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Early Versions of the Utah State Flags

The St. Louis World's Fair Flag

        Utah's first state flag was embroidered in 1903 at the request of Governor Heber Wells. He requested help on the project from the Utah State Society of the Daughters of the Revolution explaining he needed a state flag to be display at the St. Louis World's Fair. Agnes Frenelius, an employee of the ZCMI art department, embroidered the flag, which she completed in March of 1903. Displayed at the Utah Building of the fair, it returned to the State at its close and continued to be used unofficially as the State flag and as the governor's flag.

Rediscovered First Utah State Flag of 1903

        Sometime between about 1904 and 1911 the capitol letters UTAH were added below the emblem copied from the Great Seal of the State of Utah. The name of the state was shown in the designation ring surrounding the seal. The letters may have been added in 1911 when the first official version of the Utah State flag was adopted.

Utah State Flag 1903
Utah State Flag 1904-1911

        In 1911, the design of the unofficial 1903 flag was adopted as official by the Utah State Legislature with one small change, the name of the state was added to the shield between the beehive and the numerals 1847. However, no correct version of the adopted design was produced. Instead, large lettering spelling UTAH was added to the bottom of the 1903 unofficial flag which continued in use.

Utah State Flag as adopted on March 9, 1911

        The first official authorization for the Utah State flag was adopted on March 9 which is now celebrated as Utah State Flag Day. No actual flag was made following the description adopted by the legislature. If one had been made up is would have looked something like this. It was to be embroidered in white on a blue background. Note the name of the state was placed between the beehive and the numerals 1847 all being on the shield. The unofficial 1903 flag with the addition of the letter UTAH place below the emblem continued in use, although it did not follow the description shown in the laws of Utah.

Utah delegation at the site of the yet to be constructed Utah Building.
The flag is clearly seen flying from a staff.

The Battleship Utah State Flag 1912

        In 1912 the State ordered "a stand of flags" for presentation to the battleship U.S.S. Utah. The stand included a National Color, a Naval Infantry Battalion Color and a framed Utah State flag. The governor and the Adjutant General of the Utah National Guard decided to order the framed Utah State flag in full color rather than the blue and white color scheme of the flag described in law. The legislature duly adopted the color design in 1912. However, when the flag arrived, a gold ring had been added around the flag's emblem. The William H. Horstmann Company, the flag's manufacturer explained that the gold ring was usual for state flags, and there was not time to redo or change the flag before the scheduled presentation date. Deciding that they liked the added ring after all, the Utah Legislature amended the law again in 1913 to include the gold ring around the device.

USS Utah off Long Beach, California in 1935

        The flag made for the USS Utah had one other unauthorized addition. The name of the flag's donors, the Sons and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers was shown on a scroll beneath the flags emblem. This was intended for that flag only, but made the flag presented to the Utah incorrect according to the wording adopted by the legislature. No other correct Utah State flag was made at the time. Rather, the 1903 flag with the added word Utah continued in use.

Battleship Utah State Flag
Presented to the USS Utah in 1913
Battleship Utah State Flag
Colorized reconstruction (inaccurate eagle, beehive, and ratio)

        A reception was held at Salt Lake City's Odeon Hall where the flag was displayed and photographed by a newspaper photographer. The photograph, published in the Deseret News is the only known picture of the flag. Coordination with the USS Utah was need to find a date when Utah would be in an accessible port when the flag could be presented. It was thus not presented until 1913, and it did not return to the state when Utah was re-designated from a battle ship to a training vessel. The flag was framed in a silver oxidized case which was bolted to the bulkhead of the ships Wardroom. Sailors serving aboard the Utah in 1941 do not remember seeing the flag anywhere aboard the ship. The USS Utah, which had a signal school on board, was sunk on December 7,1941. The flag may have been removed during refitting or it may have gone down with the ship when she was sunk.

(It is interesting to note, that when Gov. Wm. Spry signed Annie Wells Cannon's bill (HR 1) into law on March 11, 1913, making this basic design Utah's State Flag (with the exception of the scroll that was a presentation item from the two groups who purchased this flag to be presented to the USS Utah), it is now almost identical to the current restored Utah State flag.)

The National Geographic Utah State Flag 1917

        The National Geographic Magazine (Oct 1917) shows the flag with the name of the state and the year 1847 correctly placed on the shield.

National Geographic Utah State Flag 1917
(as shown in the well-known October 1917 Special Flag Issue)

        However, on the National Geographic drawing the colors are wrong showing colors sometimes used for color realizations of the Great Seal of Utah, but not selected for the State flag. The NGS illustration is also incorrect as it shows the eagle holding the arrow in its talons. The description states that the arrow pierce the shield.

The McMonegal Utah State Flag 1922

        In 1922, when Utah's Governor received a request to send the Utah State Flag to New York for a parade of all the states where all the state flags would be flown. He discovered that there was no correct Utah State flag in existence. He asked the ladies auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic to donate funds to produce a correct flag. The ladies hired Dollie McMonegal to embroider the flag. She had only the unofficial 1903 blue and white flag to serve as a pattern.

Utah State Emblem as interpreted by Dollie McMonegal c1922

        She made a flag with a blue shield, following the 1903 unofficial flag. That would have also been easier in that she would have had to embroider a white shield while a blue shield would use the background color of the flag's field. While she added Utah on the shield as the law described, she left of the year 1847 out entirely. Her flag then became the pattern used by other flag makers.

        This photograph of the flag's presentation clearly shows that the numerals 1847 were missing. They were obviously added later, but below the shield. Other Utah State flags made from 1922 to 2011 followed this incorrect pattern.

A later photograph of Dolly McMonegal's 1922 flag
show the added 1847 appearing below the shield.

        This artistic mis-interpretation of the Utah State flag would lead to Utah State flags being made between 1922 and 2011 with this incorrect pattern. It took 60 years before vexillologist John Hartvigsen spotted the mistake in the 1980s and the mistake could be corrected. In 2011, an Utah State resolution was passed admonishing flag manufacturers to make the Utah State flag in accordance with original official design. In 2011, the State Shield on the flag was officially returned to its original design and colors, and the flag and its symbols once again appeared as they had when first designed.

Utah State Flag - Blue Shield versus the White Shield

        Although the original official description of the Utah State shield calls for a white background, many were made with a blue background on the shield. The mistaken blue shield concept came from the original unofficial 1903 flag that was worked only in blue and white. The white shield was in the color scheme chosen by the Governor and Adjutant General in 1912 when they ordered the first color version for presentation to the USS Utah. We can see that in the black and white photograph of the USS Utah presentation flag. Dolly McMonegal may have copied the blue shield from the 1903 flag since the USS Utah presentation flag was not available to her to be a pattern, or perhaps she didn't want to take the extra effort and time to embroider an white shield. Either way, her variant flag with the blue shield was copied by later flag makers.

Example of Blue Shield used on 1913 Flag
(with incorrect blue field color)
Example of White Shield used on 2011 Prototype
(with corrected blue field color)

        When asked what color scheme was desired for the corrected flag in 2011, John Hartvigsen was told that it should be returned to the colors decided upon in 1912. Those were the colors recorded in Utah State Senate documents and now used on the "official" 2011 Prototype version posted on the State Website (shown above).

- My thanks to John Hartvigsen for his expert help and advise on this page -

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