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Arkansas Flag Turns 100!

Can you believe that Arkansas did not even have a flag until 1913? This year (2013) marks the 100th anniversary of the first Arkansas state flag. We were a state without a flag for 76 years but thanks to the Daughters of the American Revolution and the commissioning of the battleship the U.S.S. Arkansas a state flag was finally designed.
President Taft boarding and touring the U.S.S. Arkansas in 1913. Copyright Library of Congress.

In 1912, the state learned that the battleship U.S.S. Arkansas was to be commissioned. When they heard the news, the Pine Bluff chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution decided to present a state flag to the ship. This was a traditional gift given at commissioning ceremonies for ships. But they ran into a snag when the flag committee of the chapter sent a letter to then Secretary of State Earle W. Hodges asking about the state’s flag.

The three woman committee of Mrs. C.W. Pettigrew (whose idea it was in the first place), Mrs. W.A. Taggart and Mrs. Frank Tomlinson learned there was no state flag of Arkansas.

Upon learning this, the DAR chapter decided to run a statewide flag contest. Sixty-five separate designs were entered, including everything from dancing bears to apple blossoms on them.

Secretary of State Hodges was selected as chairman of the committee to select the flag and he chose judges: Dr. Junius Jordan, the chairman of Philosophy and pedagogy at the University of Arkansas; Mrs. Julia McAlmont Noel, a member of the John
McAlmont Chapter of the D.A.R. in Pine Bluff; Miss Julia Warner, a teacher in the Little Rock School system, and Mrs. P.H. Ellsworth, a former president of the Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs.
In the early days of 1913 the committee gathered in Mr. Hodges’ office to select the winner. The winning design was submitted by Miss Willie Hocker of Wabbaseka, a member of the Pine Bluff chapter of the D.A.R., where the search began.

Miss Willie K. Hocker, member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and winner of the 1913 Arkansas State Flag Design Competition.

Her design was a rectangular field of red, with a centered large white diamond bordered by twenty-five white stars on a blue band. Three blue stars in a straight line were centered within the diamond. Very similar to what we see on today’s modern Arkansas flag.

Miss Hocker explained that the colors in her design meant that Arkansas was one of the United States of America. The three blue stars had three meanings: Arkansas belonged to three countries (France, Spain, and the United States) before attaining statehood; 1803 was the year of the Louisiana Purchase when the land that is now Arkansas was acquired by the United States; and Arkansas was the third state created from the purchase by the United States, after Louisiana and Missouri.

The twenty‐five stars meant that Arkansas was the twenty‐fifth state to be admitted to the Union.The diamond represents Arkansas as the nation’s first diamond‐producing state.

The two parallel white stars at the left and right points of the diamond symbolize the dual admission of Arkansas and Michigan to the Union. Both were admitted to the Union about the same time‐Arkansas on June 15, 1836, and Michigan on January 26, 1837. Her design was chosen by the committee on February 18, 1913.

At the request of the flag committee prior to submission to the legislature for approval, Hocker added the state name in block capital letters and rearranged the stars to one on top and two on the bottom. This flag was adopted by the legislature on February 26, 1913.
  
A few years later, someone noticed something was missing from the flag. Arkansas had a fourth “country” it had belonged to. Arkansas was a member of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865.

In 1923, the legislature added a fourth star, representing the Confederate States of America. This fourth star was originally placed so that there were two stars above the state name and two below; this was to include the Confederacy alongside Spain, France, and the United States. Since this disturbed the other two meanings of the original three stars, the legislature corrected this in 1924 by placing the Confederate star above "ARKANSAS" and the original three stars below it, with the center star pointing downwards as it is today.

Many ask why the bottom center star is “upside down”. No set reason has been given but some speculate that it is done to simply appear different than the “twin stars” that flank it and continue the symmetry of the “confederate star”.

Below are examples of what the flag looked like as it evolved to the modern Arkansas flag we see flying all around our state today.

Hocker's original design Hocker's updated design 1923 redesign Modern/current Flag
 
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