How did FL get its flag?

Photo by Amber M.

Since European explorers first landed in Florida during the early 16th century, several flags have billowed over our peninsula. Some have come from countries like France, Spain + Great Britain and others have included several rather (ehem, interesting) unofficial flags created by Floridians.

Before Florida landed on the red, white + golden emblemed flag we recognize today, the older variations have us asking some questions.

What does the seminole tribe have to do with the Florida flag? And furthermore, why does Alabama’s flag look remarkably close to our flag?

To answer these questions (thanks to the Florida Department of State), we had to throw it way back.

To 1845, specifically.


🍊 1845

Florida officially became the 27th state admitted into the Union on March 3rd, 1845. (Happy 173rd birthday to us.) During Gov. Moseley’s inauguration, citizens of Tallahassee flew a red, blue, green + white clad flag with the phrase, “Let Us Alone.” Due to the Senate objecting to the controversy of the motto (kinda hermity of us Floridians, honestly) it actually never became an official state flag, but it did start the conversation in trying to adopt one.

Photo by the Florida Dept. of State


🍊 1861

After Florida separated from the Union, several unofficial flags started flying over the state (including a lone star flag, similar to one the Republic of Texas Navy once used.) To fix the issue of inconsistency, the general assembly asked Gov. Madison S. Perry to adopt “an appropriate device for a State flag which shall be distinctive in character.” (Meaning, pick a damn flag dude – and make it count.) Fast forward six months later + we have Florida’s first official flag. No one really knows whether it was actually raised over the Capitol, but from the description, we’re guessing it may have looked a little something like this.

Photo by the Florida Dept. of State


🍊 1868

Seven years later, the Constitutional Convention provided Florida with its second official state flag. They declared that legislature should, “adopt a State Emblem having the design of the  Great Seal of the State impressed upon a white ground of six feet six inches fly and six feet deep.” The emblem included artistic views of the sun’s rays over a high land in the distance, a cocoa tree, a steamboat, + an Indian female scattering flowers in the foreground, encircled by the words, “Great Seal of the State of Florida: In God We Trust.”

Photo by the Florida Dept. of State


🍊 1900

This time a flag upgrade happened because many thought the white background looked a little too similar to a surrender flag when furled. So in 1899, the diagonal red bars were added. Some historians believe the bars allude to the Confederate Battle Flag, while others believe it to be a symbol of “Florida’s Britishness.” The Florida Dept. of State calls it a St. Patrick’s Saltire and this flag was used from 1900 to 1985 and included the saltire + the FL emblem. Alabama’s flag also includes these type of saltires. (Which may have been inspired from the Spanish Cross of Burgundy.)

Photo by the Florida Dept. of State

🍊 1985 – Present

Which brings us to our current flag. The State of Florida flag still features a St. Patrick’s Saltire, as well as the seal of Florida, but the seal design was modified in 1985, and now features a Seminole Indian woman rather than a Western Plains Indian. Also, the steamboat got a bit of a design upgrade + the cocoa palm was changed to a sabal palm (our official state tree).

Photo by Jenna

If the Senate of 1845 were to ask me what I’d like to see on the Florida flag, I’d cast my vote by  suggesting they add in a couple of swans (but maybe I’m a bit biased).

Do you think the current Florida flag represents the sunshine state of today? What would you consider adding to it? With such a rich state history, no idea is a bad idea, so HMU with your ideas.  

“In God we trust,” my fellow Floridians,

– Kaylee