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Flag Flying High


A symbol of North Dakota became official on this date in 1943 as the legislative assembly adopted the state flag. The flag is virtually identical to the one carried by the First North Dakota Regiment in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and Philippine Insurrection in 1899.

The flag was originally proposed in a 1911 house bill by Representative John Fraine. Fraine had served as a major with the First North Dakota Regiment. The legislation mandated that the flag conform entirely to the regimental flag, except for the state’s name placed on the banner below the eagle.

Six weeks later the legislature adopted the flag. However, it wasn’t until 1943 that the flag was officially adopted. The 1911 legislature had failed to describe its precise color.

The flag features an open-mouthed bald eagle stretching its wings on a blue background. Its feet grasp an olive branch and a sheaf of arrows. A red, white and blue shield adorns the eagle’s chest. The eagle clutches a scroll in its mouth bearing the words, “E Pluribus Unum.” Another scroll under the eagle bears the state’s name. Thirteen stars sit above the eagle, under a seven-pointed sunburst.

The flag’s design features are defined in minute detail. The eagle’s dimensions, including its wings and placement, are all particular, as are the number of berries within the olive branch and number of stripes on the shield.

In 1951 a state flag commission was established to consider changes to the flag. The commission found that the regimental flag "too closely resembled the coat of arms of the United States and that the flag was not symbolic of North Dakota." But a 1953 state senate bill dissolved the flag commission, rejecting its suggested changes. And in 2011, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple signed a state house bill amending the North Dakota Century Code “to ensure historical accuracy” in all reproductions of the flag.

John Fraine, the man who proposed the state symbol didn’t live to see it adopted. He died in 1943, six months before the flag became official.

Dakota Datebook written by Jack Dura