The Flag of Delaware: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: January 10, 2023
© Burchak
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For hundreds of years flags have been flown as beacons of hope, as symbols of power, and as a way to represent history. They have many, many different designs and colors, and each one manages to be completely unique and distinctive in its own right. Although a lot of flags use shapes or even images of animals, there are some that depict a coat of arms, and one of these is the flag of Delaware. But just what is it representing and why is it so significant? Join us as we find out!

Characteristics of Delaware

At only 96 miles long, Delaware is the second-smallest state in the US. It also has the smallest number of counties in any state with only three – Kent, New Castle, and Sussex. Delaware is also known by its nickname – The First State. This name represents the fact that Delaware was the first of the thirteen original colonies to sign the Constitution and join the US.

Delaware is mostly situated on a level plain, with its highest elevation being only 450 feet above sea level. The northern region forms part of the Piedmont Plateau and is known for its open, rolling hills. However, there are also various coastal and mixed oak forests across the state – all of which are home to vast numbers of fascinating animals. Some of the most abundant animals in the state are white-tailed deer. They live in many habitats, although they prefer forests and pastures. In fact, their population is thought to exceed 40,000 in Delaware alone! Also, although Delaware is a small state it certainly doesn’t lack for diversity, with the waters around it being home to animals such as sharks and whales.

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Delaware also has many diverse industries – such as banking, pharmaceutical, and healthcare. Farming and agriculture is also one of the most important industries in the state. It is also one of the things that is depicted on the Delaware’s flag as we’ll discuss shortly.

Map of the state of Delaware
At only 96 miles long, Delaware is the second-smallest state in the United States.


History of Delaware

The first European settlers in Delaware were the Dutch and the Swedes. They formed various settlements before being removed by the English in 1664. Until 1682 the counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex were administered as part of New York but the Duke of York conceded them to William Penn who owned the colony of Pennsylvania. However, both these counties and Pennsylvania objected to the union.

In 1704 both sides were allowed to conduct their own affairs. However, they shared an appointed governor until the beginning of the American Revolution. In 1776 the three counties declared themselves as the “Delaware State” and completely separate from the British rule. However, it wasn’t officially a US state until 1787 when it was the first colony to sign the Constitution.

History of the Flag of Delaware

The flag of Delaware is a flag that is steeped in history. Although the flag was not officially used until 1913, regiments from Delaware used a similar flag during the American Civil War. The current flag was officially adopted on July 24, 1913. It consists of a blue background with a buff-colored diamond in the center. Inside the diamond is the Delaware coat of arms while below it is the date December 7, 1787. The coat of arms itself consists of an orange, white, and blue shield featuring an ox, a sheaf of wheat, and an ear of corn. Above the shield is a ship, while to the left stands and farmer and to the right a soldier. Below the shield are the words “Liberty and Independence” which are also the state motto.

The coat of arms was adopted in 1777 when it was used as a basis for the seal of Delaware. The state seal also features the coat of arms in the center. However, surrounding it is an inscription and the three significant dates in Delaware history – 1704, 1776, and 1787.

However, the date beneath the flag is the most significant. This is because it is the date that Delaware was the very first colony to ratify the US Constitution – therefore becoming the very first US state. However, that’s not the only piece of history depicted by the flag. Let’s take a closer look below.

Flag of Delaware waving in the wind
The current flag of Delaware was officially adopted on July 24, 1913.

©Дмитрий Ларичев

Symbolism and Meaning

The first thing to note about the flag is its color. Although not as vibrant as some other flags, the color is stated as “colonial blue” and buff. This is significant as these colors are the same as the uniforms belonging to George Washington and the troops of the Continental Army. The Continental Army is the army that represented the thirteen colonies during the American Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1783. The image of the soldier next to the shield is also a further tribute to those who took part in and died during the war.

The other images on the coat of arms represent both the history of the state as well as the things that are most important to it. In fact, one of the best things about this flag is that it is so easy to understand what all of the images symbolize. The farmer represents the major role that farming plays to the state – as do the ox, the corn, and the wheat. However, the sheaf of wheat is actually taken from the Sussex county seal, while the corn comes from the Kent county seal.

Above the ox is a blue stripe which symbolizes the Delaware river. This is one of the most important aspects of the state’s original transportation routes and a form of commerce. Furthermore, the ship above the shield represents the state’s coastal aspect as well as New Castle county’s ship building industry.

Finally, the motto “Liberty and Independence” comes from the Order of the Cincinnati. This was a society that was formed to commemorate the Revolutionary War and the formation of the United States. Indeed, the phrase also reflects the will of its people and everything that was achieved when Delaware attained statehood.

Delaware coat of arms
The Delaware coat of arms is featured in the center of the state flag representing its history and recognizing the importance of its agriculture.

© Rodic

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Flag of Delaware
Flag of Delaware.
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About the Author

I have been writing professionally for several years with a focus on animals and wildlife. I love spending time in the outdoors and when not writing I can be found on the farm surrounded by horses, dogs, sheep, and pigs.

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  1. Viola Delaware, Available here:
  2. Britannica, Available here: