A day out yesterday in Illinois and Missouri allowed us to see some interesting things, including some historic flags. As is my habit, I carefully collected them for display here!
Prior to 1763, both sides of the Mississippi were claimed by France, which could be represented, believe it or not, by a plain white flag. White, symbolizing purity, was the color of the Bourbon dynasty; the white band in the French revolutionary tricolor derives from this flag. (No, I am not going to indulge in the cheap shot that a white flag is appropriate for a people who so readily surrender. The French have more than their share of military victories.)
Still, it’s probably better to deface the white flag with something else. Here, it’s been adorned with three gold fleur de lys, that preeminent symbol of the French monarchy. This flag was used, although it is not a good design, for in heraldry one is not supposed to put gold on white because the colors do not contrast enough.
This is the best option, in my opinion, when representing New France – a banner of the royal arms, i.e. Azure three fleur de lys Or. The gold fleur de lys contrast nicely with the blue background, and the flag itself contrasts with the sky.
In 1763, the Louisiana Territory (west of the Mississippi) was acquired by Spain, and there are several options for a flag represent that colonial power. The one on display at the Ste. Geneviève Welcome Center is said, by Wikipedia, to be the Bourbonic ensign (1760–1785).
The territory east of the Mississippi became British in 1763, and so the Union Jack might have flown there. It’s good that the local museums actually remembered to use the pre-1801 version (i.e. without the red diagonals representing Ireland). I have seen other historic Union Jacks with thin crosses of St. Andrew like the one at the top.
Here is a flag I had never seen before, a series of thirteen horizontal red and green stripes. This is the George Rogers Clark flag. Clark was a Virginia officer who captured Kaskaskia in 1778 and Vincennes in 1779, as part of the Illinois campaign in the American Revolutionary War.
Three versions of the earliest flag of the United States, with thirteen stars and thirteen stripes. Two of these flags arrange the stars in a circle (the “Betsy Ross flag”), the other does so in an array. Either one would have been acceptable.
I do not know who designed the flag of Ste-Geneviève, Missouri, or when. It’s not the best design. Once again we see gold on white – and writing on a flag should be avoided too (if for no other reason it’s backward half the time). But if they got rid of the writing, and substituted a dark-colored symbol for Ste. Geneviève in the place of the cross (making it more specific to the town), it would not be a bad flag.
This year marks the 200th since Missouri was admitted to the Union, as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820. You can see a bicentennial flag in celebration of this event flying here and there in the state. Again, there’s too much writing, and a map does not make for a good flag, but it’s not offensive as such.