The North Star Flag
A PROPOSAL FOR A NEW MINNESOTA STATE FLAG
In the official state flag designs of 1893 and 1957, the north-star then appeared in two distinct ways: in the written motto itself, and in the topmost (and largest) of the nineteen stars which ring the state seal. The star in the proposed flag appears in gold in keeping with its color in both the 1893 and 1957 state flags. Its prominence recalls the "Great Star" pattern in both of those flags - a pattern found in various 19th-century U.S. flags.
The North-Star theme appears often in
Minnesota, including in the state flag and seal, the architecture of
Capitol (especially the rotunda), the Minnesota History Center, the
official city flag of Mankato, the state command insignia of the Minnesota Army
National Guard, and so forth. The north-star also appears on other state
flags, such as Alaska and Maine. Single
stars also appear prominently in the flags of Texas, Arizona, Puerto
Rico, Nevada, North Carolina, California, and Massachusetts.
Why the colors?
The combination of blue, white, and green readily recalls our sky-tinted waters, our winter, and our fields and forests. They are northern colors which are found in the emblems of many Minnesota agencies and towns.
For example, the blue-white-green colors appear in: the official city flags of Duluth, Mankato, and Bayport; the logos of Albert Lea, Rochester, Waseca, and Moorhead; the state license plate; the logos for the state fair and our state government's "official brand"; and the principal entries in separate contests for a new state flag, as sponsored by the St. Paul Pioneer Press (March 31, 1989) and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which stated:
"We asked readers to suggest a new flag, and we received almost 400 responses. While we can't print them all, it's fair to say most used the colors green, blue or white -- or all three -- and a star, representing the North Star." (Star-Tribune, March 14, 2000, p. E1)
Why the waves?
In heraldry, a wavy stripe is called a "wavy fess" and represents water. This is ideal for a state with so many lakes and rivers. In fact, the very name "minisota" is a Dakota Sioux word meaning "sky-tinted water." The name was given first to the river, then to the territory, and finally to the state. Heraldry based on such a name is called "canting heraldry."
Wavy stripes can be found in the
city flags of Winona and Mankato, and in the state command insignia of
the Minnesota Army National Guard; as well as in many flags outside
Minnesota, such as those of St. Louis (Missouri), British Columbia, New
Brunswick, Vancouver (Canada), and many others.
Why the pattern?
The pattern of the flag -- a star and several horizontal stripes -- imitates the basic pattern of the American flag. The star appears in the "canton," the most visible part of a flag when flying.
The stripes are arranged so that
white band will clearly separate the blue from the green. This practice
follows the rules of heraldry, where softer colors (like white) separate bolder colors (blue and green), to keep each one distinct from
Who designed the proposed flag?
Two Minnesota "vexillologists" (flag scholars) created the design together in 1989, after reviewing many possible designs. Rev. William Becker and Mr. Lee Herold have lifelong interests in flags. Mr. Herold owns and manages Herold Flags in Rochester. Rev. Becker, a pastor, is a published expert on the state flag with the Minnesota Historical Society, and has written a book on papal flags.
The two men collaborated with international experts in creating the design. These included Sir John Ross Matheson (who co-designed the Canadian flag with George Stanley), Mr. Walter Angst (of the Smithsonian Institution), Mr. William Crampton (of Britain's Flag Institute), and Dr. Whitney Smith (of the former Flag Research Center in suburban Boston).
The two men
appeared before a legislative
committee twice in 1989. A bi-partisan endeavor to study changing
the state flag (led by Reps. Gil Gutknecht and Wayne Simoneau) was
endorsed by a
number of state legislators and state newspapers but was unsuccessful. The matter was raised again independently in
2000 and 2002 by Senator Edward Oliver, and other legislators since. Similar initiatives have
been underway in other states.
A draft bill has been composed for the new flag design, including precise design specifications.
Have other designs been proposed?
Yes. Several state flag contests have been held since 1989, including by the Star-Tribune (March 14, 2000), Pioneer Press (March 31, 1989 and August 14, 2001), Utne Reader (November-December 2001), and various social media platforms.
Several alternatives are shown at left. The first resembles the state command insignia of the Minnesota Army National Guard. The second and third designs use a compass-style north star. One resembles the star-pattern found in the Minnesota Capitol rotunda, designed by famous architect Cass Gilbert.
The fourth design is coincidentally similar to the North Star Flag, but with a star centered in white. It was designed by Marcel Stratton, a former art professor, and won the "new state flag" contest sponsored by the Utne Reader. The fifth design modifies the North Star Flag with a 6-pointed star.
The last three designs (at left) use a large, centered North Star, and are promoted at various websites, including Minnesotans for a Better Flag, and Change.org.
However no other design rivals the footprint of the North Star Flag. It is the preferred alternative for those wishing to display one. Despite its unofficial status, it can be found at homes, businesses, overseas bases, and elsewhere - including Minnesota United soccer games, where fans have embraced it (see photos above), and have even created a team variant with the Minnesota United colors and star (below, at right).