Today, the state flag of Massachusetts is identical on both sides and depicts the blue and gold Commonwealth of Massachusetts coat of arms set against a field of white. History, though, finds that the state flag used to have two different sides, with one side bearing a coat of arms and the other depicting a green pine tree, which was a symbol of the importance of wood to the settlers of Massachusetts. The state flag of Massachusetts showcased this pine tree from 6 March 1915 until 1 November 1971, when the new look of the flag officially went into effect. Though the newer flag became effective in November, it had actually been approved earlier that year on 3 June 1971.
The flag's coat of arms has a color scheme of blue, gold and white, and includes the image of a gold-colored Native American within a shield colored blue. The different elements of the coat of arms on the State flag of Massachusetts each has a meaning that represents the state. The blue shield symbolizes the Blue Hills of two towns in the state, Canton and Milton. The Native American carries a large bow held with his right hand and an arrow in his left; the arrow as its tip is pointed down to signify that he comes in peace.
Also within the shield is a white, five-pointed star. The star, which is white on the state flag of Massachusetts, but silver on the state seal, represents the state being one of the first 13 colonies; in fact, Massachusetts was the sixth. The crest that arcs higher up than the shield is an image of a right arm extending from a blue and gold wreath. The gold-colored arm holds a broadsword made of gold.
A blue ribbon surrounds the sides and bottom of the shield, on which the Commonwealth's motto is written in gold lettering: "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem." The sword on the crest supports the motto on the ribbon, which translates into "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." This motto, which was written in 1659 by English politician Algernon Sydney, was adopted in 1775.