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The North Star Flag




MN Brand logo

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota licence plate

Mankato city flag

Duluth city flag

Bayport city flag

Winona city flag

Albert Lea logo

Moorhead logo

North-Star in capitol
capitol rotunda

Minnesota Army National Guard state command insignia
Minnesota Guard command

for a new Minnesota flag

similar to minn national guard insignia

compass-star from capitol rotunda

Roger Johnson

Marcel Stratton

Why the star?
    "The North Star" has been Minnesota's official state motto since statehood in 1858. It is inscribed on the state seal in French: "L'étoile du Nord." The motto was chosen by Governor Henry Sibley to honor the pioneers who were guided northward to Minnesota, and was apparently rendered in French to pay tribute to the first explorers of the northern frontier.

    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 the State 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 official 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 the 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 afar.

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

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).