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.