Pennsylvania State Flag History

Nov 20th, 2016

Pennsylvania was the 2nd of the original 13 colonies to be admitted as a state in the Union on December 12, 1787. The state’s first official flag was authorized by the legislature in 1799.


Pennsylvania Flag


The state flag includes the Pennsylvania coat of arms on a blue field. That emblem features a shield with a draft horse on each side, an American eagle above the shield, and a scroll that reads “Virtue, Liberty and Independence” at the bottom of the shield. The shield itself depicts a ship, a plow, three sheaves of wheat, and an olive branch crossed by a cornstalk.


By legend, the designs on the coat of arms represent:


·         American Eagle: Strengths and sovereignty, and Pennsylvania’s loyalty to the U.S.

·         Cornstalk: Prosperity

·         Olive Branch: Peace

·         Plow: State agriculture and its rich natural resources

·         Ship: State commerce

·         Virtue, Liberty and Independence: The state’s motto

·         Wheat sheaves: Fertile fields


When the state flag statute was enacted in 1799, it did not include specifics of the flag’s design. In 1907, the legislature corrected the problem and adopted a flag standard and dictated that the field was to be the same color as the blue in the United States flag.


In 2005, a bill that would have added “Pennsylvania” to the bottom of the flag was introduced in the legislature. The House of Representatives referred the bill to the Committee on State Government in January 2006 where it stalled with no further action taken.


The North American Vexillological Association’s 2001 survey of 72 Canadian provinces and American territories and state flag designs rated the Pennsylvania state flag 57 – the 15th worst design. Flags that did not include a blue field and the state seal or coat of arms generally rated much higher in the survey.


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