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The History of the State Flag
by John T. Marck

Did you know that the Maryland flag is the only State Flag in the United States that is designed using the founding families Coat of Arms? Do you know the flag original colors and when it was first used? Find out all this and more here!

 

 
 
 

 
 
 

STATE FLAG

The father of George Calvert, first baronet of Baltimore, was Leonard Calvert, a country gentlemen of Yorkshire. He married Alicia Crossland, daughter and heiress of John Crossland, another Yorkshire gentlemen. Both families were of the class entitled to have arms. But, it was not until George Calvert was made baronet in 1617, that there was a petition to have the arms of the Calverts certified.

The first exemplification was made by the English heralds in 1622. It showed the black and gold pales with bend that makes the first and fourth quarters of the Maryland State Flag today. The Calvert and Crossland arms are first shown quartered together in the Seal of Maryland. The original Seal probably had the quartering, but unfortunately, it was lost, and there is no exact description of its design. It was replaced in 1648 by Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Proprietary. He remarked that the replacement was very much like the first. The quartering of the two coats of arms together, therefore, is of old usage of the Seal. However, it does not appear in the Flag until much later.

From 1634 until the Revolution, there are from time to time mentions of the Maryland Flag, and always these refer to the "yellow and black" of Lord Baltimore's colors, never to the red and white of the Crosslands. After the Revolution, there was no definite state flag in existence, either in custom or in law. There were a number of variations of the design, used pretty much ad libitum, for decorations and military emblems.

In 1885, Clayton C. Hall, a scholar from Baltimore, delivered an address on the Maryland Seal to the Maryland Historical Society, subsequently having the speech reprinted in pamphlet form. He gave a copy of the pamphlet to a Mr. Sisco, a flag maker of Baltimore, the following year. Mr. Sisco manufactured a number of flags in the pattern of the one used today, apparently basing his design on information about the Seal gathered from the work of Mr. Hall.

In 1888, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Maryland dedicated five monuments to Maryland regiments of the Army of the Potomac, that had taken part in the battle. A photograph of the ceremonies shows a flag in the pattern of the present one. The report of the monument commission, moreover, refers to this flag as the "State Flag." In 1889, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of North Point (or Battle of Baltimore), flags were lavishly used in decorating buildings in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun, describing these banners, makes it clear that they used both the Calvert and Crossland arms, but, from the wording of the story, one is in doubt as to whether the arms of the two families were combined in one flag or were shown in two different flags. In 1904, the present flag was adopted by law. The statute refers to it as the historic and traditional emblem of Maryland from the earliest times. It would appear, however, that in colonial days, the flag was simply the black and gold of the Calverts, and that during the first century of national existence, there was no official flag at all, and little agreement on any unofficial one.

The design of the Maryland Flag consists of the arms of the Calvert family quartered with the arms of the Crossland family. The Calvert family was that of the Lords Baltimore, the first Lord, George

Calvert, being the founder of the colony of Maryland in 1634. The Crossland family was that of the first Lord's mother. As she had no brother and so was the heiress of her family estate, she was permitted under heraldic law to quarter her arms with those of her husband. Reading horizontally from the top of the staff, the first and second quarters are the Calvert and Crossland arms, respectively. Below are the same arms in reverse order.

The Calvert arms are six pales (perpendicular stripes) alternately or (gold) and sable (black), transverses from dexter chief (upper right corner) to sinister base (lower left corner) by a bend (band probably representing an ancient shoulder belt for carrying a sword) counterchanged (black where it crosses a gold stripe, gold where it crosses a black one). In the upper quarter, the first gold pale must be next to the flagstaff, and the extreme upper corner of the bend will be black. This is important, because if the flag is displayed upside down, a black pale will be next to the flagstaff, which is incorrect. The Crossland arms are quarterly, argent (silver) and gules (red), and a cross bottony counterchanged. In flags the color silver is represented by white.

The cross bottony is a cross with extremities resembling a tre-foil plant. Article 60A, Chapter 862, Acts of 1945, Annotated Code of Maryland, is the authority for ornamenting the staff of the Maryland Flag with a gold cross bottony. This Act reads, "If any ornament is affixed to the top of a flagstaff carrying the Flag of Maryland, it shall be a gold cross bottony." The adjective is usually spelled either "botone" or "botony," but as the form in the law is "bottony," that spelling becomes correct and legal in Maryland.

Copyrightę John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.