Photo by Seth Sawyers on Flickr.
Last week, Brian Johnson wrote a post pointing out why DC’s awesome flag matters. Maryland’s flag ranks well too, and it’s also full of state history.
Prior to the Civil War, the colors associated with the state were generally yellow and black, which were George Calvert (Lord Baltimore)‘s paternal family’s heraldic colors. His mother, Alicia Crossland was an heiress, meaning her family was also entitled to a coat of arms. George Calvert was entitled to use either banner.
When Calvert had his own coat of arms made, it was quartered, like the Maryland flag is today, with the black and gold Calvert colors in upper left and lower right and the red and white Crossland colors on the upper right and lower left.
Prior to independence in 1776, there was no official Maryland flag, but it appears flags generally used Lord Calvert’s colors with the alternating vertical bars of black and gold with a diagonal line in which the colors were reversed, probably something like the flag on the right.
In fact, today Baltimore City still uses the Calvert banner, though with the Battle Monument on a shield in the center. This is because of Baltimore’s strong ties to the Calverts. After all, George Calvert’s title, First Baron Baltimore, is what gave the name to the city.
Even though the state of Maryland didn’t have an official flag prior to the Civil War, the yellow and black of the Calvert family was largely associated with the state.
When secessionist Marylanders went south to fight for the Confederacy in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, they needed a banner that distinguished them from Unionist Marylanders. They chose the Crossland banner.
After the Civil War, Marylanders needed symbolism that would help unify the state, and as a result, people started mashing up the two banners. The flag as we know it today had appeared by 1880, though some sources say the Crossland banner was at top left originally.
In 1904, the state officially adopted the current flag.
Notably, following independence in 1776 and until after the Civil War, the state flag was generally the Great Seal on a field of blue. Nearly universally, vexillologists disparage that flag today.
Maryland’s flag doesn’t just rate well amongst vexillologists for its design. It also includes hidden symbolism that helped to unify the state’s citizenry following the Civil War.