The Flag of Maryland: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Updated: December 15, 2022
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Of the original 13 states, only Maryland’s state flag is based on a banner flown when the country was under British rule. The state flag of Maryland is the heraldic banner of arms of Cecil, 2nd Baron Baltimore, which was first created in the 17th century. His grandmother’s arms—a Crossland family heiress—are quartered with his father’s, George, 1st Baron Baltimore’s (1579-1632). The flag was formally adopted by the Maryland General Assembly (state legislature) in 1904. Let’s dive deeper into the history, meaning, and symbolism of this flag!

Flag of Maryland History

flag of Maryland

The flag of Maryland (the 7th state of the U.S.) has a history dating back to the early 1600s.

©Maxim Studio/

1600 – 1854

According to the rules of heraldry, the personal flag of the Lords of Baltimore (the proprietors of Maryland) was also the flag of the realm they ruled. Leonard Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore’s son, claimed to have flown the Calvert banner in combat in a 1638 letter to his brother, Cecil (Cecilius). After Lord Baltimore passed away in April 1632, the 2nd Baron Baltimore, Cecil, was given control of the Province of Maryland. He granted the authority to carry the coat of arms and banner.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the flag was still in use. As the rightful heir of the first Baron Baltimore, the 2nd Baron Baltimore (1605–1675) founded the Maryland colony. The flag was made from his banner of arms. Only the yellow (or gold) and black Calvert arms were linked to Maryland during the colonial era. After American independence, the state stopped using the colors. However, they were reestablished in 1854.

The red and white cross button counterchanged gained popularity during the American Civil War. Maryland, a border state with conflicting allegiances, remained a part of the union during the Civil War. The current design, which includes George Calvert’s coats of arms, first appeared on official documents following the American Civil War.

1880 – Present Day

The Maryland flag features the family crests of Calvert and Crossland. The first and fourth quarters of the flag feature the colors of the Lords Baltimore, whose dynasty bore the surname Calvert. Their colors are gold and black. George Calvert’s mother (first Lord Baltimore) was from the Crossland family. The second and third quarters include the red, white, and cross-shaped Crossland colors.

The current flag made its debut in its present design on October 11, 1880, during a parade honoring Baltimore’s 150th birthday. It flew again at the Gettysburg Battlefield on October 25, 1888, during memorials honoring the Maryland regiments of the Army of the Potomac. The flag wasn’t fully acknowledged as the state flag until 1904. The Maryland flag features the family crests of Calvert and Crossland.

Flag of Maryland: Design and Colors

flag of Maryland

The Maryland (U.S. state) flag is divided into four quarters, each with its own meaning.

©railway fx/

The four main colors of the Maryland flag are black, gold, red, and white. The Maryland flag is 1.5 times wider than it is tall. The standard flag is 3 feet by 4.5 feet in size. The black and gold quarters of the flag feature the arms that the 1st Baron Baltimore, a previous secretary of state, received as payment for storming a fortress during a fight. The family crest of Lord Baltimore’s mother’s side, the Crossland family, from South Cross land in West Yorkshire, England, is a red and white quarter. It displays a cross with alternating red and white sides.

Flag of Maryland Symbolism

Bold colors, intriguing patterns, and proper heraldry have been praised as making the Maryland flag the ideal state flag. The state’s current flag represents an effort to build bridges between Marylanders who supported or fought for the Confederacy and those who stood with the Union. It symbolizes the state’s citizens uniting and an endeavor to forge ties between Marylanders who sided with the Union. It also represents those who supported or fought for the Confederacy.

Thus, the Maryland flag is more than a representation of state sovereignty when flown on a staff that is correctly decorated with a gold cross boutony. The flag succeeds as a state symbol because it honors the founders’ ideals and serves as a reminder of the fight to keep the Union together. It is a special representation of obstacles overcome and allegiances won back; it serves as a symbol of peace and harmony for all state residents.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alexey Struyskiy/

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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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  1. U.S. Flags, Available here:
  2. 50 States, Available here:
  3. Maryland Gov, Available here: