The Origin and History of the Arizona State Flag

The Arizona State Flag is not just an ordinary symbol of the state; it is a representation of its rich history and cultural heritage. It is a flag that has seen several controversies, changes, and legal battles since its initial proposal, yet it stands proud tall as one of the most recognizable emblems in the country. The evolution of the Arizona State Flag is a journey with several intriguing and captivating milestones. In this article, we will take a step-by-step look into the origin of the Arizona State Flag and its history, including its winning design, its symbolism, and the changes it has undergone over the years.

The Birth of Arizona and the Need for a Flag

The Birth Of Arizona And The Need For A Flag
Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912, but before that, it was a territory. As a territory of the United States, Arizona needed a flag to represent it. In 1910, Colonel Harris proposed the creation of a flag design for Arizona, and the Arizona Rifle Team asked the public to submit designs. At the time, Arizona was known for its copper, cotton and cattle. The flag needed to represent the state’s history and future. The public responded to the competition with submissions from all over the state, but only a few were chosen as finalists. After much debate and discussion, one design stood out from the rest, and it was chosen as the winner. This design is still the official state flag of Arizona today, with some modifications along the way.

Arizona Becomes a State

On February 14, 1912, Arizona became the 48th state of the United States. Before this, it was a territory governed by military officials appointed by the President of the United States. Arizona’s quest for statehood began in the late 1800s, but it was not an easy process. The territory was deemed too lawless and rowdy for statehood, which led to delays. It was only after the territory established a more efficient and stable government that statehood was finally granted.

Interestingly, Arizona’s admission to the Union happened on the same day as New Mexico’s admission. This marked a significant moment in the country’s history as it was the first time since the Civil War that new states were admitted to the Union. The addition of Arizona and New Mexico also increased the power of the Western states in the Senate and shifted the political power balance in the country.

With the statehood, Arizona needed a flag that represented its new identity as a state. This led to a design contest that would ultimately showcase the rich history and symbolism of Arizona through the Arizona State Flag.

The First Proposed Flag

When Arizona became a US territory in 1863, it didn’t have any official flag. It wasn’t until almost five decades later, in 1910, that the first proposed flag for Arizona was created. The proposal came from Colonel Charles Wilfred Harris, an Arizona National Guard officer who was concerned about the lack of an official flag for the state. He presented his proposed design to the Arizona National Guard, which he belonged to.

Harris’ design consisted of a simple blue flag with a copper-colored star in the center and the state’s emblem in a yellow field to the right of the star. However, the design was never officially adopted, and no action was taken to make it the official state flag. Harris’ proposal might have been forgotten if it weren’t for the fact that it inspired later designs for the Arizona state flag.

It’s interesting to note that copper was a significant part of this design. Copper mining was an essential industry in Arizona, and the state’s nickname is the “Copper State.” This fact perhaps inspired Colonel Harris to include copper in his proposed design.

While Harris’ design may not have been adopted, it serves as an important part of Arizona’s flag history. It is fascinating to look back and see how the state’s symbols and emblems have evolved over the years, and how one design can inspire another, ultimately leading to the creation of an iconic symbol like the Arizona state flag.

The Winning Design and its Symbolism

The Winning Design and its Symbolism for the Arizona State Flag was the result of a design contest. The competition was announced in 1910, a few years after Arizona was recognized as a separate territory. The contest rules specified that the flag’s design should reflect the state’s history, character, and resources. There were 13 entries, and the winner was a design created by Colonel Charles W. Harris, who was the head of the Arizona National Guard. His design featured a copper-colored star in the center, representing the state’s copper industry, and thirteen rays of red and yellow, representing both the Arizona sunset and the original thirteen colonies. The bottom half of the flag is blue and represents the Colorado River. The Arizona State Flag has remained the same since 1917, except for adding the state’s name in 1919. The flag’s vibrant colors and iconic design have garnered recognition and have become a symbol of the state’s unique history and character.

The Design Contest

In 1910, George W.P. Hunt, a delegate of the Arizona Territory, proposed a bill to make Arizona a state. His bill, however, was repeatedly rejected. Finally, on February 14, 1912, Arizona was granted statehood by President William Howard Taft. As a result, Arizona needed a state flag to represent their state. In 1915, a competition was announced to design the state flag. The competition attracted more than 60 participants from across Arizona.

The Arizona State Flag Committee chose the five finalists from the submitted designs. In the end, a full-time National Guard officer and a talented artist, Colonel Charles W. Harris, emerged as the winner of the design competition. Harris’s proposal for the state flag was based on the copper starburst, which symbolized the importance of copper mining in the state’s economy.

The design contest was a significant event in Arizona’s history. It allowed residents of Arizona to express their creativity and offer proposals for the state’s official flag. The contest also enabled the committee to select the best design for Arizona’s new flag. Today, the competition continues to inspire Arizona’s artists, designers, and residents.

Arizona’s state flag is a blend of symbolism and design, featuring significant elements like the copper sunburst and blue background. The design contest became an essential part of Arizona’s heritage and still serves as a reminder of the creativity and perseverance of its residents.

If you want to learn more about other state flags and their meaning, check out our article on the Texas State Flag Meaning.

The Winning Design

For the Arizona state flag design contest, there were a total of 200 submissions, from which the top three designs were selected. The winning design was created by a mining engineer named George W. P. Hunt, who later became the first governor of Arizona. Hunt’s design was chosen as the winner on February 27, 1917, by the governor and the State Council of Defense, who were in charge of selecting the winning design.

The winning design features a copper star in the center, which represents the state’s copper mining industry. The star is surrounded by thirteen rays of red and gold, which represent both Arizona’s sunny climate and its status as the thirteenth state to join the Union. The top half of the flag is blue, and the bottom half is divided into red and yellow stripes, which symbolize the state’s scenic landscape. The blue color was chosen to represent the Colorado River, which flows through the state.

Hunt’s design was praised for its simplicity and its ability to represent the state’s heritage and natural beauty. The flag was officially adopted by the Arizona State Legislature on February 17, 1917, just ten days before the design was officially chosen as the winner.

Interestingly, Hunt’s original design had a yellow field instead of blue, but was later changed to blue by the State Legislature before the design was finalized. This change was made to ensure that the flag would not be too similar to the flag of Spain.

The winning design of the Arizona state flag represents the state’s mining heritage, natural beauty, and unique landscape, making it one of the most recognizable state flags in the United States.

The Colors and Symbols

The colors and symbols of the Arizona State Flag were specifically chosen to represent various aspects of the state’s history and natural features. The top half of the flag is a blue field, representing the various blue hues of the Arizona sky. The bottom half consists of thirteen rays of red and gold, representing the rays of the setting sun.

The red and gold colors hold significant meaning in Arizona’s history. Both colors are featured in the flags of Spain and Mexico, which were the previous colonizers of the region. The red and yellow colors also represent the colors of the native Arizona earth.

The blue field on top of the flag has a copper-colored star placed in the center, which represents the state’s copper mining industry. In fact, copper was so important to Arizona’s economy, that the color of copper was originally considered for the field instead of blue. Arizona is known to produce the most copper in America and has been called the Copper State since the early 1900s.

In the center of the copper star is a small emblem similar to the state seal. It depicts a rear quarter view of a sun rising over a mountain with water below. The sun rays are made up of 13 alternating red and yellow rays, representing the original thirteen colonies, and also the sunshine and warmth for which Arizona is so famous. Above the mountain are the state flowers, the saguaro cactus flowers.

The Arizona State Flag is an intricate piece of symbolism, designed to represent the beauty, history, and industry of Arizona. It is unlike any other state flag in the United States and has become an important symbol for the state, proudly flown at government buildings, schools, and private homes statewide.

Link: Want to learn about the history of the Florida state flag’s red saltire cross? Check out this article on the history of Florida’s state flag.

Changes and Controversies

One of the most controversial changes in the Arizona State Flag’s history was the addition of the State’s name in 2001. The decision created a division among Arizonans who felt that the flag’s design did not require any alteration, and those who believed the name inclusion made it more identifiable and recognizable. Despite the controversy, the new design has continued to serve as Arizona’s official flag up to the present day. Many other states have also undergone significant changes in their flag’s history. For instance, some state flags have replaced their original designs with a coat of arms; others have changed the number of stars or color schemes over time. You can find out more about the evolution of America’s state flags on various online platforms like /va-state-flag-seal-symbolism/, /ny-state-flag-coat-of-arms-story/, and /sc-state-flag-facts/.

The Flag’s Legal Battle

The Arizona State Flag has faced many controversies and battles throughout its history. One of the most significant battles the flag faced was the legal battle in 2001 when a group of individuals claimed that the “Copper Star” design in the center of the flag was copyright infringement. The group claimed that Jack Dawkins, who designed the flag in 1910, had plagiarized the design from a Spanish coin that was circulated in Arizona during the 1880s.

The lawsuit claimed that the state of Arizona was using this design without the permission of the copyright owner. The case was eventually dismissed after a US District Court judge ruled that the copyright owner had no valid claim to the design since it was a “common and universal symbol” used by different cultures worldwide.

This legal battle shows the significance and importance of the flag as a cultural symbol of the state of Arizona. It reinforces the idea that symbols, such as flags, hold great value, not only emotionally but legally as well. The Arizona State Flag has proven to be an important representation of Arizona’s history and culture, and its significance goes beyond its aesthetic design.

It is interesting to note that many other state flags have also faced challenges and changes throughout their history. For example, the California flag has evolved over time, with each new design reflecting the state’s history and changing cultural landscape. The Tennessee state flag has undergone several changes, including the addition of a sixth star, while the Maryland state flag has a unique design that represents the state’s history and connection to Great Britain. Similarly, the Louisiana state flag underwent changes after Hurricane Katrina to honor the state’s military and cultural heritage.

The legal battle of the Arizona State Flag is just one example of the significance and value that flags hold as cultural symbols. The flag has come to represent not only the state’s history and culture but also the resilience and enduring spirit of the people of Arizona.

The Misuse of the Flag

The Arizona state flag is a symbol of the state’s history and pride. But like any recognizable symbol, it can be misused and abused. Unfortunately, there have been instances in which the Arizona state flag has been used improperly. One common misuse of the flag is using it for commercial purposes. This is in violation of Arizona state law, which prohibits the use of the state flag for advertising or promotion.

Another instance of misuse of the flag was during its adoption in the 1900s. Some people tried to incorporate designs from the Confederate flag into the design of the Arizona state flag, in an attempt to show support for the Confederacy. This was met with opposition from people who believed that the Confederate flag represented slavery and racism.

The misuse of the Arizona state flag also extends beyond its borders. In some instances, people mistake the Arizona state flag for the flag of Mexico, leading to confusion and misunderstandings. People who do not have a connection with Arizona sometimes use the state flag without understanding its significance.

The misuse of the Arizona state flag is not unique, however. Other states also deal with the problem of flag misuse. For example, the California state flag has been appropriated by street gangs, the Tennessee state flag has changed designs many times, and the Maryland state flag is regularly flown in a way that violates the U.S. flag code. Even the Louisiana state flag has undergone changes after Hurricane Katrina.

While the Arizona state flag is a source of pride for Arizonians, people should be aware of its significance and avoid using it for personal gain or commercial purposes. The misuse of the flag can lead to misunderstandings and disrespect for its meaning.

The Addition of the State’s Name

In 2001, a bill was introduced in the Arizona House of Representatives that would require the words “Arizona” and “1912” to be added to the flag. Many Arizonans were outraged at the idea, as they believed that the flag was already perfect in its design and symbolism. The proponents of the bill argued that the additions were necessary to make the flag more recognizable to the rest of the country and to commemorate the centennial of Arizona’s statehood.

Despite the opposition, the bill passed and was signed into law by Governor Jane Dee Hull on February 27, 2001. The new design featured the state’s name in large, bold letters above the copper star and the year 1912 below it. The changes did not sit well with many Arizonans and the flag continued to be a topic of controversy.

Some argued that the additions made the flag too busy and took away from its original symbolism. However, others believed that the changes were necessary to bring attention to the state and to its rich history. Regardless of the opinions, the Arizona state flag remains an important symbol of the state and its people.

It’s interesting to note that other states have also made changes to their flags over the years. For example, the California flag has undergone several revisions throughout its history, including the addition of the words “California Republic” in 1846 and the modification of the grizzly bear in 1953. Similarly, the Tennessee state flag was changed in 1987 to add a sixth star representing the state’s membership in the Confederacy. The Maryland state flag also has a unique history, as it is the only state flag in the US to be based on British heraldry. Lastly, the Louisiana state flag was changed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when a pelican was added to symbolize the state’s resilience and perseverance.


The Arizona State Flag has a rich history and is a symbol of pride for the people of Arizona. From its first conception, to its many controversies, the flag has stood the test of time. The winning design has ultimately become a representation of the state’s beauty, cultures, and history. Despite the setbacks, it continues to fly high on flagpoles across Arizona.

The creation of a state flag for Arizona was important to the people of the state. The flag represents the state and everything it stands for. An interesting piece of trivia is that it was one of the last states to adopt a flag, after New Mexico, and it’s now considered one of the most beautiful state flags in the country.

The flag’s history is full of changes and controversies, but it remains a beloved symbol of Arizona to this day. Today, it represents the achievements, struggles, and triumphs of the past and present, and the hopes and dreams of the future.

If you are interested in learning more about the evolution of state flags, you can read about the history of the California state flag at ‘California Flag Evolution‘ or check out the fascinating story behind the Tennessee state flag with six stars at ‘TN State Flag Six Stars‘. You can also learn about the unique Maryland state flag history at ‘Maryland State Flag History‘ or the interesting transformation of the Louisiana state flag after Hurricane Katrina at ‘LA State Flag After Katrina‘.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of the Arizona state flag?

The Arizona state flag represents the state’s history and cultural heritage, through its symbols and colors.

What do the colors on the Arizona state flag represent?

The blue on the flag represents the Arizona sky and freedom, while the gold represents the state’s mineral wealth and sunshine.

What is the origin of the Arizona state flag?

The state’s need for a flag arose soon after it was granted statehood in 1912, as it did not have an official flag at the time.

Who designed the winning flag for Arizona?

A total of 200 designs were submitted for the Arizona state flag, and the winning design was created by Charles Harris, a self-taught artist and expert in Apache history.

What is the central symbol on the Arizona state flag?

The central symbol on the flag is a copper-colored star, which represents the importance of copper mining to the state’s economy.

When was the Arizona state flag officially adopted?

The Arizona state flag was officially adopted on February 27, 1917, by an act of the state legislature.

What role did World War I play in the design of the Arizona state flag?

The copper-colored star on the flag was originally meant to represent the constellation Ursa Major, which was used by soldiers to navigate during World War I.

Why did the Arizona state flag face legal battles?

In the early 2000s, the use of the flag’s design on state license plates sparked a legal debate, as it was argued that the design was too similar to Native American art and could be considered offensive.

What changes were made to the Arizona state flag?

In 2001, the addition of the state’s name in yellow letters was made to the flag, to make it easier to identify in various settings. Additionally, minor color adjustments were made in the 1960s to standardize the flag’s colors.

What is the correct way to display the Arizona state flag?

The flag should be displayed with the blue half on top, except when flown at half-staff as a sign of mourning.


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