The history of the Nevada state flag
Everyone knows Nevada became a state in 1864, but many are surprised to discover Nevada did not adopt an official state flag until 1905. Even more people are surprised to discover Nevada has had four official state flags.
In truth, like Nevada, many states did not adopt official state flags until around the turn of, or the first part of the 20th century.
After the Civil War ended, not many people were anxious to show pride in individual state’s rights or state independence, so consequently the creation of state flags was not a priority, in fact it was frowned upon.
But, with the beginning of a new century came a resurgence of American pride and patriotism. The resurgence of patriotism, which up until then was reserved mostly for men, would help rekindle the fight for voting rights for women, and for the first time there was an acceptance of women showing national pride.
Organizations such as the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution were formed to promote patriotism and civic pride, and many of the members were also in favor of voting rights for women.
The suffrage groups would use the state flag as a rallying symbol in each state to pass women’s voting rights laws. Other groups used the state flags to promote civic pride and patriotism.
No other group or organization is more responsible for promoting and creating so many of our beautiful state flags than the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Nevada’s first state flag was designed by Gov. John Sparks and Col. Harry Day in 1905. The blue color was the same color as the blue field of the American Flag, (Old Glory Blue) to depict Nevada’s loyalty to the Union. The 36 stars in the flag indicated we were the 36th State in the Union. The basic design of silver and gold refers to the large silver and gold resources of Nevada. The silver and gold flag was made by appliqué/sewing, hand painted or screen printed. No original is known to exist.
The second Nevada flag was designed by Miss Clara Crisler, a Carson City educator, club woman, and historian, in 1915. Crisler’s design was an attempt at having a state flag more representative of Nevada. Using the State Seal as the main basis of the flag, it depicted a Nevada that embraced mining, industry, agriculture and its history. Like the first state flag of 1905, the background color would remain Old Glory Blue and have the 36 stars. The silver and gold colors of the stars referred to our large silver and gold resources.
Below the seal was featured our state motto, “All for our Country.” Overall, the flag had more than 35 colors in the design, which would be the reason for its demise.
Although the flag was beautiful and popular, producing it was too expensive. The method of screen printing was used at that time, but the printing of the colors on a flag was difficult and too time-consuming for the process. The flag design had too much detail for it to be appliquéd/ sewn, so some of the flags were actually hand painted. However, the flag painter had to paint two flags and then sew them together to make one two-sided flag, so this proved to be expensive also.
The “All for our Country” flag was displayed on the Battleship USS Nevada until the vessel was decommissioned in 1945. One of the flags from the USS Nevada has been saved and can be seen from time to time at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.
Because of the expense involved in producing the “All for our Country” state flag, it was short lived. Only a few originals exist.
The third Nevada flag was chosen through a statewide contest to find a design that was less expensive to produce. The design chosen was submitted by Don Shellbach III in 1929. The flag remained in use until 1991.
The flag background color chosen was cobalt blue, which was a color most would associate with royal blue. Because cobalt blue is not actually a specific color, some manufacturers made the background the same color as the field of the American flag; others made them different shades of blue. Regardless, the blue color of the flag symbolizes our loyalty to the United States. The star indicates we are the “Silver State,” and the words “Battle Born” remind us we became a state during the Civil War. The sagebrush sprays under the star represent our state flower and symbol. The word Nevada was spelled around the star on the flag.
Because there weren’t any specifications written for the flag, every flag manufacturer made the flags differently and claimed its design was correct.
In the 1980s the Nevada State Purchasing Department attempted to standardize how the flags were manufactured and require a specific blue color for them.
The fourth Nevada flag was adopted in 1991. State Sen. Bill Raggio introduced Senate Bill 396 to amend the old flag statute. The amendment was proposed to correct a mistake in what the legislators felt was the intent of the 1929 flag legislation. The amendment would place the word “Nevada” below the star and above the sprays of sagebrush in a semi-circular pattern which would make “Nevada” on the flag more readable. The Raggio flag amendment would also — for the first time — determine specific colors for the flag, and the type of material and printing method use in its manufacture.
The background color chosen was Pantone 286 blue, what most people now call a royal blue. Specific Pantone colors were also chosen for the other colors in the flag.
There were a few people like myself who thought the background color of the flag should be the same color as the field in the American flag (Old Glory Blue) — the same color as the previous Nevada flags. There were other flag experts who thought the entire flag should be scrapped so they could pick an entirely new state flag that would have a symbol-based flag design without seals or wording on it, like the Alaska, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico flags. Although I did not get my way on the blue color of the flag and others didn’t get their way on a new “symbol” flag, we all were pleased for the first time actual specifications for the flag were established. The amendment was approved in 1991, and our current flag was the result.
Although I herald the 1991 flag amendment that set forth Nevada flag specifications for the first time, these specifications are not being enforced. There’s a barrage of cheap and inferior Nevada flags being imported and sold that do not comply with the flag statute. This is bad for a number of reasons. Imported flags are cheaply made and inferior to American-made Nevada flags, but more importantly, the designs, materials, colors, and methods of printing do not compare well with the better quality, longer-lasting, and correctly designed flags made by American manufacturers.
Martin T. Smith, besides being an authority on the Nevada state flag, is the creator of The Nevada Trivia Game, author of The Nevada Outhouse Trivia Book, and longtime owner of The Flag Store, Sign & Banner in Sparks. For more visits http://www.eventflags.com.