South Dakota State Flag History

Nov 21st, 2016

South Dakota was the 40th state admitted to the Union on November 2, 1889. The state adopted its first official flag in 1909.


S.D. 1909


The flag had a blue field featuring a golden blazing sun with the words “South Dakota” in an arc over the sun, and the words “The Sunshine State” in an arc below the sun. The words were to be printed in gold lettering. On the reverse side of the flag, the state seal was to be printed in dark blue.


S.D. 1963


In 1963, the state flag code was changed to dictate that the field should be sky blue and feature the state seal in the center surrounded by blazing sun rays. The reverse side image was eliminated.


S.D. Current


In 1992, South Dakota’s state flag was redesigned again. The words “South Dakota” was arced around the top of the seal and the words “The Mount Rushmore State” were arced below the seal. The change was made because it was commonly known that Florida was referred to as the sunshine state and caused some confusion.


A bill was introduced in 2012 to adopt a new state flag design. After introduction, the bill was amended so that, rather than adopting a revised flag, a State Flag Commission would be created that would seek new designs from the public for consideration in the 2013 legislative session. After the amended bill was submitted, it was deferred and effectively stalled out in the legislature.


The state seal features symbolize the following:


·         1889: The year that the state was admitted to the Union

·         Cattle grazing: Livestock

·         Farmer with plow: Agriculture

·         Smelter, furnace, dump, mill and hoist house: Mining and manufacturing

·         Steamboat: State commerce and transportation

·         Trees: The state’s timber industry


The North American Vexillological Association’s 2001 survey of 72 Canadian provinces and American territories and state flag designs rated the South Dakota flag 68 – the 5th 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. In addition, South Dakota’s flag was criticized due to the repetition of the state name (above the seal and inside the seal).


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