The Official State Flag

The Texas Flag

Texas Flag Day was established in 1915 by the State Legislature to be observed on March 2nd of each year (concurrent with Texas Independence Day and Sam Houston Day). It is not known who created the current design, which ranks second among all the state and province flags of North America for its design, as rated by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), surpassed only by the flag of New Mexico. (The Texas state flag is also remarkably similar to that of the official design of the country of Chile.) However, the person most likely to have created the currently-used design is William H. Wharton, who introduced the bill to adopt the flag to the Legislature of the Republic of Texas on December 28, 1838. It was formally adopted when the bill was signed into law by Mirabeau B. Lamar, President of the Republic of Texas, on January 25, 1839.

Texas State law reads:

The state flag consists of a rectangle with a width to length ratio of two to three containing: (1) a blue vertical stripe one-third the entire length of the flag wide, and two equal horizontal stripes, the upper stripe white, the lower red, each two-thirds the entire length of the flag long; and (2) a white, regular five-pointed star in the center of the blue stripe, oriented so that one point faces upward, and of such a size that the diameter of a circle passing through the five points of the star is equal to three-fourths the width of the blue stripe. The red and blue of the state flag are the same colors used in the United States flag.

However, when the Republic of Texas became the 28th state of the United States on December 29, 1845, all statutes not explicitly renewed were repealed under the Revised Civil Statutes of 1879. The Texas flag code was never explicitly renewed, and although the historical flag of the Republic of Texas became the flag of the State of Texas in practice, it was not made official until the State Legislature passed the flag code in 1933. Therefore, from 1879 to 1933, there was no official flag for Texas, although the same historical Texas design remained in common use. According to the 1933 flag code, the red colour stands for bravery; the white for purity; and the blue for loyalty. The star "represents ALL of Texas and stands for our unity as one for God, State, and Country." It is from the Flag of the State of Texas that Texas got the nickname of "the Lone Star State."

The Texas Pledge of Allegiance to the flag is: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible."

Texas has a complicated history, and there were numerous historical state and national flags preceding the current design. The best-known historical Texas flag was the Lone Star and Stripes, which had been documented as the official flag of the RepublicTexas in many sources. This was the United States flag with a blue canton and a single star.

The Lone Star and Stripes

Lone Star and Stripes

This design continued to be in use by the Texas Navy until Texas was annexed to the United States in 1845. There is evidence that this was also flown at many important battles during the Texas revolution, including the battles of Goliad, the Alamo, and San Jacinto. Interim President of the Republic of Texas, David Burnet, decreed the Lone Star and Stripes the official flag of the Republic of Texas, but this historical Texas flag was never formally adopted by the Texas Congress.

In March, 1831, Lieutenant Juan Gomez of the Mexican army granted the colony of San Antonio a small bronze cannon with which to defend themselves from raiding Comanches. Later, it was moved to Gonzales, Texas, where it was a source of local pride. However, as General Santa Anna gained power and became more dictatorial, the Mexican Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea decided that a weapon in the hands of the Gonzales townspeople might be a problem and sent soldiers to ask for it back. The town officials refused, and de Ugartechea sent 100 dragoons to retrieve the cannon. They arrived on September 29, and the Gonzales residents asked them to wait until the local magistrate, Andrew Ponton, returned. Secretly, the Texians sent out messages for help and reinforcements and gathered about 140 people under the "Come and Take It banner".

Come and Take It

Come and Take It!

The Texians defeated the Mexican troops and forced them to withdraw to Bexar. The battle, widely known as "the fight at Williams' place" and taken up by the newspapers around the world as "The Texas Shot Heard 'Round the World" was the turning point of the relationship of Texas to Mexico, and launched the War for Independence from Mexico. The Battle of Gonzales is re-enacted every October 2nd, "Come and Take It Day," in Gonzales, Texas.

At least three other historical flags have flown over the Territory or Republic of Texas. The first is similar to the original Mexican flag, but with either the date 1824 or two six-pointed stars replacing the Mexican eagle. The 1824 date is a reference to the Constitution of Mexico, which Texians were fighting to support. It was the first flag a legislative body approved for rebel forces to fly, and in 1835, the Provisional Government of Texas approved its use for privateers preying on Mexican commerce. 

1824 Constitution
Credit: Public Domain

Another design was the Dodson Tricolor, designed by Sarah Dodson, and modeled on the flag of Revolutionary France, but with a lone star in white inside the blue canton, and with elongated proportions. Despite the protests of Stephen F. Austin, the Dodson Tricolor was flown by revolutionary forces in Cibolo Creek, and might have been the first flag raised over San Antonio. It was one of two historical flags flown when delegates ratified the Texas Declaration of Independence.

The Dodson Tricolor

Dodson Tricolor
Credit: Public Domain

The other historic design was the Burnet flag, a gold (sometimes white) star on an azure background (sometimes with "Texas" spelled out in the spaces between points of the star) that was adopted on December 10, 1836. In fact, until 1933, through oversight, the law referred to this as the flag of Texas, rather than the Lone Star (which was the design intended), because the State Legislature had added "of 1836" instead of 1839. 

The Burnet Flag
Credit: Public Domain

Now that you know something about the history, you'll be able to celebrate Texas Flag Day in style!

Texas Flags
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A beautiful, well-researched, coffee-table-sized book for reference and display.