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Rhode Island (U.S.)

Last modified: 2022-10-22 by rick wyatt
Keywords: rhode island | united states | anchor | stars: 13 | police department |
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[Flag of Rhode Island] image by Mario Fabretto, 24 February 1998

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One of the original 13 colonies, Rhode Island is represented by a star and a stripe on the 13 star U.S. flags.

Legal Description

Rhode Island General Laws
Section 42-4-3 State flag. - The flag of the state shall be white, five feet and six inches (5'6") fly and four feet and ten inches (4'10") deep on the pike, bearing on each side in the center a gold anchor, twenty-two inches (22") high, and underneath it a blue ribbon twenty-four inches (24") long and five inches (5") wide, or in these proportions, with the motto "Hope" in golden letters thereon, the whole surrounded by thirteen (13) golden stars in a circle. The flag shall be edged with yellow fringe. The pike shall be surmounted by a spearhead and the length of the pike shall be nine feet (9'), not including the spearhead.
Joe McMillan, 20 February 2000

Living in New England, I often see the flag of Rhode Island but I can't ever remember seeing it with fringe when outdoors. The fringed version stipulated here is probably only used indoors.
Terence Martin, 28 July 2003


The flag of the State of Rhode Island as it presently exists was formally adopted by the General Assembly at the January Session of 1897. Rhode Island was the third of the original thirteen colonies to formally adopt a State Flag, New Jersey and New York having done so in 1896. Although of such recent origin it incorporates all the features which from time to time have been prescribed by the General Assembly. The colors, white and blue, are the same as those used in the flags carried by the regiments of the State of Rhode Island during the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. The stars which represent the thirteen original states were also used on flags of the Continental Regiments from Rhode Island during the Revolution. The anchor has been connected with Rhode Island since its foundation. In 1647 the Assembly acting under the Cromwellian Patent of 1643 setting up the Providence Plantations adopted the anchor as the seal of the province. In 1644 when a more liberal charter was granted by King Charles II to the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the anchor was again chosen for the seal but the word "Hope" was added over the head of the anchor.
Chris Young, 3 August 1999

Flag of 1794

[1794 flag of Rhode Island] image by Randy Young,  1 October 2004

This flag is from the book "Flags to Color, Washington to Lincoln," and is on page 4. It is listed as the Rhode Island flag of 1794.

"Colors: A blue anchor on a white field."

"The anchor, an early Christian symbol of the cross and of hope, was adopted by Rhode Island in 1647. Variations of the design have been used since then as the state flag."

Randy Young, 1 October 2004

Flag of 1775

[1875 flag of Rhode Island] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 31 December 2017

Image based on the 1968 U.S. postage stamp FotW#02479
António Martins-Tuválkin, 31 December 2017

Flags of 1877-1897

The arms of Rhode Island appeared on state military flags dating back before the Civil War. In fact, the color of a Rhode Island regiment in the Revolution bore an anchor on the fly with the motto, "Hope."

After the war, most militia flags were white with the coat of arms. Those from the Civil War period (1861-65) are blue, usually with the anchor shown proper on an argent (white) field.

[1877 flag of Rhode Island] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 31 December 2017

The first state flag for general use (i.e., other than a military color) was adopted 30 March 1877. It was white with the coat of arms shown as "argent a fouled anchor azure," bordered with a red rococo framework, all encircled with a ring of 38 blue stars.

[Coat of arms of Rhode Island] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 31 December 2017

On February 1, 1882, concurrent with the effective date of the official arms, the flag was altered to be blue with a gold anchor--not fouled--within a ring of 13 gold stars.

Both of these are my own drawings based on pictures in Smith's Flag Book of the United States, plate XLIII.

Joe McMillan, 22 February 2004

Coat of Arms

[Coat of Arms of Rhode Island] image by Joe McMillan

According to Section 42-4-1 of Rhode Island General Laws, "The arms of the state are a golden anchor on a blue field, and the motto thereof is the word 'Hope.'" This blazon was officially adopted by the General Assembly in 1881, effective 1 February 1882.

However, this merely codified the basic design of a long pre-existing coat of arms used by the state. An anchor had served as the principal symbol of Rhode Island for more than two centuries by the time the coat of arms was officially adopted. The first seal of the colony had an anchor. Impressions of various Rhode Island seals are extant, dating as far back as 1661. These can be seen at

As can be seen from these images, the anchor on the seal was always intended to be shown on a shield as a coat of arms. Over the years, however, and particularly over the course of the 19th century, the outline of the shield became more and more elaborate, until finally the whole idea of its being a shield was lost and it became the purely decorative series of swirls and dots that appear on the seal in use since 1913.

One difference between early and modern depictions of both the arms and the seal is the absence of the cable in the modern version. According to Whitney Smith, the governor of the state somehow became convinced in 1892 that the cable was not authorized, even though it had appeared on all the seals and arms used by the state since 1664. In addition, pre-1882 representations often show the arms with the shield white (argent) and the anchor proper.

The current official pattern of the coat of arms is contained in a 1913 state publication, "The Seal, the Arms, and the Flag of Rhode Island." It appears on the governor's flag, shown below, which was adopted in 1931.

Joe McMillan, 22 February 2004

Governor's Flag

[Flag of Governor of Rhode Island] image by Joe McMillan, 26 February 2000

Adopted 1931 [smi75a]. White with a blue gold-bordered shield bearing an upright anchor; above the shield a gold scroll inscribed "State of Rhode Island," and below the shield another gold scroll inscribed "Hope;" in each corner a blue star; edged with yellow fringe. The law also provides for a pennant of the same design but gives no further details as to proportions or arrangement of the devices. (Rhode Island General Laws § 42-7-4)
Joe McMillan, 19 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 felt hat of the Puritan period proper (black hat, white band and gold buckle) transfixed fessways by an Indian arrow gules armed or."
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

Capitol Police

image by Randy Young, 12 June 2014

Established in 1974 by the Rhode Island legislature, the Rhode Island Capitol Police is a uniformed security force, part of the Department of Public Safety, charged with providing security for state buildings and grounds and the employees who work within those buildings. The flag of the Rhode Island Capitol Police, as seen in photographs at

The flag ( consists of the Capitol Police badge displayed against a dark grey field.

Randy Young, 12 June 2014