Flag of Massachusetts

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Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Flag of Massachusetts.svg
UseCivil and state flag
Adopted1908; 113 years ago (1908)
Flag of the Governor of Massachusetts.svg
Variant flag of Commonwealth of Massachusetts
NameFlag of the governor of Massachusetts
DesignState flag in the form of a pennant
Naval Ensign of Massachusetts.svg
Variant flag of Commonwealth of Massachusetts
NameMassachusetts Ensign
Adopted1971; 50 years ago (1971)

The flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the flag of Massachusetts. It has been represented by official but limited-purpose flags since 1676, though until 1908 it had no state flag per se to represent its government. A variant of the white flag with blue seal was carried by each of the Massachusetts volunteer regiments during the Civil War alongside the National Colors. An exception were the two "Irish regiments" (the 9th and 28th Volunteers), each of which was permitted to carry an alternative green flag with a harp symbol. The state currently has three official flags: a state flag, a "naval and maritime flag" (despite it no longer having its own navy), and a governor's flag. With Florida and Minnesota, it is one of only three state flags to prominently feature a Native American in its heraldry. In 2001, a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) placed Massachusetts's state flag 38th in design quality out of the 72 Canadian provincial, U.S. state and U.S. territorial flags ranked.[1]

State flag[edit]

The flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts displays, on both sides, the state coat of arms centered on a white field. The shield depicts an Algonquian Native American with bow and arrow; the arrow is pointed downward, signifying peace. A white star with five points appears next to the figure's head, signifying Massachusetts as a U.S. state. A blue ribbon surrounds the shield, bearing the state motto Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem ("By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty").[2] Above the shield is the state military crest: the bent arm holding a broadsword aloft. The sword has its blade up, to remind that it was through the American Revolution that liberty was won. The sword itself is a copy of one belonging to Myles Standish[3] and signifies the philosophy that one would rather lose their right arm than live under tyranny.[citation needed][4]

The state flag was officially adopted in 1907, but had been used unofficially since the American Revolutionary War as the ensign of the Massachusetts State Navy. In 1971, the earlier pine tree was replaced by the current design.[5]

On January 11, 2021, Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill establishing a commission to change the state flag and seal by October 1, 2021 that will "faithfully reflect and embody the historic and contemporary commitments of the Commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty and equality and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education."[6]

Historical and related flags[edit]

Naval and maritime flag[edit]

In April 1776, the Massachusetts State Navy adopted, as its flag (naval ensign), a white field charged with a green pine tree and the motto "An Appeal to Heaven." In 1971 the motto was removed, and the flag was designated "the naval and maritime flag of the Commonwealth".[10]

Massachusetts is one of only three states with its own maritime ensign. The first is Maine, which was part of Massachusetts until 1820. The second is South Carolina, which activated her navy twice: first during the American Revolutionary War and again during the American Civil War.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey - NAVA.org" (PDF). nava.org.
  2. ^ CIS: Latin Translation
  3. ^ https://malegislature.gov/VirtualTour/Artifact/63
  4. ^ CIS: State Symbols
  5. ^ CIS: State Symbols
  6. ^ https://changethemassflag.com/2021/01/12/governor-baker-signs-the-bill-establishing-a-special-commission-to-change-the-mass-flag-and-seal/
  7. ^ a b David B. Martucci. "The New England Flag". D. Martucci. Archived from the original on April 1, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  8. ^ 'Historical Flags of Our Ancestors'. "Flags of the Early North American Colonies and Explorers". Loeser.is. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  9. ^ "New England flags (U.S.)". Crwflags.com. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
  10. ^ M.G.L. - Chapter 2, Section 3

External links[edit]