the state was admitted to the Union. The 13 red and gold rays represent the powerful Southwestern desert sun, as well as the original 13 colonies.
Flag #4: Arkansas
The red, white, and blue color scheme of the Arkansas flag is an homage to Old Glory, and the diamond shape that surrounds the state's name indicates that Arkansas is the only state in America where diamonds are mined. Below the state name are three stars, which represent France, Spain, and the United States, which all ruled the territory before it became a state. The single star above represents the Confederacy.
Flag #5: California
Few flags are more instantly recognizable than that of California and its now-extinct California grizzly bear, which was first hoisted during the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt against Mexico. The flag was originally designed by a nephew of Mary Todd Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln's wife.
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