Massachusetts State Flag History

Oct 10th, 2016

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the 6th state admitted to the Union on February 6, 1788. The state did not adopt an official state flag until 1908. The current flag is the result of a state flag amendment in 1971.


Mass Obverse                                         Mass Reverse

 Image courtesy of RoyFocker 12



The flag has a white field, and features the state coat of arms in the center. The design includes a blue shield containing a Native American hold a bow and arrow with the arrow pointed down symbolizing peace. The star located to the left of the figure signifies Massachusetts admission to the Union and its status as one of the original 13 states. An arm is located above the shield holding a sword is said to represent the philosophy that citizens would prefer to lose their right arm rather than live under tyranny. The arm and sword is the military crest of the state. A ribbon flowing around the shield contains the motto “Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem”, meaning by the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.


The flag that was officially adopted in 1908 contained the design described above on the obverse side, and the reverse side of the flag also had a white field, but featured a blue shield containing a pine tree. The state flag law was amended in 1971 to remove the design on the reverse side and add the same design that is on the obverse side so that both sides of the flag were the same.


In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association conducted a State/Provincial Flag Survey. Flag designs were rated from Canadian provinces and U.S. states and territories. Out of 72 flags, Massachusetts ranked 38th. Most state flag designs that featured the state seal or coat of arms ranked very low in the survey.


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