The History Behind the Illinois State Flag

Jane Cody

The history behind the illinois state flag

Every state has a unique story behind how it came to be part of the US. When you fly your state flag, you display your pride for the history and culture of the place you call home.

In Illinois, the story of our statehood began in 1818, but the story of our flag came nearly a century later. Learn more with this rundown of the history behind the Illinois state flag.

The Push for a State Flag

Illinois had no state flag for almost 100 years after becoming a state. In 1912—6 years before the state’s centennial celebration—Ella Park Lawrence, the state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) at the time, began the push for an Illinois state flag. In 1914, she organized a design contest among the various state chapters of DAR.

During this time, Wallace Rice designed his own version of an Illinois state flag. However, the state legislature turned it down and instead chose a design by Lucy Derwent, the winner of the DAR contest. Derwent’s design became the official Illinois state flag in 1915.

Initial Illinois Flag Design

Derwent’s design consisted of a white field behind elements of the state seal. The initial Illinois flag design showed an eagle standing on a rock, holding a shield with the national Stars and Stripes in its claw. The state motto, “State sovereignty—national union,” also appeared on a ribbon in the eagle’s beak. Some elements of the state seal, such as the sun and the water behind the eagle, didn’t appear on the original flag design.

Redesign in the ’60s

The history behind the Illinois state flag doesn’t end with this original design, though. Criticism of the flag rose in the 1960s. Some Illinois residents pointed out that the design was too similar to those of other state designs and could not be easily recognized when flying among other state flags. One such criticism came from Chief Petty Officer Bruce McDaniel, who noted that many of his fellow service members in the Vietnam War did not recognize the Illinois flag. McDaniel petitioned to add the state name to the flag.

In 1969, the current governor signed a law to allow the addition of the state name. Florence Hutchison redesigned the flag to include the sun and the water from the state seal. The redesigned flag also had more specific rules about the colors of the seal elements. Finally, the new design bore the dates 1818 and 1868 to note the year Illinois became a state and the first use of the state seal, respectively.

Flying the Illinois state flag beneath the American flag is a way to show both national and state pride. Businesses and households alike can take part in this tradition with high-quality state flags for sale from Flags USA. All of our flags, flagpoles, and other elements are made with integrity and passion right here in the USA. Visit Flags USA today to find the perfect flag, flagpole, and other accessories for your needs.

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