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                                                              Maryland's Official State Symbols
                                                                            
         by John T. Marck

Maryland now has twenty-three State Symbols. Can you name them? Learn all about them here!

 

Many People in Maryland have these symbols on their cheap business cards!



 
 
 

 

From the United States stamp design by Arthur Singer and Alan Singer, from a painting by Arthur Singer and Alan Singer

STATE BIRD

The Baltimore Oriole has been the official State bird since 1947. In 1882 special provisions were made for its protection. (Chapter 154, 1882). The oriole's colors are black and yellow, the same colors as in the Calvert family shield.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

STATE BOAT

The skipjack was designated the State Boat in 1985. Skipjacks, named after a leaping fish, are the last working boats under sail in the United States. During the winter months, they dredge oysters from the floor of the Chesapeake Bay.

Courtesy of the Office of the Secretary of State

STATE CAT

In as much as Maryland has an official State Dog, the Maryland legislature has designated the "Calico Cat," as the official State Cat, effective October 1, 2001.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

STATE CRUSTACEAN

In 1989, the Maryland Blue Crab was designated as the official State Crustacean.

STATE DESSERT

Effective October 1, 2008, the Smith Island Cake became the State Dessert of Maryland (Chapters 164 & 165, Acts of 2008; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-320). Traditionally, the cake consists of eight to ten layers of yellow cake with chocolate frosting between each layer and slathered over the whole. However, many variations have evolved, both in the flavors for frosting and the cake itself.

Drawing by Gregory Paul, courtesy of the State of Maryland, Maryland Geological Society; Courtesy Maryland Department of Tourism

STATE DINOSAUR

Astrodon johnstoni was made the official State dinosaur on October 1, 1998. It was the first identified dinosaur in Maryland, and lived during the early Creataceous period, between 130 million and 95 million years ago. It was one of the earliest dinosaur finds in the United States and the first sauropod (semiaquatic) dinosaur described in North America. In size its height was more than thirty feet, and its length between fifty and sixty feet. Teeth from the Astrodon johnstoni were first discovered in Muirkirk, (Prince George's County) Maryland in 1858. This dinosaur was a vegetarian, but as with all dinosaurs, it is difficult to determine the exact diet. It is believed that it browsed conifers and low-growing plants, and most likely was a forest dweller. Although its bones have been recovered from river deposits, it is believed that it did not spend much time in the water.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

STATE DOG

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was declared the official state dog in 1964. It is named after the famous bay region of the breed's origin. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of only several breeds actually developed in America. Retrievers are working dogs, bred to recover waterfowl for hunters. They excel in both field and obedience trails, and are known for their strength, versatility, endurance and devotion. They also work as service dogs for the drug enforcement agencies, and search and rescue work, as well as avalanche and sled dogs.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

STATE DRINK

In 1998, the Maryland legislature designated "Milk," as the official State Drink, per Chapter 220, Acts of 1998.

STATE EXERCISE

Walking became the State Exercise of Maryland on October 1, 2008 (Chapters 400 & 401, Acts of 2008; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-320).

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Tom Darden, State of Maryland, Courtesy of the Office of the Secretary of State

STATE FISH

The striped bass or rockfish was designated as the official State Fish in 1965. It is considered to be the most valuable fish in Maryland waters.

STATE FLAG

Tom Darden, State of Maryland, Courtesy of the Office of the Secretary of State

STATE FLOWER

The Black-Eyed Susan has been the official State flower since 1918. A yellow daisy, it blooms in late summer.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

STATE FOLK DANCE

Square Dancing was designated the official State Folk Dance in 1994. This form of dance originated from dances from various cultures; the Morris and Maypole dances of England; ballroom dances of France; Church dances of Spain; and folk dances of Australia, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Mexico.

STATE FOSSIL SHELL

The Ecphora quadricostata, an extinct snail was designated as the official State Fossil Shell in 1984. The Ecphora inhabited the Chesapeake Bay 5 to 12 million years ago. One of the shells was found in St. Mary's County in 1685, believed to be the first North American fossil illustrated in scientific works.

STATE GEM

Effective October 1, 2004, the Patuxent River Stone became the State Gem of Maryland (Chapter 272, Acts of 2004; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-319).

STATE HORSE

On October 1, 2003, the Thoroughbred Horse became the State Horse of Maryland (Chapter 359, Acts of 2003; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-318).

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

STATE INSECT

The Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly is the official arthropodic emblem of the State, designated in 1973. The first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, is the namesake of the Baltimore Checkerspot for his heraldic shield bore the same orange and black colors found in the Checkerspot's wings.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

STATE REPTILE

The official State Reptile is the Diamondback Terrapin, and is the mascot of the University of Maryland at College Park, Maryland's largest State University. This lovely turtle received its name from the diamond-shaped, concentric rings on its upper shell. In early times, the colonists along the Chesapeake Bay ate these turtles that were prepared in Native-American fashion, that is roasted whole in live coals. Additionally, because they were quite abundant and easy to capture, landowners often fed their slaves and indentured servants terrapin meat. In the nineteenth century, many people came to appreciate this common turtle as gourmet food, especially when prepared in a stew made with cream and sherry. Consequently, due to its great demand, the supply was nearly depleted, and protective laws were enacted. In 1891, more than 89,000 pounds of terrapin were harvested from Maryland waters. Since 1956, the annual harvests were generally kept below 11,000 pounds. The Chesapeake diamondbacks are predators who prefer to live in unpolluted alt waters. During the winter months they hibernate underwater in mud; and in the spring, emerge to mate and bask in the sun on marshy banks.

STATE SEAL

STATE SONG

Maryland, My Maryland

"Maryland, My Maryland," a nine-stanza poem, was written by James Ryder Randall in 1861. Randall wrote the poem in the early days of the Civil War because he was outraged when Union troops marched through Baltimore. This poem articulated his Confederate sympathies. Maryland, My Maryland was adopted as the official State Song in 1939.

Maryland, My Maryland

by James Ryder Randall

I

The Despot's heel is on they shore, Maryland!

His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!

Avenge the patriotic gore

That flecked the streets of Baltimore

And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!

II

Hark to an exiled son's appeal, Maryland!

My mother State! To thee I kneel, Maryland!

For life and death, for woe and weal,

Thy peerless chivalry reveal,

And grid they beauteous limbs with steel,

Maryland! My Maryland!

III

Thou wilt not cower in the dust, Maryland!

Thy beaming sword shall never rust, Maryland!

Remember Carroll's sacred trust,

Remember Howard's warlike thrust-

And all they slumbers with the just, Maryland! My Maryland!

IV

Come! ''tis the red dawn of the day, Maryland!

Come with thy panoplied array, Maryland!

With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,

With Watson's blood at Monterey

With fearless Lowe and dashing May, Maryland! My Maryland!

V

Come! For thy shield is bright and strong, Maryland!

Come! For thy dalliance does thee wrong, Maryland!

Come to thine own heroic throng, Stalking with Liberty along,

And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song, Maryland! My Maryland!

VI

Dear Mother! Burst the tyrant's chain, Maryland!

Virginia should not call in vain, Maryland!

She meets her sisters on the plain -

"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain

That baffles minions back again, Maryland! My Maryland!

VII

I see the blush upon my cheek, Maryland!

For thou wast ever bravely meek, Maryland!

But lo! there surges forth a shriek

From hill to hill, from creek to, creek

Potomac calls to Chesapeake, Maryland! My Maryland!

VIII

Thou wilt not yield the vandal toll, Maryland!

Thou wilt not crook to his control, Maryland!

Better the fire upon thee roll,

Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,

Than crucifixion of the soul, Maryland! My Maryland!

IX

I hear the distant thunder-hum, Maryland!

The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum, Maryland!

She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb -Huzza!

She spurns the Northern scum!

She breathes! She burns! She'll come! She'll come!

Maryland! My Maryland!

Jean Marie Donhauser, Courtesy of the Office of the Secretary of State

STATE SPORT

The equestrian sport of jousting was made Maryland's official sport in 1962. Jousting in its original form has generally been credited to a French man named Geoffori de Pruelli. The "sport" which at the time was more of an occupation, spread from France to Germany, to England, and into Europe during the tenth and twelfth centuries. Jousting tournaments were held as military exercises between the various nobles. These tournaments, which started peacefully, often turned into bloody battles between jealous champions. Winning these tournaments was one way for a low-born knight to make a quick name for himself and win riches beyond ordinary means. Over time, these petty local wars became more sport oriented and sophisticated and less a matter of life or death. Knights were considered gentlemen and were required to abide by the ideas of chivalry and fair play, then in vogue. Much of the credit for this fair-play code has always gone to King Arthur and the tales of the Round Table, a thirteenth century publicity stunt dreamed up by monks to raise money for rebuilding their abbey.

The first accounts of "Running at the Rings" dates to the days of James I of England, whereby knights demonstrated their skill, since the rings were obviously much smaller to lance than a man. The death of several nobles and at least one king, King Henry II of France in 1559, brought about the demise of the man-to-man type jousting. Also during this time gunpowder was introduced into Europe from the Orient. Thus guns made warfare by horse-mounted lancers obsolete overnight. Although the precise evolution of ring jousting is not known, history does provide us with many well-documented great tournaments throughout the next several centuries. Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, was the first to introduce jousting in Maryland. In present times, jousting in Europe has declined, whereas Americans have built interest steadily. Each autumn in Washington, D.C., a national title is contested, with riders from many states competing.

So what exactly is jousting? In keeping with traditions the modern knight is mounted on horseback, but instead of being dressed in a cumbersome suit of armor and charging at an opposing rider with a long pointed lance in an effort to unseat him, the knight of the twentieth century wears a conventional riding habit, and charges his mount down a dirt track laid out beneath three overhanging arches. He carries a traditional lance, and with it he endeavors to spear a ring suspended from each arch as his horse gallops down the track. In accordance with the rules of the sport, each rider is given three rides or charges at the so-called large rings, which are one inch in diameter. It is possible to have a total score of nine rings on three rides, since the knight has a chance to spear three rings on each charge.

After all the knights have completed their three turns, the rings are reduced in size to three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and all the riders with a perfect score on the larger rings are allowed to have one ride on rings of this size. Subsequently the remaining riders with a perfect score again ride on rings of one-half inch in diameter, and this is where the victor usually emerges, as these very small rings are a severe test for even the best of the knights. In the case of a tie on one-half inch rings, the smallest is then used being one-quarter inch in diameter.

To the inexperienced spectator, it may appear simple, but it isn't as easy as it looks. The knights spend many hours practicing, and depend heavily on their horses, as a well-trained mount is indispensable to a tournament rider. For this reason, jousters spend weeks teaching their horses to respond to words rather than to the reins. Each rider's undivided attention must be on the rings, and without a horse that is well-trained it would be impossible. Often it takes two to three years before a horse is ready for riding in tournaments.

Unlike their ancestors, the modern knights do not devote their lives to jousting. They come from all walks of life; farmers, businessmen, professionals, as well as many others. Many represent the third, fourth and fifth generations of their family to participate in the sport. There are men, women, fathers and sons, brother combinations, and sister and brother combinations, all of whom ride for the love of the sport as there are no profits for the participants. Although prize money is awarded, this generally only covers the cost of the trip to the tournament, as many travel hundreds of miles with a car, horse and trailer. Each knight in keeping with the tradition has a title such as "Knight of Cedar Lane" or "Knight of Little Woods" or in the case of a lady, it might be "Maid of Bartram Manor." These titles are chosen by the knights themselves and are usually names of estates, hometowns, streets, and occasionally one or two of them will take on a humorous aspect, such as "Knight of Will If I Can."

Jousting equipment has never been standardized, and is impossible to purchase from any store. For example, all the jousting lances are handmade. They average anywhere between five feet and seven feet in length and weigh anywhere between one and fifteen pounds, depending on the material used. The point of the lance is, on the average, two feet long and made of metal, aluminum, or stainless steel. The stock is usually made of wood, and its length depends largely on how long and how heavy the point is. The main concern in making a lance should be the balancing point, because when the lance is used it is held at the balance point. Additionally, very few jousting fields are alike, due to inadequate space available. An example of a field would be: Forty yards of starting room before the first arch. Thirty yards between the first and second, and second and third arches, then sixty yards after the last arch for stopping the horse, for a total of one hundred sixty yards. If this in not possible, yardage may be subtracted from the beginning and the end, however the thirty yards between each arch must stay the same, for the purpose of timing. A timing mark or pole is placed twenty yards before the first arch. Timing starts at this point and ends at the third arch, a total of eighty yards. Standard time to complete the course is nine seconds in regular jousts and eight seconds in championship jousts.

By tradition, immediately following a joust, the crowning ceremony is held. The winning knight steps forward to claim his prize and to place upon the head of the lady of his choice the traditional wreath of flowers. In performing this ritual he crowns her "Queen of Love and Beauty." At this time the knights who placed second, third, and fourth also crown the ladies of their choice with wreaths of flowers, and these ladies become the first, second, and third maids of the Queen's Court.

The National Jousting Association as well as the Jousting Hall of Fame are located in Natural Chimneys Regional Park, in Mt. Solon, Virginia. Each year since 1821 the "Hall of Fame Joust" has been held here. The Hall of Fame depicts an honor roll of Jousting Champions, as well as a history of the sport and jousting memorabilia.

There are five jousting clubs or associations in Maryland. These are: The Maryland Jousting Tournament Association; The Amateur Jousting Club of Maryland, Inc.; The Central Maryland Jousting Club, Inc.; Eastern Shore of Maryland Jousting Association and the Western Maryland Jousting Club. Each year there are approximately fifty jousting tournaments, exhibitions, and championships held at various locations throughout the State of Maryland.

STATE TEAM SPORT

Effective October 1, 2004, Lacrosse became the official team sport of Maryland (Chapter 272, Acts of 2004; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-308).

Known as the oldest sport in North America, lacrosse was played by native American tribes probably for centuries before the first account of it was written in 1636 by a French Jesuit missionary in Canada. Among native Americans, lacrosse was played by tribes throughout the Great Lakes region, and in what is now the southeastern United States, and all along the East Coast, a range which encompasses Maryland.

Now lacrosse is commonly played in the United States at the collegiate level.  The NCAA Sanctions Division I, Division II, and Division III that are all represented with different lacrosse team uniforms. You can find lacrosse uniforms and lacrosse jerseys for sale online.

STATE THEATER and STATE SUMMER THEATER

In 1978, "Center Stage," was designated as the official State Theater, (chapter 1003, Acts of 1978, Code State Government Article, sec. 13-309), and the "Olney Theater" was designated as the official Summer Theater.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

Center Stage was founded in Baltimore in 1963. It is a nonprofit resident professional theater, whereby artists are invited to perform or to design costumes and sets for various productions, while living in housing provided by the theater for the duration of that respective production. Center Stage employs about one hundred artists and administrators annually. The theater offers a six-play season and more than 125,000 people attend each year. The productions are performed on one of two stages; a 541 seat Pearstone Theater, and the smaller Head Theater. All the prope used at these two theaters are made in the shops at Center Stage.

The original Center Stage Theater located at 11 East North Avenue, was destroyed by fire in 1974. Consequently, the theater acquired an old building that was partially renovated and once a part of Loyola College on Calvert Street, and opened here in 1975 where it remains today.

The Olney Theater was designated as the official State Summer Theater at the same time and by the same legislative act as Center Stage. Located in the town of Olney in Montgomery County, it is a nonprofit professional theater that produces seven shows per season.

Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

Originally opened in 1941, the 450-seat theater, which was renovated in 1993, hosts a variety of musicals, plays and community projects, attended by more than 118, 000 annually. Certain events include the Summer Shakespeare Festival; the National Players Touring Company; and the National Players School Project, which is an educational program of performances for Maryland public schools. Also located at Olney is the Potomac Theatre Project of experimental and provocative plays. Photograph courtesy of the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State.

Photograph by John T. Marck

STATE TREE

Located in the village of Wye in Talbot County, the State tree is the White Oak or the Wye Oak. While King Henry VIII ruled England (1509-1547) a white oak acorn sprouted in the earth of the Atlantic seaboard on the newly discovered continent of North America. The little seedling took root on a peninsula called "Chesopieoc" by the Indians. By the time Lord Baltimore's English settlers came and proclaimed the colony Maryland (1634) our oak was a magnificent, mature tree. Plantations sprang up along the Wye River site in the 1660's and a mill was established at the site. By the time the United States had successfully survived the Revolution and Maryland had ratified the U.S. Constitution (1788) the Wye Oak still lived and continued to live and survive the second war with England and leaf out every spring through the Civil War. Today, what remains of the oak is a part of the Wye Oak State Park. State foresters and the Maryland Arborists' Association cared for the Wye Oak which, prior to June, 2002 was still in a state of remarkably good health. Its height was ninety-five feet, with a horizontal spread of one hundred sixty-five feet. The trunk was more than twenty-one feet in circumference, and its age was estimated to be more than four hundred sixty years old. This beloved tree was purchased by the State of Maryland in 1939, and because of its inspiring tenacity and impressive size the State of Maryland designated the Wye Oak the official tree of Maryland in 1941. When the State of Maryland purchased the tree, it was the first time in America that a governmental agency purchased a single tree.

This wonderful symbol, the Wye Oak, Maryland's State Tree and the largest White Oak in the United States, and older than the State itself, sadly toppled June 6, 2002 during a thunderstorm. What remains today is its massive stump, encased in honorary wrought iron.

Copyright© 1993 - 2012 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and photograph of the State Tree, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed and/or for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. All other photographs courtesy of the State Archives of the State of Maryland, Maryland Manual and Maryland Manual Online and the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State. Reprinted with permission. State Tree © John T. Marck. Informational assistance for all State Symbols except State Sport, State Song, and State Tree, in part, courtesy of the Maryland State Archives, Maryland Manual, © 1996-1997, and Maryland Manual Online, State Archives of the State of Maryland. Original permission granted for State Symbols as a part of "Maryland The Seventh State A History," Editions 1, 2, 3 & 4, courtesy of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Division of Tourism and Promotion, and the Maryland State Archives. Additionally, my thanks to Ms. J'ette Conaghan, A.D. WUSA Channel 9/AM I-Bar Producer, for information relative to June 6, 2002.