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World Civic Heraldry Guide: coats of arms and flags of cities, regions, states

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Vermont, flag

Vermont, flag

The history of the Vermont state flag must include a reference to the United States flag, adopted on June 14, 1777 and described as follows: "The flag of the United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field."
After the admission of Vermont to the Union in 1791 and Kentucky in 1792, the design of the U.S. flag was changed by Congress in 1794 to include fifteen stripes and fifteen stars. This design remained the National emblem until 1818, and was the flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner," and is usually known as the Fort McHenry flag.
The first distinct Vermont flag was a state militia flag created on October 31, 1803. Tennessee and Ohio had now been admitted into the Union and, apparently anticipating that the U.S. flag would continue to add stripes and stars for each addition, Vermont authorized a flag of seventeen stripes and seventeen stars, "with the word 'VERMONT' in capitals above the said stripes and stars." However, in April, 1818, Congress authorized our present United States flag of thirteen stripes, with a star for each state.
The second Vermont flag, then, was authorized on October 20, 1838, and contained "thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, and a union of one large star, white in a blue field, with the coat-of-arms of the State of Vermont therein." This remained our state flag until 1919, although it does not appear that this flag was ever used or displayed to any extent, nor even that many people were familiar with its existence. In fact, when the desirability of a change was in question, only a few of these state flags could be found.
It was felt that a distinctive Vermont flag should be created, one that as it hung on a pole could not be confused with the United States flag. The second state flag had never been carried as the state colors in any of the wars in which Vermont participated, but that the flag borne by regiments of the State of Vermont in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican-Border service and at the outbreak of World War I, was a flag having the state coat-of-arms on a blue field. A flag of the same design had by custom also been carried as the Governor's flag. No. 8 of the Acts of 1919 approved the design of the official state flag as we know it today. (condensed from an article entitled "History of the State Flag" by Herbert T. Johnson, Adjutant General, 1951 Vermont Legislative Directory. The first Stars and Stripes Flag known to have been used in the Revolutionary War was carried by the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont at the Battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777, and is now the most cherished possession of the Bennington Historical Museum, Bennington, Vermont.

The first Vermont coat of arms was an engraving for use on military commissions, made in 1821 when the original state seal was revised by rearranging some of the features in pictorial form. It placed the picture in a shield surmounted by the stag's head crest, with the motto beneath, and the whole was put under the outspread wings of the American eagle with full panoply of war. The crest was a new feature, possibly invented by Secretary of the Governor and Council Robert Temple, or by the Boston engraver who designed the commission. Although no law provided for a coat of arms, it was in official use in this form, with slight modifications, until 1862.
When the Civil War began, a coat of arms and crest for military purposes was needed. The crest had been used for some years on military buttons, but search for an authentic description of the Coat of Arms revealed that there was no law making this provision. Professor George W. Benedict of Burlington wrote a description in quasi-heraldic terms, and this was incorporated into the statutes by No. 11 of the Acts of 1862.
The law does not specify any particular mountains or view. The shield may be of any shape, with any sort of border or none. There must be a landscape of natural color in the foreground or base, with high mountains of blue above and extending into a yellow sky. There must be a pine tree of natural color extending from near the base to the top; sheaves of grain three in number and yellow placed diagonally on the right side; and a red cow standing on the left side of the field. The motto, badge, crest, and scroll must conform to the description.
The Revised Statutes of 1840 has a title-page vignette of a Coat of Arms much like that of 1821, but with the addition of crossed pine branches beneath the shield. These are said to represent the pine sprigs worn by Vermonters at the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814. A version which appeared on commissions issued about 1858 replaced the pine branches with plumes, and appears to have followed the carving over the desk of the Speaker of the House in its original form.
Probably the carving over the painting of the "Battle of Cedar Creek" by Julian Scott in the State House most clearly represents what the 1862 Legislature had in mind. At that time a painting made by Charles R. Heyde of Burlington, and intended to be the official version, was placed in the custody of the Secretary of State. It was replaced by the present painting in that office dated 1898, and Heyde's painting appears to be lost. A description by Professor Benedict soon after the painting was made states that the high mountains are Camel's Hump and Mansfield, traced in outline from a point opposite Burlington. This viewpoint was selected because it was thought Samuel de Champlain first saw the Green Mountains from that vicinity, and also because it was thought that travelers on the Lake would remember that view. /Secretary of state of Vermont, www.sec.state.vt.us/


adopted (dd.mm.yyyy): 1919

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