What Is the History of the State Flag of Pennsylvania?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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The state flag of Pennsylvania bears the state's coat of arms, and has done since 1799. This coat of arms represents the Penn family, founders of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania prior to the American Revolution. Though it has appeared on the state flag of Pennsylvania since 1799, the current flag design is that specified by a state legislative act of 13 June 1907. The state legislature at this time made no significant changes to the original flag design, but merely modified the state's flag law to ensure that all state flags would be manufactured to same specifications regarding size and color. The Penn family coat of arms featured on the state flag of Pennsylvania contains symbols of the state's industries, resources, ideals, and loyalty to the United States of America.

The coat of arms on the state flag of Pennsylvania has also been used on currency issued by the state in the 1770s. Pennsylvania's great seal also incorporates this coat of arms into its design. The basic design of the flag has remained largely the same throughout the state's history. Pennsylvanian regiments fighting during the American Civil War, however, are believed to have carried a flag that incorporated the state's coat of arms along with the red and white stripes found on the national flag of the United States (US).


On the state flag of Pennsylvania, the coat of arms is bordered by two black work horses, and topped with a bald eagle. The horses are believed to represent diligence, while the eagle is meant to represent the state's loyalty to the US. Sheaves of wheat, a plow, and a ship appear on the shield, symbolizing fecundity, hard labor, and its rewards, and commercial trade. A crossed cornstalk and olive branch beneath the shield stand for harmony and bounty. A banner below the coat of arms should bear the state's motto, "Virtue, Liberty and Independence."

According to the legislative act of 13 June 1907, the blue backdrop for Pennsylvania's state flag must be the same shade of blue as that used on the national flag of the United States. The 1907 law further regulates the size of the state flag of Pennsylvania to be 6 feet, 2 inches (1.87 meters) long and 4 feet, 6 inches (1.37 meters) wide. Under the law, the flag should be bordered with a fringe of golden-colored silk 2.5 inches (6.35 centimeters) wide and should be flown with a blue and white, tasseled cord 8 feet, 6 inches (2.59 meters) long.


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