The Flag of West Virginia: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: January 2, 2023
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West Virginia is the only state in the United States situated entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range, which is why it’s also called “The Mountain State.” Due to its location, several parts of the state are highly rugged.

Nevertheless, thanks to its mountainous features, West Virginia is a place of natural beauty, making it a target location for tourists and people who love outdoor activities such as rock climbing, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, and many more. West Virginia is bordered by Virginia to the south and east, Maryland to the east and north, Kentucky to the west, Ohio to the west and north, and Pennsylvania to the north. The state is divided into two physiographic regions within the mountain system – the Ridge and Valley Province and the Appalachian Plateau Province.

West Virginia is a history-packed state, mainly because it broke away from another state to become the 35th state of America. As we proceed, you’ll learn more about this and how the state’s flag was created.

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The Founding of West Virginia

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West Virginia was declared an independent state on June 20, 1863.


West Virginia was a product of the Civil War—it was the only state created during that period and the only state in all of US history to break away from another state, Virginia. As a state, western and eastern Virginia leaders had several conflicts that made it impossible for both sects to coexist.

The 1776 Virginia Constitution contained some policies that limited western political participation. Due to these limitations, western Virginians demanded reform. This led to a reform convention held in Staunton in 1816 and another in 1825, which ended up with the western political leaders forcing the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-1830 to secure political concessions.

Unfortunately, the western delegates were outnumbered, so this constitution didn’t contain policies that would favor the western part of Virginia. In the following years, the western and eastern areas reached a compromise, which included the west receiving funds for internal improvements and additional western counties. Still, the west requested another constitutional convention which took place in 1850, and the outcome helped to reduce sectional tensions by increasing western political representation. 

However, despite a sectional reconciliation, other issues continued tearing eastern and western Virginia. For one, the western region had coal, iron, oil, and salt industries that depended on free labor. In contrast, the eastern part practiced a slave-based commercial agricultural economy. These ideological differences caused a rift between both sides. 

With the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States in 1860, seven Southern states seceded, and in 1861, Virginia’s secession convention was opened by Governor John Letcher. With this convention, the attack in Charleston, South Carolina, and Lincoln’s inaugural address, there was an Ordinance of Secession in 1861. Northwestern Virginia had a majority of anti-secession votes. 

On June 20, 1863, Lincoln declared West Virginia an independent state, making it the 35th state of the United States. Arthur Boreman was elected as the first governor on the same day.

The Flag of West Virginia: History and Symbolism

The current flag of West Virginia was officially adopted on March 7, 1929. 

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Although West Virginia became an official state on June 20, 1863, the state didn’t own a flag until 1905. However, in 1863, it adopted a state seal and later used it to design the state’s coat of arms.

The need for a flag arose in 1904 when West Virginia had to be represented at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. To participate, they required a state flag to distinguish it from other states that would be present at the exposition. As a result, the West Virginia State Commission created an unofficial state flag to be used at the exposition. It contained a white field and a blue border, with the state coat of arms on one side and a spring of mountain laurel taking up space in the center on the obverse side. There’s a ribbon below with “State of West Virginia” written on it. This design was officially accepted and made into the state flag in 1905, with the addition of carmine red fringe surrounding the borders.

In 1907, it was later decided that the flag design had some issues that made it unfit for use. Due to the white field, the colors and lettering showed through on the other side of the flag. To rectify this issue, it was decided that the motto and seal be moved to the obverse side while the leaves and rhododendron be moved to the reverse side. The carmine red color was also changed to gold.

Then, in 1929, a proposal for a new flag was made. Seeing that it cost a lot of money to produce a flag with different designs on each side, the legislature believed that it would be better to print all the flag features—the state flower, the coat of arms, and the motto—on both sides of the flag. This design was officially adopted on March 7, 1929. 

The current design of the flag of West Virginia is a white field with a blue border surrounding the edges. At the flag’s center is the state’s coat of arms and on top of this seal is a ribbon with “State of West Virginia” written on it. The state flower, the rhododendron, surrounds the coat of arms.

Meaning of the Flag of West Virginia

The coat of arms on the flag of West Virginia symbolizes the state’s fight for freedom.


West Virginia’s flag has the state’s coat of arms in its center. This coat of arms includes a miner and a farmer, representing the state’s industry and agriculture. There’s a boulder in the design with the date West Virginia was declared a state (June 20, 1863) inscribed. The coat of arms also features a cap of liberty and hunting rifles, symbolizing the state’s fight for freedom. The flag’s white field represents purity, while the blue border represents the Union. 

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State of West Virginia Flag
The flag of West Virginia consists a white field with a blue border surrounding the edges. The flag's center houses the state's coat of arms and on top of this seal is a ribbon with "State of West Virginia" written on it. The rhododendron, the state flower, surrounds the coat of arms.

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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