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What Is the History of the State Flag of Illinois?

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  • Written By: S. Ashraf
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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The history of the state flag of Illinois began as an idea by a member of one of the state’s chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Although Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818, almost 100 years later no state flag had been officially designated. Starting in 1912, Mrs. Ella Lawrence began a campaign through the Illinois DAR chapters to have the legislature officially adopt a state flag. In 1915, she saw her campaign successfully conclude with the acceptance of a design and final passage of the legislation adopting a flag for the state. Years later, in 1970, some adjustments were made to the initial design; a second flag was then named the official state flag of Illinois, superseding the original one.

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After she was elected the Illinois State Regent for the DAR in 1911, Mrs. Lawrence attended the organization’s annual national conference in Washington, D. C. While in a meeting hall with a display of state flags, she quickly noticed Illinois had none representing it. Returning home, she held a contest through the local DAR chapters to design the official state flag of Illinois, offering a prize of $25 US dollars (USD) to the chapter submitting the best concept. During the next two years, 35 entries were submitted for judging to a panel that included the Illinois Secretary of State. The winning entry for the state flag of Illinois consisted of the State Seal, originally adopted in 1819, on a white field; it was finally approved by the legislature in 1915.

Interestingly, again as the result of the actions by one of the state’s citizens, the design of the state flag of Illinois was altered in the late 1960s. In 1969, an Illinois native serving in Vietnam took note of the many state flags that hung in the mess hall where he ate every day. Of all of these flags, the Illinois state flag had its origin questioned most consistently. This was due to the name of the state not being part of the design.

Upon his return home, Chief Petty Officer Bruce McDaniel took his concern about this omission in the design of the flag to his representative in the state legislature and petitioned that the design be amended to include the word "Illinois." Subsequently, his representative agreed to sponsor such a bill, which was passed by the legislature and signed into law in 1970. Other than this single alteration, the Illinois state flag has gone unchanged since its adoption in 1915.

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matthewc23
Post 4

@cardsfan27 - Regardless of importance in regards to history it seems a bit silly that a state would not adopt a flag.

It was probably an oversight and simply something that lawmakers did not want to waste time with, but it is definitely something you want that reflects your state well.

I personally find this design for the state flag to be unique and bad at the same time because it does not reflect the state's culture at all and just has an Eagle on it.

I wish there was more reflecting the state, but then again they forgot to put the name of the state on the flag and this got overlooked for several decades so I would not be surprised if the state of Illinois's legislature simply does not see the state flag as much of a symbol when compared to flags like the United States flag.

cardsfan27
Post 3

@titans62 - It is possible it was overlooked, but then again I do not find it that surprising that Illinois did not have a state flag for a very long time.

Prior to 1918, the year of adopting the flag, Illinois was not as much of an industrial center as it is today.

Illinois in 1818 was seen as a backwoods type of state and Chicago did not really become as important as it was until around the turn of the 20th century so Illinois was not as important as it was today.

That being said, I would think that a state like this was trying to sustain itself and probably did not see the need for a state flag. It was not really until Lincoln became President that Illinois began to grow as a state and really become an important center for commerce in the United States, so maybe this is the reason they did not adopt the flag.

titans62
Post 2

@jcraig - I have to agree. The eagle on the flag seems very similar to designs for seals concerning the national government and the eagle is so large on the flag that it stands out from the rest of the design.

To my knowledge there are not very many United States flags that depict an eagle on them, let alone an eagle depicted as large as it is on the Illinois state flag.

I find it to be truly odd that such an important state like Illinois did not have something as simple as a state flag. You would think that with a industrial center like Chicago and the fact the Illinois is seen as the industrial center and gateway to the Midwest, there would have been a flag early on in its history. Maybe it was simply overlooked but I find this to be very odd.

jcraig
Post 1

I am from Illinois and I have always like the state flag for a variety of reasons.

Although I see the state flag of Illinois not presenting much that is relevant to the state, it is a very official design that someone would immediately recognize as being the flag of the state.

The majestic eagle on the design of the flag as well as the plain white background make the flag unique from other states and makes it stand out when compared to others.

I find this to be a little odd because there is little represented in the state in the flag, but it could be the eagle on the front that brings the most attention.

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