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Flag of Alabama
Alabama.svg
Adopted February 16, 1895
Designed by (unknown, possibly Alabama State Legislature)
Proportions 3:5
Variant Flag of Alabama
AlabamaVariant.svg
Adopted January 1, 1939
Designed by (unknown, possibly Alabama State Legislature)
Proportions 3:5

The current flag of Alabama (the second in Alabama state history) was adopted by Act 383 of the Alabama state legislature on February 16, 1895.

Act 383[]

The flag of the State of Alabama shall be a crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white. The bars forming the cross shall be not less than six inches broad, and must extend diagonally across the flag from side to side." – (Code 1896, §3751; Code 1907, §2058; Code 1923, §2995; Code 1940, T. 55, §5.)

History[]

1861 Flag[]

Flag History


Alabama.svg
Current

On January 11, 1861, the Alabama Secession Convention passed a resolution designating an official flag. Designed by several women from Montgomery, final touches were made by Francis Corra of that city. One side of the flag displayed the Goddess of Liberty holding an unsheathed sword in her right hand; in her left she held a small blue flag with one gold star. Above the gold star appears the text "Alabama" in all capital letters. In an arch above this figure were the words "Independent Now and Forever". The reverse side of the flag had a cotton plant with a coiled rattlesnake. The text "Noli Me Tangere", ("Touch Me Not" in Latin), was placed below the cotton plant. This flag was flown until February 10, 1861, when it was removed to the Governor's Office after it was damaged by severe weather. It was never flown again.

Current Flag[]

Alabama's current flag was adopted in 1895. The legislation introduced by Representative John W. A. Sanford Jr. stipulates that "[t]he flag of the state of Alabama shall be a crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white. The bars forming the cross shall be not less than six inches broad, and must extend diagonally across the flag from side to side." Sanford's father, John W. A. Sanford, had commanded the 60th Alabama Infantry Regiment during the U.S. Civil War and he modeled his design on the battle flag used by that regiment. The design of that regimental flag was a white saltire over a blue field with a circle of white stars surrounding the crossing. It had been adopted from the flag of Hilliard's Legion of Alabama Volunteers which was raised in 1862 and dissolved after the Battle of Chickamauga with parts of its 1st and 3rd battalions entering the 60th Alabama Infantry. The regimental flag accompanied them through the end of the war and was surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. The saltire of Alabama's flag most closely resembles the saltire of the flag of Florida, which has its heritage in the Spanish Cross of Burgundy. Southern Alabama was originally part of Spanish Florida and subsequently West Florida. Although Alabama's adoption of its flag design predates that of Florida's by five years (1895), the 1868–1900 Seal of Florida depicted a white flag with a red saltire, similar to Florida's current flag or a Burgundian saltire, on top of a steamboat. Alabama's flag is officially a St. Andrew's cross as described in its legislation. This represents the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified.

It is sometimes believed that the crimson saltire of the current flag of Alabama was designed to resemble the blue saltire of the Confederate Battle Flag. Many battle flags were square, and the flag of Alabama is sometimes also depicted as square. The legislation that created the state flag did not specify that the flag was to be square, however. The authors of a 1917 article in National Geographic expressed their opinion that because the Alabama flag was based on the Battle Flag, it should be square. In 1987, the office of Alabama Attorney General Don Siegelman issued an opinion in which the derivation from the 60th Alabama Battle Flag is indicated, and also concluded that the proper shape is rectangular, as it had been depicted numerous times in official publications and reproductions; despite this, the flag is still often depicted as being square, even in official publications of the U.S. federal government.

Another remote, but possible inspiration was the flag carried by Co. "F", 7th Alabama Cavalry. The regiment was the only Alabama regiment in Rucker's Brigade, commanded by Col. Edmund Rucker of Tennessee (later Alabama), who became a prominent Birmingham businessman after the war. The flag of Rucker's brigade utilized a white background with a red saltire charged with 13 blue/green stars. This flag was given to Co. "F", 7th Alabama Cavalry by Rucker so that they might act as his Color Guard, and is held by the Alabama Department of Archives and History as part of its Alabama Civil War Period Flag Collection. But the flag carried by Co. F 7th Alabama was not an Alabama flag, it was the flag made for Rucker's Brigade a month before the 7th joined his brigade; the 7th was color party only after September 24, 1864. A bunting flag that exists, in the white and red configuration with 13 blue stars, is not believed to be Alabama-associated, but rather to be tied to Rucker's Brigade, as well. While researching Alabama's Civil war flags at their state archives some years ago I came across a drawing of the state flag - and it was intended originally to be square! The flag is patterned after the battle flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in which a large number of Alabama troops served as well as one of its post-war governors, William Oates (a veteran of Gettysburg where his regiment fought against the famous 20th Maine led by Col. Joshua Chamberlain). Over time the flag became rectangular because........well that's what the other states had! I have never heard of the square state flag being patterned after the battle flag of the 60th Alabama Infantry. In fact, the only surviving flag of the regiment is a Confederate Second National flag! The attorney general acknowledged this designer's intent, although not attributing the design to Oates. The opinion says that "Representative John W. A. Sanford, Jr., the sponsor of the bill served in the 60th Alabama Infantry Regiment in the Civil War and modeled the flag after the Regiment's battle flag." But if I understand the reasoning, and I think I do, the Attorney General held that because any intention to have a square flag was not enacted into law, it was irrelevant to a determination of the proper shape of the actual state flag, which was fixed in practice as oblong within a year of the enactment. Around 20 years ago, Square flags were very popular and could be seen flying in front of most public schools. Valley Forge Flag Co. had produced a big mess of 4 x 4 footers in cotton at one time. This practice died off, but has had a history prior to the 1980's.

Symbolism[]

Alabama's flag was presented for consideration to the state sometime in late 1894, and was then officially adopted in February, 1895. I have heard different stories as to the flag's origin, but tend to believe that a group of Montgomery, Alabama women were responsible for the design. The flag was intended to be an abstract of the Confederate battle flag, with the "crimson" saltire representing the blood spilled by Alabama's soldiers in battle. When I was in Boy Scouts, we were told that the saltire represented all past and future Alabamian's who have or will make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom, liberty etc.. I believe the flag's resemblance to the Cross of St. Patrick, or the code letter V is purely coincidental. I think the years of 1894 to 1895 are key where southern U.S. history is concerned. Among other things, Confederate veterans were beginning to transition into their "golden years", and if I read old newspaper excerpts correctly, there was a sense of urgency abounding whereby Southerners became somewhat preoccupied with honoring the last of their living veterans while they could. Life expectancy was not nearly as long in those days. Today in the U.S., we are going through a similar ritual where our World War II vets are concerned. Anyway, under those 1894-95 pretenses, Alabama's flag makes perfect sense. Keeping all of the above in mind, I think Alabama's flag started becoming part of greater Alabama lore some 30 years later, and it had to do with a sporting event. Right after Christmas, 1925, the University of Alabama football team boarded a train for Pasadena, California. They had been invited to play the University of Washington in the 1926 Rose Bowl. No southern team had ever been invited to the Rose Bowl as southern football teams were thought to be grossly inferior. Alabama pride and Southern pride for that matter swelled as Alabama's tiny 23 man squad headed west. Washington had a team that would rival any modern football squad while Alabama's team appeared malnourished and poorly equipped. I am told that Alabama didn't even have enough cleated football shoes for everyone and that players had to swap out shoes during the game. Suffice it to say that Alabama's team was a heavy underdog. At the end of the day, Alabama had come from far behind to win the game 20 to 19, and the South's football tradition was set into motion. What does that have to do with the flag? Well, it's estimated that upwards of 250,000 Alabamians lined the 55 miles of railroad track from the Mississippi state line all the way to Tuscaloosa to greet the team as they returned from California. That would have constituted a huge chunk of the state's population in those days. My grandmother, having grown up on what is today U.S. Highway 82 was among the crowd and told me that she had never seen so many Alabama flags in her life. My great-grandmother quickly sewed one together for my great uncle to carry to the tracks and wave. It seems that from then on, Alabama's flag had a significant place in the hearts of Alabamians. The University of Alabama's nickname is the "Crimson Tide". It would seem as if the team's colors and nickname were inspired by the flag. Speaking of the color "crimson", I want to say that I have never seen an Alabama flag with a crimson saltire. Come to think of it, I have never seen the Crimson Tide actually wearing crimson either. In fact, "crimson" is a much brighter color than conventional wisdom would indicate. The University of Alabama's sports teams wear a color much closer to "burgundy" or "cardinal". Crimson is not only brighter, but also has a violet tint to it. RGB 220-20-60 is about the closest thing to actual crimson that the RGB system will produce. Where the University's tradition is concerned, "crimson" is a sort of metaphor. I would suggest the same is true for Alabama's flag. I have never seen a "crimson" saltire Alabama flag nor a "burgundy" saltire Alabama flag. I have seen some very old Alabama flag samples and of course, modern samples, and they have all been (more or less) Old Glory red. I reckon the cardinal variety could be out there somewhere, but I haven't seen one. Should it be square? It can be. Today, the proportions are variable with the vast majority of flags being rectangular. There have been square versions in the past. I have a copy of the September 1934 edition of National Geographic. It gives a very rigid specification of Alabama's flag, saying that it should be 51 by 51 inches with the arms of the saltier being 81/2 inches. I have no clue where that piece of information came from.

Unofficial Variant[]

Unofficial Variant Flag of Alabama
AlabamaVariantUnofficial.png
Adopted 1861
Designed by (unknown)
Proportions 3:5

An unofficial variant of the Alabama state flag in 1861 had a single gold star on a blue field. It resembles the old flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Square?[]

Square Flag of Alabama
AlabamaVariantSquare.png
Adopted ?
Designed by ?
Proportions 1:1

It seems that the designers of the flag intended it to resemble the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which was square. As early as 1917, Byron McCandless, in the National Geographic flags issue, said "the flag should be square," and depicted it that way. But the statute describing the flag does not specify proportions or dimensions other than that the arms of the St. Andrews cross (so termed in the law) must be no less than six inches across. An Alabama native, I have never seen a square Alabama state flag in person or in photographs. I think generations of successive vexillologists have been repeating McCandless' conclusion that, because the flag is supposed to be modeled on the ANV battle flag, it should therefore be square. The designers may have intended it to be so. But it isn't!

Governor's Flag[]

Flag of The Governor of Alabama
AlabamaVariant.svg
Adopted January 1, 1939
Designed by (unknown, possibly Alabama State Legislature)
Proportions 3:5

The flag of the governor of Alabama is a variant of the state flag. In the top saltire, the flag displays the state coat of arms. The bottom saltire contains the state military crest which consists of a cotton plant with full bursting boll.

Former Flag[]

Former Flag of The Governor of Alabama
AlabamaVariantPre1939.svg
Adopted 1868 - 1938
Designed by (unknown, possibly Alabama State Legislature)
Proportions 3:5


The pre-1939 flag has almost the same design, but it features the old coat of arms of Alabama.

Alabama Version of the CSA flag[]

Alabama Version of the CSA Flag
AlabamaVariantCSA.gif
Adopted ?
Designed by ?
Proportions 3:5

I found a flag for Alabama using the Alabama state seal in the blue bar at the hoist. These flags became popular in the South during the debates and arguments that began in 2001 over the 1956 Georgia state flag. In each case, the 1956 Georgia flag design was adapted to one of the former Confederate states by replacing the Georgia state seal with the seal or other prominent flag emblem from one of the states. The idea behind the flags following this pattern was to show support for and solidarity with the supporters of the 1956 Georgia state flag design.

Another Alabama Version of the CSA Flag[]

Another Alabama Version of the CSA Flag
AlabamaVariantCSA2.gif
Adopted ?
Designed by ?
Proportions 3:5

The flag with the state flag in the hoist and CSA flag in the fly can also be seen.

Nickname[]

  • The Plain Red X
  • St. Patrick's Cross of America

Location of Alabama[]

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References[]

United States.svg States of the United States

States: AlabamaAlaskaArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawai'iIdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasKentuckyLouisianaMaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontanaNebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaOregonPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexasUtahVermontVirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

Other subdivisions: American SamoaDistrict of ColumbiaGuamJohnston AtollNorthern Mariana IslandsPuerto RicoU.S. Virgin Islands

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