What Is the History of the State Flag of New Hampshire?

Rebecca Mecomber
Rebecca Mecomber
New Hampshire became a state in 1788 and adopted its current flag in 1909.
New Hampshire became a state in 1788 and adopted its current flag in 1909.

The history of the state flag of New Hampshire depicts the state's strong support of the United States of America after the nation gained independence from Great Britain in 1781. Depicted on the flag is the state seal of New Hampshire, surrounded by a ring of nine stars interspersed with laurel leaves on a dark blue background. The New Hampshire State Legislature adopted its official flag in 1909. Before then, New Hampshire had no official state flag, but flew flags of the various state's regiments.

The state flag of New Hampshire reflects several other state symbols reminiscent of the American War for Independence from Great Britain. Nine stars represent New Hampshire as the ninth state to join the newly formed United States of America on 21 June 1788. New Hampshire's state seal, which rests on the center of the flag's deep blue background, depicts the historic warship USS Raleigh, built in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1776. The USS Raleigh was one of the first thirteen frigate warships commissioned by the Continental Congress. This warship is also renowned as the first ship to carry the American flag into naval battle.

Originally, the state seal of New Hampshire illustrated a pine tree with upright fish flanked by bundles of arrows. The First Provincial Congress created the seal in 1775 to reflect New Hampshire's natural resources among the colonies. The new New Hampshire legislature altered the seal in 1784 to represent a ship before a rising sun, but did not officially adopt the seal as a state standard. Artists freely elaborated the seal over the years, much to the distress of state legislators, with the additions of sailors on the ship or its dock and even loaded with barrels of rum. In 1909, the New Hampshire assembly standardized the state seal and revised it in 1931 to the final image depicted today.

The state flag of New Hampshire was voted by members of the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) as one of the ten worst flags of North America. Scorned as a type of "seal on a bed sheet," New Hampshire's flag is not nearly as distinctive and clearly understandable as the bold and colorful flags of other states, such as the state flags of Texas, Arizona and Alaska. The state flag of New Hampshire also stands out by being the only state flag to depict another state. Inside the state seal, the USS Raleigh rests in the Portsmouth naval shipyard, originally in Massachusetts but now located in Maine.

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Discussion Comments


@matthewc23 - I find you see flags as being something very important to identify with. I see flags like the New Hampshire state flag as being something that actually means something while other state flags, like Illinois, do not really do that and merely express a design that is just official looking as opposed to having a flag that actually has some story behind it.

I like to hear stories about the symbolism of a flag and how they came up with the idea of the design. Some people may say that there is no need for a state flag because we are all one Union in the United States, but we are in fact one Union comprised of a collection of states that take pride in their own individual selves. That is why flags are important to show that the states are one together but they are all different with their own different identities.


@cardsfan27 - I completely agree. Too often do I see a flag that has absolutely no meaning behind it. The flag of any state or any nation should be iconic and be a symbol that the people of the state should look to to realize who they are as residents of the state.

I find flags like the New Hampshire state flag to be quite satisfactory as it appropriately reflects the state's role in the history of the nation and gives a good back story to explain the symbolism behind the flag.

The flag itself is a symbol for people to look to and a banner for the people of New Hampshire to wave when declaring pride for their state and pride for themselves.


@stl156 - Right you are and I totally agree with you. I have to say that I live in a state that has a pretty unimaginative state flag that really does not reflect the culture or the history of the state.

I like most of the state flags on the East Coast as they were the colonies that participated in the Revolution and were sure to incorporate their state heritage as well as their state history into pretty creative flags that serve the purpose that a state flag should serve.

I personally like the New Hampshire state flag despite what some people may say because it reflects state history well and has a great symbolic nature behind it unlike some other state flags.


I can see reading the description of the New Hampshire state flag that it follows a similar pattern to that of other states that comprised the original thirteen colonies.

The state flags of the thirteen colonies usually all follow a similar pattern in their design and they usually reflect their role in the Revolutionary War or their scourge for the British monarchy.

The New York state flag for instance shows a figure in the middle dropping a crown to show that the monarchy had fallen and was defeated by American forces. New Hampshire is no different as it depicts the first naval warship in American history and was used to help defeat British forces.

In a way showing a little piece of the beginning allows people to embrace the heritage of the state as well as the state history expressed through the flag

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    • New Hampshire became a state in 1788 and adopted its current flag in 1909.
      New Hampshire became a state in 1788 and adopted its current flag in 1909.