The Flag of Missouri: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Doug Shaffer
Updated: May 16, 2023
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Like many state flags across the United States, the Missouri Flag is full of rich history. However, the current banner hasn’t always represented the state. In fact, when Missouri entered the Union in 1821, it would take more than 100 years for an official state flag to be instituted. The following sections will explore the Missouri state flag’s history, meaning, and symbolism. 

The History of the Flag of Missouri

Even though the current flag of Missouri has been around since 1913, it wasn’t always widely accepted by the state’s citizens. When the banner was first created by Mrs. Marie Elizabeth Watkins Oliver, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, it failed to gain the votes needed to pass the State House of Representatives in 1909.  

However, that didn’t stop Mrs. Oliver and her family from advocating for the new flag. Once again, in 1911, the Oliver family introduced the “Oliver Flag Bill” to state leaders and found support in the Senate. The government body quickly approved the concept, but it ultimately fell short in the House. 

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It wasn’t until 1913 that the flag became the official banner of Missouri after being endorsed by the Colonial Dames of Missouri and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Since then, the Missouri Flag has been a firm reminder of patriotism to the state and national government. 

Where Did the Idea for the Missouri Flag Originate?

When Marie Elizabeth Oliver first began her project to develop the Missouri flag, she wanted to create a banner that showcased the value and importance of the state’s citizens. So, early in the design process, she reached out to each Secretary of State to inquire about the process their flags went through before adoption.

Armed with her research and feedback from the leaders of the other states, she set to work creating the vision for the flag of Missouri. 

What Does the Missouri Flag Symbolize?

While Mrs. Oliver hoped her flag would display a message of patriotism, there are several meanings and symbolism for the various parts of the banner. For instance, the three colors that Marie chose to utilize, red, white, and blue, represent the qualities of bravery, purity, and justice. 

Here are a few other elements that the Missouri flag symbolizes.

Center of the Flag

The center of the flag has several elements that Marie Elizabeth Oliver felt told the story of who the people of Missouri were and the values they stood for. Below is a closer look at what each of these symbols represents. 

24 Stars

The 24 stars within the blue band on the flag represent Missouri’s status and admission as the 24th state in the United States of America. 

Grizzly Bears

While bears are often a significant symbol of the state of Missouri, Marie used them in the flag design to represent strength and bravery. 

Scroll

The scroll features the state motto, “Salus populi suprema lex esto,” meaning, “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” Marie wanted to ensure that the representatives of the state didn’t lose focus on what was important — making decisions that were in the best interest of the citizens. 

Crescent Moon

One of the most significant symbols in the center of the Missouri flag is the crescent moon. This emblem represents several elements of the state. First, the crescent moon was a sign of a new era as the state became part of the country. It also symbolized the progress and growth that Missouri was going through at the time. 

Flag of the Missouri Guard, Company G of the 1st Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Militia, captured at Camp Jackson on May 10, 1861.

©Women of St. Louis, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Did the State of Missouri Ever Have Other Flag Designs?

Several other flags have served as the state flag throughout the state’s history. Here is a brief look at some other flags representing Missouri. 

Unofficial Arms Flag

Even though Missouri became an official state in 1821, it wasn’t until 1861 that the area had its first official flag. Under Major-General Sterling Price, a leading commander of the Missouri State Guard at the time, the state adopted a flag made of blue merino that featured the Missouri coats-of-arms in gold.

The Holcomb Flag

While it never became an official flag of Missouri, the Holcomb flag was the biggest competitor against the design of Marie Elizabeth Oliver. The flag was originally designed by Dr. Numa Holcomb and featured a red, white, and blue concept that closely resembled the flag of the United States. 

Ultimately, the state legislature decided that Holcomb’s proposed flag needed more representation of the state’s values and opted to go with another design.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wasan Ritthawon/Shutterstock.com


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