The History of the Florida State Flag Design

As one of the most recognized state flags in the United States, the Florida state flag features a striking design that has captured the attention and admiration of many. Its bold red saltire cross, emblazoned on a white background, has become an iconic symbol of the Sunshine State. However, what many people don’t know is the history and meaning behind this design. How did the red saltire cross come to be featured on Florida’s flag? What is the symbolism behind it? In this article, we will explore the fascinating story of the Florida state flag and uncover the secrets behind its design. Through a journey of history and culture, we will discover what makes this flag so unique and cherished to Floridians and Americans alike.

The Early Stages of the Florida State Flag

The Early Stages Of The Florida State Flag
Before the Florida State Flag officially became the state’s symbol in 1900, there were a few iterations in its design process. Initially, the Pan-American flag design featuring a red, white, and blue striped background with a centered bald eagle was widely used during Florida’s statehood in 1845. However, Florida’s first official flag was later created in 1868 and featured Florida’s state seal emblazoned on a white background. The seal depicted a Native American woman scattering flowers and a steamboat sailing in the background. Later, the government of Florida began seeking the input of citizens and a selection committee was established to design the new state flag. This development led to an iconic design featuring a red saltire cross on an otherwise white background. The story behind this design, including the symbolism of the red saltire cross, is both interesting and intriguing.

The Pan-American Flag Design

The Pan-American Flag Design was an influential symbol for the state of Florida in its early stages of flag development. The design was created in 1850 for the “Congress of the Republic of New Granada” and was meant to unite the Americas. The flag design consisted of different colors that represented various aspects of the American continent. The color red represented North America, while the color white was associated with Central America and the color yellow represented South America.

The Pan-American flag design influenced the state of Florida flag design in its early stages. Florida, along with other states like California and Texas, were looking for ways to create their own unique state flags that would reflect the state’s identity. During this time, various elements of the Pan-American flag were incorporated into the state flag designs.

One example of this influence is the red saltire cross on the Florida State flag. The cross design was not initially meant to represent the Confederacy, but rather a nod to the state’s Spanish heritage and the early explorers who came to Florida. However, the use of red, white, and blue colors in the flag eventually became associated with the Confederacy as well.

This influence of the Pan-American flag design on the early stages of the Florida State flag development showcases the importance of symbols in representing a state’s identity. Each state has its unique history, culture, and identity, and the state flag serves as a representative symbol of this identity. For instance, the Maryland State flag’s unique design symbolizes the union between England and America, while the Tennessee State flag’s six stars represent the state’s history as the “Volunteer State.”

The influence of the Pan-American flag design on the Florida State flag’s development is noteworthy in understanding the symbolism of state flags. The Pan-American flag’s use of distinct colors influenced the design of many state flags, including Florida’s. It serves as a reminder that state flags are not just pieces of cloth but a representation of the history, culture, and identity of a state.

Florida’s Original State Flag

Before Florida’s current state flag was designed, the state had a series of other flags used in both official and civilian settings. Florida gained statehood in 1845 but did not create an official state flag until 1900. During the time between statehood and the creation of an official flag, Florida used the nation’s flag, as well as the Confederate flag during the Civil War.

In 1868, Governor Harrison Reed suggested creating a separate symbol to represent Florida, which led to the creation of an unofficial state flag. This flag featured a white background with the state’s seal in the center. The seal was made up of a Seminole Indian woman, a sabal palm tree, and a steamboat. Although this flag was not officially adopted, it gained widespread popularity and was used for many years.

It wasn’t until 1900 that Florida’s state flag was officially designed and adopted by the state legislature. This flag used the state seal on a white background, but also featured a red St. Andrew’s cross, or saltire. The saltire was inspired by the Confederate battle flag and symbolized Florida’s Southern heritage.

Florida’s original state flag was a simple design featuring the state seal and the addition of the red saltire cross. Despite being replaced with a newer design, it is still an important part of Florida’s flag history.

Designing Florida’s Flag

When it came time to design Florida’s state flag, the process was not a straightforward one. As The Florida State Flag Committee was formed to oversee the new design, many different ideas were proposed and debated. African-American writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston even submitted her own design, though ultimately it was not chosen. One aspect that did make it into the final design, however, was the red saltire cross. While the exact circumstances surrounding its inclusion are not entirely clear, it is believed to have been inspired by the flag of the Confederacy. Regardless of its origin, the red saltire cross has become an integral part of the Florida State Flag, and its symbolism is deeply ingrained in the state’s history.

The Florida State Flag Committee

was established in 1899 to create a design for the state flag. Governor Francis P. Fleming commissioned this committee to produce a flag design that would represent the state of Florida. The committee was comprised of three members, who were Captain R. E. Rose, William H. Milton, Jr., and E. O. Painter.

The committee worked tirelessly to create a design for the state flag. After several failed attempts, they finally settled on a design that incorporated the state seal and featured a white field with a red saltire cross. It’s unclear who specifically came up with the idea of the red saltire cross, but the committee ultimately chose this design due to its simplicity and uniqueness.

Interestingly, the Florida State Flag Committee’s decision to use a red saltire cross was a departure from design conventions of the time, as many state flags at that time featured a blue or white background with the state seal in the center. The committee’s decision to use the red saltire cross was a reflection of their desire to create a flag that was distinct and memorable, and their work definitely paid off.

The design of Florida’s state flag has stood the test of time and remains one of the most recognizable state flags in the United States. It has inspired other states to branch out from the traditional flag design mold and create something that better represents their state’s identity. For example, Maryland’s state flag uses bright colors and complex symbolism, while Tennessee’s flag is unique in that it features a prominent image of three stars. Florida’s flag remains a source of state pride and a symbol of the state’s rich history and unique identity.

Zora Neale Hurston’s Proposed Design

Zora Neale Hurston, a prominent novelist and anthropologist in the 1930s, was one of the designers who proposed a new Florida state flag. Hurston’s design incorporated the state’s seal and depicted a Native American Seminole woman sewing while sitting under a palm tree.

Her proposed design was not chosen, but it did influence the decision to use the Seminole Native American tribe’s colors of red, white, and black, which are showcased in the state flag today.

Although Hurston’s proposed design was not ultimately chosen, it illustrates Florida’s desire to incorporate Native American culture and history into the design of its state flag, just like other states did with their state flags. For instance, the Texas State Flag features a lone star to represent the state’s former individuality as an independent republic. The state of California also has a rich history, reflected in its flag design that features different elements, including the state’s original 1846 grizzly bear flag.

The following table lists the proposed designs that were not picked as well as other facts about the Florida state flag’s design:

| Proposed Flag Designers | Notable Features |
| Zora Neale Hurston | Seminole Native American tribe’s colors of red, white, and black |
| Reverend Dr. James W. Johnson | State’s coat of arms in the center |
| Amelia Barr | Pineapple and the state seal over a red background |
| Francis Lee | Alligators and palm trees on a white background |
| Paul Drechsel | State seal over a white background with red corners |

The Origins of the Red Saltire Cross

The origins of the red saltire cross on the Florida state flag can be traced back to the Confederate battle flag. After the Civil War, the state of Florida adopted a new flag that featured the state seal in the center and a white background, but it was eventually changed in 1900. The seal had the figure of a Native American woman scattering flowers and the state’s motto “In God We Trust” on it. However, this design was unpopular because it resembled a truce flag or surrender.

To come up with a new design, a state flag committee was formed in 1908. Several designs were submitted, including one from Zora Neale Hurston, a famous author, anthropologist, and Florida native. Hurston’s design featured a bold red saltire cross, the state seal in the center, and two Sabal Palm fronds. Despite Hurston’s innovative design, it was not well-received and was ultimately rejected.

It was decided to adopt a design that more closely resembled the original state flag, but with exciting modifications. The Florida state flag committee recognized the symbolism of the saltire cross, which is a heraldic symbol in the shape of a diagonal cross and commonly used in military settings. The use of the saltire cross was a nod to Florida’s rich history of Spanish rule and exploration, as well as its contribution to the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The red color of the saltire cross was said to represent the blood, sacrifice, and bravery of those who fought in the Civil War and defended the values of Southern culture. While the red saltire cross has been subject to controversy in recent times, its origins reflect Florida’s history and the state’s continued connection to the Civil War.

If you’re interested in knowing about other state flags and their symbolism, check out our article on the Louisiana state flag after Hurricane Katrina and how it was modified to represent the state’s resilience during tough times.

The Meaning Behind the Florida State Flag Design

The Florida State Flag design features a red saltire cross with a white background; however, the meaning of these symbols isn’t immediately apparent to everyone. According to historical records, the red saltire cross represents Florida’s ties to Spain, as it was once a Spanish colony. The white background symbolizes Florida’s nickname, “The Sunshine State”, as it represents the clear, blue sky that Florida residents are accustomed to seeing. Additionally, the placement of the state seal in the center of the flag prominently displays Florida’s agricultural prominence, and further highlights its natural sunny disposition. The design’s origins can be traced back to a committee established for the purpose of creating a new flag design to replace the outdated State Flag. The final design was influenced by the Seminole people, who played a significant role in Florida’s history, and their diamond-patterned clothing. The Florida State Flag’s rich history and symbolism make it an important part of the state’s identity today.

The Saltire Cross Symbolism

The saltire cross on the Florida state flag represents multiple things. Firstly, it honors Florida’s Spanish heritage, as the saltire cross was a common symbol used by Spanish explorers during the colonial period. Secondly, it symbolizes Florida’s membership in the Confederacy during the Civil War.

While the Confederate flag is often criticized for its association with slavery and segregation, the Florida state flag’s saltire cross has a different symbolism. It represents Florida’s bravery and determination during the Civil War, and its commitment to defending its people and land against outside threats.

Additionally, the saltire cross has religious symbolism, representing the Christian faith of many Floridians. The four arms of the cross are said to represent the four Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The saltire cross on the Florida state flag is a complex symbol that represents Florida’s rich history and diverse cultural influences. It represents bravery, determination, faith, and heritage, all of which are important aspects of Florida’s identity and values.

The Seminole Tribe Influence

The Seminole Tribe has had a profound impact on the state of Florida. Their culture and traditions are an essential part of the state’s history, and this influence is clearly visible in the design of the Florida State flag. The red saltire cross on the flag is believed to be inspired by the Seminole Tribe’s use of red as a sacred color.

The Seminole Tribe embraced the color red as it represented the earth and the power of life. They used red to symbolize blood and sacrifice, and it played a significant role in their rituals and ceremonies. The red color was also used in their clothing and in their architecture, a fact that was not lost on the designers of the Florida State flag.

The red saltire cross on the flag is placed on a white background, which represents the purity of the Seminole Tribe’s beliefs. The cross itself symbolizes the four cardinal directions and emphasizes the importance of balance and harmony in life. The Seminole Tribe has always placed a high value on the natural world, and the cross on the Florida State flag reflects this by celebrating the importance of proper balance.

The Seminole Tribe has had a significant impact on the design of the Florida State flag. The use of the red saltire cross as the central symbol of the flag is a tribute to the tribe’s culture and traditions. The combination of the red color and the cross on a white background is a powerful representation of the Seminole’s beliefs, values, and legacy. Their influence will continue to be felt in the state of Florida for years to come.


The Florida State flag displays a unique and symbolic design that distinguishes it from other state flags. Its rich history is rooted in Florida’s early stages, which gradually led to the development of the official state flag. The meaning behind the flag’s design is deep-seated in the culture, history, and geography of the state.

The red saltire cross stands out as the most prominent symbol on the flag. It represents Florida’s ties to the Confederacy and the state’s struggles during the Civil War. Additionally, it is a nod to the state’s southern heritage and culture, which can also be seen in the flags of other southern states such as South Carolina and Virginia.

The influence of the Seminole tribe is another important aspect of the Florida State flag’s design. Their cultural heritage and traditions are an integral part of Florida’s history and are encapsulated in the iconic Seminole woman depicted on the flag.

Overall, the Florida State flag is a great representation of the state’s rich history and cultural heritage. The red saltire cross, the Seminole woman, and the original committee’s design efforts have created a flag that stands the test of time and is held in high regard by Floridians. Understanding the symbolism and significance of Florida’s state flag sheds light on its importance and helps to appreciate its beauty and value.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of the Florida State flag?

The Florida State flag has an intriguing history. The state adopted its first flag in 1868, which featured the state seal on a white background. The current flag was adopted in 1900, with the now-iconic red saltire cross design.

Who designed the Florida State flag?

The design of the Florida State flag was a collaborative effort. It was created by a committee appointed by Governor Francis P. Fleming, with input from various citizens.

What is the significance of the red saltire cross on the Florida State flag?

The red saltire cross on the Florida State flag symbolizes Florida’s ties to the Confederate States of America. The cross was part of the Confederacy’s battle flag, which had a significant presence in Florida during the Civil War.

What does the Seminole tribe have to do with the Florida State flag?

The Seminole tribe influenced the design of the Florida State flag. The red, white, and black color scheme is similar to that of the Seminole flag, and the Seminole seal features an image of a Native American warrior, which is similar to the figure on the Florida State seal.

Why did Florida switch from its original flag to the current flag?

Florida switched from its original flag to the current flag because the original flag was too similar to the state seal and was not easily recognizable from a distance. The committee in charge of the redesign wanted a flag that would be easily recognizable and unique to Florida.

What is the history of the Pan-American flag design?

The Pan-American flag design was created in 1850 and was meant to symbolize the unity of North, Central, and South America. The design featured a white background with a blue star for each country in the Americas at the time.

Who is Zora Neale Hurston and what was her contribution to the Florida State flag design?

Zora Neale Hurston was a writer and anthropologist who lived in Florida during the early 1900s. She submitted a design for the Florida State flag that featured a large orange on a white background. Although her design was not chosen, it is still remembered as an important contribution to Florida’s cultural history.

What other elements are on the Florida State seal?

In addition to the Native American warrior, the Florida State seal features an image of a brilliant sun, a steamboat, and palm trees. The seal also includes the state motto, “In God We Trust.”

What is the symbolism behind the saltire cross?

The red saltire cross on the Florida State flag has several symbolic meanings. It symbolizes Florida’s ties to the Confederacy and the state’s history as a southern state. It also represents the Spanish heritage of the state and the influence of Catholicism.

What are some other state flags with a saltire cross design?

Other state flags with a saltire cross design include Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The saltire cross design is also featured on the national flags of several countries, including the United Kingdom and Scotland.


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