May 06, 2015

History and origin of the Arizona state flag

History of the Arizona state flag

3 X 5 Foot flag

Item # FL134

By 1910, the lack of an official flag for the Arizona Territory was becoming somewhat of an embarrassment.

It came to a head at the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, when the best shooters in the soon-to-be state found themselves the only contingent without an emblem.

Arizona National Guard Col. Charles Wilfred Harris, team captain that year, decided the situation could not continue. He vowed that the Arizona Rifle Team would have a flag by the following year.

That's how it happened that the very first time Arizona's flag flew was at a shooting match in Ohio.

The shooting competition launched what would be a seven-year odyssey to adopt the official red, yellow and blue Western setting-sun motif that flies on buildings throughout the state today.

Historical records show that Arizona politics were at least as prickly 100 years ago as they are today, and the flag design prompted its own kerfuffle. When the Legislature finally adopted the state flag in 1917, the governor refused to sign the bill.

Harris reportedly drew the first flag design along with Carl Hayden, one of Arizona's first representatives in the U.S. Congress and a future U.S. senator.

Several accounts have Nan D. Hayden, Carl's wife, sewing the first flag that flew at the 1911 rifle match in Camp Perry.

Descendants of Mae Stewart, wife of W.R. Stewart, president of the Mesa Rifle Team, have contended that she sewed the first flag for the competition.

The final look of the flag was described in state legislation. The flag is to be set on a split field. The 13 alternating rays of yellow and red spreading across the upper field represent the country's original colonies and the West's beautiful sunsets. The lower field of solid blue is the same hue of "liberty blue" found in the flag of the United States. The red tone also appears in the U.S. flag.

The five-point copper star superimposed in the middle of the flag displays Arizona's pride in being the largest copper-producing state in the Union.

Legislators appreciated the red and yellow-gold colors because of the similarity to the flag carried by Spanish conquistadors who roamed the area in 1540 while searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola.

Blue and gold are the official state colors.

The flag was adopted on Feb. 17, 1917, although some legislators voted no because they thought it looked too much like the rising sun on Japan's flag.

When the flag was adopted, then-Gov. Thomas E. Campbell would not sign the bill, though he never explained why.

A newspaper story at the time surmised that "the flag did not measure up to his ideals of what a state emblem should be."

Reports also noted that one legislator wanted a Gila monster on the flag and others thought an eagle would be more appropriate.

Check out all of our other state and country flags.

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