State flag above USA flag?

Discussion in 'American Flag History' started by ClaudiaJ, Jun 9, 2007.

  1. ClaudiaJ

    ClaudiaJ Guest

    Has there been a time in US history where the state flag has been flown above the US flag showing the state had rights to make decisions for themselves or for any other reason? I've heard that this was the case but can't find anything on it.

    If someone can provide documentation on this, I would appreciate knowing this.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2007
  2. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hello, Claudia,

    Has there been a time in US history where the state flag has been flown above the US flag showing the state had rights to make decisions for themselves or for any other reason?

    Not that I've ever heard of. The states are self-governing in many ways, far more so than the local governments in most other countries. However, they are part of the USA and subordinate to the national government from the standpoint of sovereignty. Many states didn't even have flags until the late 19th century.

    The closest thing to what you describe was probably what happened at the beginning of the Civil War. The southern states seceded from the USA individually, and considered themselves to be separate nations for the short interval before they joined the Confederate States of America. During that period, several of them adopted flags, which were flown alone as national symbols until the state joined the Confederacy. (They were not, of course, flown under or with the US flag, since the states considered themselves to be completely separate from the USA at that point.) Two examples of states that did this are South Carolina and Louisiana. The national flag of South Carolina was similar to the modern state flag -- blue with the white palmetto and crescent. The flag of the "Republic of Louisiana" resembled the US flag, but had red, white and blue stripes and a red canton with a single gold star.

    Peter Ansoff
  3. ClaudiaJ

    ClaudiaJ Guest

    Thanks Peter

    Do you have any idea where I might find documentation on this? I'm finding where the rules were established in 1923 and later about the US flag flying above the state flags, but I haven't found anything earlier than that. It may be, as you said, because most states didn't have their own flags yet. I would still like to search more and am not sure which direction or which resources there are to check. If you could help with this, I would really appreciate it.

  4. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hi, Claudia,

    As I mentioned in the last post, I've never heard of any regulations that would call for a state flag to be flown above the US flag, and I can't imagine any reason why this would be done. However, you never know. Here are some thoughts that might help bound the problem a little:

    1. I assume that you are referring to *regulations* that specify this usage, as opposed to things done by individuals or groups as symbolic protests or demonstrations.

    2. For the most part, states did not use flags before the Civil War. The only exceptions that I can think of offhand were Massachusetts, which adopted an ensign in 1776 for ships of its state navy, and Texas, which had the flag that it formerly flew when it was an independent nation. I don't believe that either of these flags was widely used in the pre-CW period. Several states created military colors for their volunteer units that participated in the Mexican and Civil Wars, and in some cases these evolved in to the modern state flags. (That's why so may state flags are blue with the state seal in the middle -- it was the standard 19th century pattern for a military color.)

    3. The flag code, which was created in 1923 by a private organization, was the first real attempt to come up with a standardized set of rules for display of the flag. The reason that you haven't found anything earlier than 1923 is probably that it didn't exist. The code did not become "official" until it was adopted by Congress in 1942. Before 1923, the only rules pertaining to display of the flag were the regulations of the armed forces.

    4. Nowdays, many states have their own flag codes that regulate display of both the US flag and the state flag. It's possible that some of these may pre-date the flag code of 1923, and also that some states may have adopted codes after 1923 that (intentionally or otherwise) contradicted the Federal code.

    To summarize, I'd say that the places that you'd want to look would be A) Army and Navy regulations between 1865 and 1923, B) State flag codes and regulations.

    Personally, I'd say that A) is not likely, because it's hard to imagine that the US armed forces would have regulations that favored state flags over the national flag. Also, the 1923 flag code was actually based on then-current Army regulations, and it's very unlikely that the drafters would have made such a drastic change (the whole purpose of their effort was to encourage people to honor the US flag.)

    That leaves B), state regulations. A first step here might be to come up with a list of when the various state flags were adopted. This will be a bit tricky, since some states have adopted more than one flag during their histories. To simplify the problem, I'd suggest starting out by concentrating on the southern states, since they have historically been the most concerned with states rights issues and would be most likely to play up state symbols in relation to national ones. I'd then look at the flag codes of those states, and their histories.

    I hope this helps -- please let us know what you find!

    Peter Ansoff
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2009

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