History of the Florida flag

Most of us probably don’t have our state flags memorized, but it’s worth studying up: Our flag’s design reflects centuries of history.

The Florida flag

Adopted in 1868, our flag’s history is much older.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Table of Contents

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a flag is a whole textbook.

Our state flag is a record of Florida history that experts read like a secret code. Every part carries some meaning, from hoist to fly end.

The saltire

The red “X” on Florida’s flag is called a “saltire,” or St. Andrew’s Cross. It echoes heraldry dating back to the 15th century.

Some historians point out that Florida’s saltire may represent an attempt to restore Confederate symbolism in the state flag. Whether or not that’s the case, the Cross of Burgundy (a sawtooth saltire) flew over Spain’s Florida colonies — the first permanent colonial settlements in what would become the US.

The seal

Florida’s state seal has emblazoned the front of the flag since 1868, with revisions. Changes over the years corrected errors in the landscape — replacing cocoa trees with palmettos, for example — and in properly representing the Seminole woman scattering flowers.

The colors

Color meanings change across history as old as Florida’s. For example, our field of white is a symbol of French royalty, not purity like in the US flag. Practical concerns also influenced the current design: without the saltire, our flag looked like a white flag of surrender when hung limp.

With so much to consider, it’s no wonder a flag proposed in 1845 depicted blue, gold, red, white, and green stripes, and a banner reading “Let Us Alone.”

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