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What Is the History of the State Flag of Minnesota?

Pablo Garcia
Pablo Garcia

Minnesota is one of the northernmost states of the Midwest region of the US. It was admitted as the 32nd state in 1858. Although Minnesota adopted a state seal in 1861, there was no state flag of Minnesota until 1893. The impetus to create a state flag appears to have been the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, which was to be held in Chicago, Illinois, in the US. All of the US states, which then numbered just 44, were asked to present and exhibit about their state at the exposition, and Minnesota found itself without a state flag.

A commission was appointed by the Minnesota legislature, which sponsored a flag design competition open to the residents of the state. The winning entry was submitted by Minneapolis resident Amelia Hyde Center, and used the state seal as the centerpiece emblem of the flag. Hyde's design for flag included different colors — blue and white &mddash; on each side.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The Minnesota State Seal shows a farmer plowing his field, which is near a stream and small waterfall. An open green field is nearby, and the sun rises on hills and trees in the distance. The farmer's rifle rests against a tree stump behind him. He watches as a Native American rides by holding a spear and looks at him. A ribbon in the seal reads "L'Étoile Du Nord," French for "The North Star."

In the first state flag of Minnesota, there were three important historical dates around the seal: 1819, 1858, and 1893. In 1819 Fort Snelling, an important military outpost for the protection of new settlers was founded. The year 1858 marks Minnesota’s admission to statehood and 1893 is the year of the flag’s design.

The seal is wreathed in white moccasin flowers on a field of blue. Two ribbons flow from beneath the seal and frame the state name. Around the seal, 19 stars in small clusters form the five points of a larger star. The largest star on the flag represents Minnesota. The flag's design was sewn onto silk by two Norwegian immigrant sisters, Thomane and Pauline Fjelde, and the state flag of Minnesota received a gold medal for embroidery at the exposition.

Center's original design has undergone some changes. In 1957, the legislature changed the state flag of Minnesota to a one-sided flag, largely based on production and cost considerations. The South Dakota legislature made a similar decision regarding its state's two-sided flag in 1963 for much the same reasons. During the 1957 changes, pink and white lady's slipper flowers, native to Minnesota, replaced the white moccasin flowers in the wreath surrounding the state seal.

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