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Minnesota (U.S.)

Last modified: 2012-11-26 by rick wyatt
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[Flag of Minnesota] image by Clay Moss, 2 February 2009



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In 1858, a star was added, representing Minnesota, bringing the total number of stars on the U.S. flag to 32. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.


Legal Description

Minnesota Statutes
1.141 Official state flag.
Subdivision 3. Description. The design of the flag shall conform substantially to the following description:

The staff is surmounted by a bronze eagle with outspread wings; the flag is rectangular in shape and is on a medium blue background with a narrow gold border and a golden fringe. A circular emblem is contained in the center of the blue field. The circular emblem is on a general white background with a yellow border. The word MINNESOTA is inscribed in red lettering on the lower part of the white field. The white emblem background surrounding a center design contains 19 five pointed stars arranged symmetrically in four groups of four stars each and one group of three stars. The latter group is in the upper part of the center circular white emblem. The group of stars at the top in the white emblem consists of three stars of which the uppermost star is the largest and represents the north star. A center design is contained on the white emblem and is made up of the scenes from the great seal of the state of Minnesota, surrounded by a border of intertwining Cypripedium reginae, the state flower, on a blue field of the same color as the general flag background. The flower border design contains the figures 1819, 1858, 1893. The coloring is the same on both sides of the flag, but the lettering and the figures appear reversed on one side.
Joe McMillan, 14 February 2000

The flag of Minnesota has the state seal in its center. Around the seal is a wreath of the state flower , the lady slipper. Three dates are woven into the wreath.
            1858 - the year Minnesota became a state,
            1819 - the year Fort Snelling was established and
            1893 - the year the official flag was adopted.
The largest star between the 19 stars on the wreath represents Minnesota.
Dov Gutterman, 7 October 1998

Changes made in 1983:

  1. The Indian is no longer riding into the sunset, with spear lowered, but now riding south, greeting the farmer-settler, with spear raised (in greeting), with only a single feather, instead of a war bonnet.
  2. The axe in the stump was replaced (it had disappeared).
  3. The farmer-settler is bare-foot (he had earlier found boots somewhere).
  4. St. Anthony Falls was made clearer as a falls (on the Mississippi River).
  5. The State Tree (the Norway pine or Pinus resinosa) was made clearer & 3 (5?) trees stand out from the forest.
As another small detail, the outer yellow circle is correct, but the inner yellow circle (underneath the great star) is actually 69 yellow dots, circled in red. Why? No one can prove this, and few could even guess. However, I believe the source is the legislative language that says the State Seal shall be placed on the flag, and most seals have a serrated edge. I believe the small dots are the little edge you see when a seal is embossed on paper.

Lee Herold, 21 March 2007

Shade of Blue

The most common color seen in Minnesota is lighter than shown here, usually a royal blue - PMS 286, though it may not be official. Minnesota is a Dakota word meaning approximately sky tinged or tinted waters. That is, waters the color of the sky. Minne = water, sota=sky color. The Dakota largely inhabited the Minnesota country until the 1700-1800's when the Objiwe moved west because of American settlers and they took over about the top half of what is today Minnesota (they had guns).

The official color is the color of the flag produced for the legislative committee when the flag was adopted (both 1957 & 1983) and by law held by the Minnesota Secretary of State. I have approached the Secretary of State of Minnesota, Joan Growe, and later Mary Kiffmayer (now Mark Ritchie since the 2006 election), and they had no idea what I was referring to, and no idea where the flag is. I believe that means there is no official color, nor is there an official version of the flag. The State Seal is, however, official and released by the Sec. of State. I expect to approach the new Sec of State sometime this spring to see if he can find the flag. Minnesota Secretary of State website: www.sos.state.mn.us/student/symbols.html
Lee Herold, 21 March 2007

The Minnesota flag is heavy in detail. The version shown is the 1957-1983 flag with the Indian being driven into the sunset. Since 1983 we are "more enlightened". A couple of other details added in 1983 (going back to the original seal from 1858) was an axe in the stump and removing the farmers boots (I don't know any farmer who ever plowed a field barefoot, but I wasn't around in 1858). Not to be nit-picky but the inner yellow circle is actually not a solid line but a series of yellow dots, each fimbriated in red. The outer yellow ring is a solid line.

As to your real question, the color is royal blue, and though it varies by manufacturer and even varies from the same manufacturer the blue I believe is closest to correct is not far from the "FOTW flag", never as light as UN blue, never very dark. The Minnesota Secretary of State is by law to have the original flag as adopted by the legislature but on my trip there, they do not have it. The flag in the Governor's office is royal blue, which I believe could be the official flag, missing from the Sec of State.

Lastly, the seal changed unofficially sometime in the 1950's, where the Indian disappeared to be replaced by a white man with a rifle. A have a copy of this seal yet which was used by several State Departments, including the Dept of Revenue, who put it on every tax return form into the 1980's. This variant was never used on the flag.
Lee Herold, 4 February 2009

A good large format rendition of the flag can be found at Wikipedia.
Lee Herold, 22 April 2009


Nineteen stars

The seal on Minnesota's flag has 19 stars (forming a large star) around it because it was the 19th state added after independence.
Nathan Bliss, 28 March 1996


1893 flag

[Flag of Minnesota]

Before 1957 the Minnesota flag was a white field with the state arms, ribbon, and stars across the field. The reverse was supposed to be plain blue. Like Massachusetts, this was very expensive to produce. In 1957 the flag was made blue (both sides) with a white disk in the center with the state arms. The 1957 design was slightly altered in the late 1980's to make the flag conform to the state seal.
Nick Artimovich, 31 July 1996

The designer of the first Minnesota flag was Mrs. Amelia Center, in 1893. It was unique in the fact that the obverse was a white field, and the reverse a blue field. In 1957 it was simplified to a blue field on both sides (& other simplifications) and in 1983 changed again. However, all based on the original design by Mrs. Center.
Lee Herold, 14 May 1997

The State legislature of 1893, by Chapter 16, provided for a state flag. Mrs. Franklyn L. Greenleaf, Mrs. A. A. White, Mrs. Edward Durant, Mrs. F.B. Clarke, Mrs. H. F. Brown and Mrs. A. T. Stebbins were by this act named a commission to select an appropriate design. This commission called for designs, and on Feb. 28, 1893 met and adopted the design presented by Mrs. Edward H. Center, of Minneapolis. Following is a description of the flag: "The ground is of white silk, and the reverse of blue silk, bordered with bullion fringe. In the center is the state seal, wreathed with white moccasin flowers, on a blue ground. The red ribbon of the seal bearing a motto is continued through the wreath, entwining the blossoms and floating carelessly over the lower portion of the flag. It bears, in gold, the dates 1819, the time of the settlement of Minnesota, and 1893. Above, also in gold, is the date 1858, the time of the admission of Minnesota to the Union. Below the design, in gold letters, is wrought 'Minnesota.' Grouped around the seal are nineteen stars in the design of star points, with the North Star, significant of the North Star State, in a group of three at the top." The choice of the number nineteen is a peculiarly happy one, as Minnesota was the nineteenth state, after the original thirteen, to be admitted to the Union. The standard (see note) to the flag was surmounted by a golden gopher, and tied with a gold cord and tassel. The execution of the design is entirely in needle work.
Ben Cahoon, 27 June 2003

Note: "Standard" in this context meaning the staff, which makes the golden gopher the finial--undoubtedly one of the few flags ever to have a rodent designated as a finial. (One of Minnesota's nicknames is the "Gopher State," and the sports teams of the University of Minnesota are known as the "Golden Gophers.")
Joe McMillan, 27 June 2003


1957 flag

[Flag of Minnesota] image by Mario Fabretto and António Martins-Tuválkin, 13 March 2007

The 1957 flag was designed specifically to lower the cost of the two-sided flag. The committee to come up with a new design proposal was limited to retaining the basic design of the current flag (i.e. the State Seal). The State law requires the Minnesota Secretary of State to keep the committee's sample and give out information about the flag when requested. Of course, the Secretary of State does not have the flag, and has no information about it. The shade of blue and other particulars are therefore to be according to the missing sample. The State of Minnesota always orders flags in royal blue.
The 1983 version has a new State Seal.
Lee Herold, 13 September 2005


Vertical hanging and folding of the flag

In response to a query about vertical hanging of US state flags,  the most common practice in Minnesota is to, so to speak, follow the rules and have the US flag to the observers left, the Minnesota flag reverse or backwards, or as one Minnesota paper editorialized "atosenniM". But it is not uncommon to see the US flag vertical, stars to the left, Minnesota obverse, letters correct, along side. I think this is a good solution, leave it up to individual, but probably not formal enough for government work.

The Minnesota Adjutant General's office, head of the Minnesota National Guard, states the state flag should be presented in the same manner as the US flag, i.e., backwards. They are probably as close to proper etiquette authority as there is in Minnesota and the Governor's office would surely endorse whatever they determine.

As an aside, the Adjutant General presented to the Legislature a suggestion for a ceremonial fold of the state flag in a triangle shape, as is done with the US flag. This was adopted into law in 2010 (Feb I believe). Here's the law:

Minnesota Statutes Section 1.141:
Subd. 6.Folding of the state flag for presentation or display.
The following procedures constitute the proper way to fold the Minnesota State Flag for presentation or display. Fold the flag four times lengthwise so that one section displays the three stars of the state crest and the text "L'Etoile du Nord." Fold each side behind the displayed section at a 90-degree angle so that the display section forms a triangle. Take the section ending with the hoist and fold it at a 90-degree angle across the bottom of the display section and then fold the hoist back over so it is aligned with the middle of the display section. Fold the other protruding section directly upwards so that its edge is flush with the display section and then fold it upwards along a 45-degree angle so that a mirror of the display section triangle is formed. Fold the mirror section in half from the point upwards, then fold the remaining portion upwards, tucking it between the display section and the remainder of the flag.

Subd. 7. Folding of the state flag for storage.
When folding the Minnesota State Flag for storage, the proper procedure is to fold and store the flag in the same manner as the national colors.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=1.141
Lee Herold, 18 August 2011


State Seal

Minnesota Statutes
1.135 State seal.
Subdivision 3. Design. The design of the seal is as described in this subdivision.

  1. The seal is composed of two concentric borders. The outside forms the border of the seal and inside forms the border for the illustrations within the seal. The area between the two borders lettering.
  2. The seal is two inches in diameter. The outside border has a radius of one inch and resembles serrated edge of a coin. The width of the border is 1/16 of an inch.
  3. The inside border has a radius of three-fourths of an inch and is composed of a series of closely dots measuring 1/32 of an inch in diameter.
  4. Within the area between the borders "The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota" is printed in capital letters. Under that is the date "1858" with two dagger symbols separating the date and the letters. The lettering is 14-point Century Bold.
  5. In the area within the inside border is the portrayal of an 1858 Minnesota scene made up of various illustrations that serve to depict a settler plowing the ground near the falls of St. Anthony while he watches an Indian on horseback riding in the distance.
  6. For the purposes of description, when the area within the inside border is divided into quadrants, the following illustrations should be clearly visible in the area described.

    1. In the upper parts of quadrants one and two, the inscription "L'Etoile du Nord" is found on the likeness of a scroll whose length is equal to twice the length of the inscription, but whose ends are twice folded underneath and serve to enhance the inscription. The lettering is 7-point Century Bold.
    2. In quadrant two is found a likeness of a sun whose ambient rays form a background for a male Indian in loincloth and plume riding on horseback at a gallop. The Indian is sitting erect and is holding a spear in his left hand at an upward 60-degree angle to himself and is looking toward the settler in quadrant four.
    3. In quadrant one, three pine trees form a background for a picturesque resemblance of St. Anthony Falls in 1858.
    4. In quadrants three and four, cultivated ground is found across the lower half of the seal, which provides a background for the scenes in quadrants three and four.
    5. In quadrant three, a tree stump is found with an ax embedded in the stump and a period muzzle loader resting on it. A powder flask is hanging towards the end of the barrel.
    6. In quadrant four, a white barefoot male pioneer wearing clothing and a hat of that period is plowing the earth, using an animal-drawn implement from that period. The animal is not visible. The torso of the man continues into quadrant two, and he has his legs spread apart to simulate movement. He is looking at the Indian.
Subdivision 4. Additional effects; size. Every effort shall be made to reproduce the seal with justification to the 12 o'clock position and with attention to the authenticity of the illustrations used to create the scene within the seal. The description of the scene in this section does not preclude the graphic inclusion of the effects of movement, sunlight, or falling water when the seal is reproduced. Nor does this section prohibit the enlargement, proportioned reduction, or embossment of the seal for its use in unofficial acts.

Subdivision 5. Historical symbolism of seal. The sun, visible on the western horizon, signifies summer in the northern hemisphere. The horizon's visibility signifies the flat plains covering much of Minnesota. The Indian on horseback is riding due south and represents the great Indian heritage of Minnesota. The Indian's horse and spear and the Pioneer's ax, rifle, and plow represent tools that were used for hunting and labor. The stump symbolizes the importance of the lumber industry in Minnesota's history. The Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls are depicted to note the importance of these resources in transportation and industry. The cultivated ground and the plow symbolize the importance of agriculture in Minnesota. Beyond the falls three pine trees represent the state tree and the three great pine regions of Minnesota; the St. Croix, Mississippi, and Lake Superior.

Joe McMillan, 14 February 2000


State Military Crest

image by Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

The state military crest, which is the crest used in the coats of arms of units of the National Guard, as granted by the precursor organizations of what is now the Army Institute of Heraldry. The official Institute of Heraldry blazon is "A sheaf of wheat proper."
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000