The Missouri State Flag

I've always been a flag person. I suppose one of these days I'll get a full size flag pole and mount it in my yard somewhere. For now, however, it hangs from my back porch. I like different kinds of flag, and the more unusual or rare, the more likely I am to fly them. For now, I'm flying the Missouri state flag, because we're honouring it this month.

Being the kind of flag guy I am, I tend to be a little picky about them. I personally think a flag should be simple and uncluttered. The colours should be plain, and not noisy. In my personal opinion, the message of a flag should be conveyed with symbols and not words. That's part of the fun of deciphering their meaning. Keeping all that in mind, here is the current Missouri state flag...

It's nice, but I see a few problems, and apparently I'm not the only one. In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association surveyed its members on the designs of the 72 U.S. state, U.S. territorial and Canadian provincial flags. The Missouri flag ranked in the bottom 25, 48th out of the 72. That's not too good really. I personally think we could do a little better, but at the same time, I don't think we need to make radical changes. By in large, Missourians don't like change. "If it ain't broken, don't fix it": is a saying I hear often around my state. Well, I think our flag is just a little broken, and so I personally believe it only needs a little fix -- nothing drastic.

The red, white and blue bars are modelled after the French tri-colours. I think that's appropriate, since Missouri was part of French territory before it was sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Large solid bars on a flag are usually a positive thing, as they simplify the design and make it easy on the eyes. These three bars represent valour (red), purity (white), vigilance and justice (blue).

The current flag has a modified version of the state seal in the middle. I think that is the problem. First and foremost, the seal is not properly outlined. The circle of 24 white stars (representing Missouri as the 24th state) on a blue ring, bleeds into the blue bar on the banner. This makes it look uneven, off centre, and not well planned. The inner part of the seal itself is noisy. The 24 stars are repeated, once again, over the seal, which is redundant. Then we have the words on the seal which are very small. Tell me, when a flag is waving in the wind, can you read such words on a flag? I can't. Personally, I don't think you should put words on a flag at all, but if you must, they should be large bold and short, so as to make reading it possible. The seal itself is fine, for a seal. Actually, it looks great when hung as a coat of arms in a state building. On a flag however, that's an awful lot of clutter. Most people can see the two bears holding the seal, but they can't make out what's in it. In the inner portion of the seal are three elements; a bear, a crescent moon, and the United States eagle. Flags are about symbolism, so making sure that symbolism is visible is important. The U.S. eagle is a beautiful work of art, but in our state flag, its tiny. You can barely see it. It's also out of place. This particular rendition of the U.S. eagle is part of the Great Seal of the United States of America. It doesn't belong on Missouri's flag. It belongs on the dollar bill. It belongs in federal buildings. It belongs on podiums used by federal officials when they make speeches. It doesn't belong on the Missouri flag. So that leaves us with the crescent moon and bear. The bear represents strength and bravery, and the crescent moon represents the newness of statehood and the potential for growth.

Recently while perusing the Internet, I came across a proposed alternative to our current state flag, which solves the problems with the seal, but still retains some of its elements, while simultaneously simplifying the flag, and making as little changes as possible. The designer is Jared Entzminger, and he has designed many alternative flags you can view here.

This proposed flag solves a lot of problems. One, it retains the circle of 24 stars, but it "centres" them by providing a white outline to prevent the blue ring from bleeding into the blue bar. The white outline does bleed into the white bar, but it still works because it does so symmetrically on both sides. The elements of the bear and crescent moon are retained nicely, and clearly visible. The small lettering is removed, and the cluttered seal is still present but in representation only, not in actual print on the flag. I think this is a nice alternative, and I do hope the people of our state will give it some consideration.



Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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The flag of my State of Victoria here in Australia is in line with our British heritage
whilst that of the Northern territory recognises natural items such as the Stars of the Southern Cross and Sturt's Desert Rose