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The state flag of Missouri was designed by Marie Elizabeth Oliver, who was the wife of Senator Robert Burett Oliver. In most cases, the idea to design the state flag of Missouri is attributed to a committee created by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1908. For almost 92 years, Missouri had existed as an incorporated state without a state flag. While the finished Oliver design for the state flag existed as early as 1909, it did not become the official state flag until 22 March 1913.
While the Oliver flag was a favorite at the time, there was an alternate state flag of Missouri that was seriously considered by the Senate. This flag was designed by Dr. G.H. Holcomb. It is unclear whether the idea for a flag was highly popular among Missourians, but it is documented that passing the bill that designated the official state flag of Missouri took several attempts. In 1913, Governor Elliot Major finally signed the bill, and the flag became official.
In order to understand why the Oliver proposition for the state flag of Missouri was successful, it is important to consider the qualities desired in a state flag. Most people involved in this project felt that the alternate design proposed by Holcomb did not sufficiently represent the independence of the state due to the flag's resemblance to that of the nation. The Oliver flag was symbolically rich, including a number of potent images without being too complex to reproduce. Those images, including stars, a helmet, and bears, were specifically chosen to represent ideas and facts about Missouri that were considered highly relevant at the time. Even though the character of Missouri has changed over the years, the flag itself is a historical record of how people saw Missouri in 1913.
The history of the state flag of Missouri does not end in 1913, but rather continues up until the present day. For many years, the Oliver family retained the original flag sewn by the Senator's wife, but in 1961 the flag was donated to the state. It was displayed for many years until damage due to age necessitated storage for its own preservation.
In 1988, the 75th anniversary of the creation of the flag inspired renewed interest in the original object. To commemorate the event, elementary students in Missouri raised money in order to have the flag restored and put back on display. With modern archiving methods and a devotion to preserving the history of Missouri, the flag will likely remain on display at the James C. Kirkpatrick State Information Center in Jefferson City, Missouri for many years.
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