The Flag of Kentucky: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: January 26, 2023
© Free Grunge Textures - – License / Original
Share this post on:

Flags are flown all around the world as distinctive symbols of countries or states and represent many different things like power, loss, hope, war, history, and even hope for the future. They are often brightly colored with various shapes and images on them and include either intricate or simple designs. But what is the flag of Kentucky like and what does it represent? Let’s find out!

About Kentucky

Known as the Bluegrass State, Kentucky is famous for its Kentucky bluegrass, horse racing, and farming. Kentucky borders seven other states, and one of its most unique features is its borders. Kentucky’s official borders are formed by the location of the rivers when Kentucky became a state in 1792 — the Ohio River at the northern and the Mississippi River at the western border. But the boundary for Kentucky was drawn completely through the Mississippi River, which means it is possible to cross the Mississippi River and still be in a little bubble of land belonging to Kentucky for about two miles.

Kentucky has been inhabited for several thousand years and was home to many native tribes before the first European settlers arrived. Several European settlements were formed in the state in the 1700s up until the beginning of the Revolutionary War. In 1776, Kentucky was formed into a county as part of Virginia. That county was then further divided into the counties of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Fayette in 1780.

Only The Top 1% Can Ace our Quizzes

Think You Can?

But the residents of Kentucky didn’t want to remain part of Virginia. They desired for the region to become a state. Eventually, after several petitions were made, Virginia consented to Kentucky separating from it to become its own state. Kentucky officially became the fifteenth state to join the Union in June 1792.

Map of Kentucky and Flag of Kentucky
Although Kentucky became a state in 1792, it did not get an official flag until 1918.

©Creative Commons – License

History of the Flag of Kentucky

The flag of Kentucky consists of a navy blue background with the state seal in the center. This is surrounded by the words “Commonwealth of Kentucky” above the seal and sprigs of goldenrod, which is the Kentucky state flower, below the seal.

Although Kentucky became a state in 1792, it did not get an official flag until 1918. The flag was designed by Jessie Cox Burgess, an art teacher in Frankfort, KY. Despite being adopted in 1918, it took 10 years for the state’s General Assembly to finally approve the flag design. The flag was then standardized in 1963 with the design that is in use today.

Symbolism and Meaning

The flag of Kentucky has a fairly simple design as the seal itself features only the state motto and two men embracing. One man is a statesman dressed in formal clothes while the other is a frontiersman dressed in buckskin. It is commonly thought that the frontiersman is Daniel Boone who explored and created settlements in Kentucky. It is also believed that the man in the suit is Henry Clay, a famous Kentucky statesman. Officially, they represent any and all frontiersmen and statesmen.

The two men are intended to represent both the country and city inhabitants of Kentucky at the time it became a state. They also represent unity among the residents of Kentucky. This is also true of the Kentucky state motto, which reads, “United we stand, divided we fall.” These words symbolize how the people of the state are stronger together than they are apart. The words in this motto are from the lyrics of “The Liberty Song” — a patriotic song first heard in 1768.

Previous Flags of Kentucky

Although Kentucky did not officially have a state flag until 1918, it was represented by several different flags up until then. First, the flag of France was flown in the state until 1763 when the land was ceded to the UK prior to the French-Indian War. Then, the Union Jack flag of Great Britain flew in Kentucky until the Revolutionary War. When Kentucky became Kentucky County in 1776 as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the flag of Virginia was flown over the state.

Upon achieving statehood in 1792, Kentucky adopted the flag of 15 stars and 15 stripes as its de facto state flag. The U.S. flag was modified over the next few years as more states joined the Union. However, Kentucky kept the national flag as its state flag, albeit in an unofficial capacity.

Although the state remained neutral during the Civil War, Kentucky had both Union and Confederate flags flying over it. The Confederate flag was the predominant flag from the beginning of the war until the latter half of 1863. However, during the second half of the war, the Union flag rose to prominence across the state. It eventually became the state’s unofficial flag until its own flag was adopted in 1918.

Up Next

More from A-Z Animals

The Featured Image

Flag of Kentucky
Flag of Kentucky
© Free Grunge Textures - – License / Original

Share this post on:
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.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.