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North Carolina (U.S.)

Last modified: 2021-05-01 by rick wyatt
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[Flag of North Carolina] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz and António Martins-Tuválkin, 27 January 2002, 24 September 2017

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

Legislation and History

Legislative records show that a "state flag" was not established or recognized until 1861. The constitutional convention of 1861, which passed the ordinance of secession, adopted a state flag. On May 20, 1861, the day the secession resolution was adopted, Col. John D. Whitford, a member of the convention from Craven County, introduced an ordinance. The law as it appears in the ordinance and resolutions passed by the convention is as follows:

Be it ordained by this Convention, and it is hereby ordained by the authority of the same, That the Flag of North Carolina shall consist of a red field with a white star in the center, and with the inscription, above the star, in a semi-circular form, of "May 20th, 1775," and below the star, in a semi-circular form, of "May 20th, 1861." That there shall be two bars of equal width, and the length of the field shall be equal to the bar, the width of the field being equal to both bars: the first bar shall be blue, and second shall be white: and the length of the flag shall be one-third more than its width.
[Ratified the 22nd day of June, 1861.]
This state flag, adopted in 1861, is said to have been issued to North Carolina regiments of state troops during the summer of 1861 and borne by them throughout the war. It was the only flag, except the national and Confederate colors, used by North Carolina troops during the Civil War. This flag existed until 1885, when the Legislature adopted a new model.
Chris Young, 3 August 1999

The specifications, S8345-1P (AUGUST 24, 2011), issued by the North Carolina Department of Administration - Division of Purchase & Contract, gives not only the Cable Colors for the state flag but also how it is supposed to be made. To quote the document:

"B. COLOR The colors shall be in accordance with the Standard Color Card Of America and shall be as follows:

1. OLD GLORY RED #70180
2. WHITE, CABLE #70001
4. YELLOW, CABLE #70068
5. BLACK, CABLE NO. 65018"


The State of North Carolina flag to be of same materials as the United States flag, with sizes as specified by the Invitation For Bids; materials not specified shall be first class normally used in good commercial practices. Construction, seam stitching; hem, and reinforcement patching shall follow those of the U.S. flag. The letters "N" and "C" on the North Carolina flags shall be approved yellow letters in gothic style. Any deviations from requirements shall be noted in writing and presented to the Division of Purchase and Contract.

The flag of the State of North Carolina shall consist of a blue union, which will contain a white star in the center of the union, the letter "N" on the left of the star and the letter "C" on the right of the star. The star shall be contained within a circle. The circle shall not be marked or be visible on finished flag. The fly of the flag shall consist of two equally proportioned bars, the upper bar to be red, and the lower bar to be white. Above the star in the center of the union shall be a yellow scroll in semi-circular form, containing in black letters the inscription May 20th 1775, and below the star shall be a similar scroll containing in black letters the inscription April 12th 1776."
Zachary Harden, 27 September 2017

1885 Flag

[Flag of 1861 North Carolina] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 24 September 2017

The bill, which was introduced by General Johnstone Jones on February 5, 1885, passed its final reading one month later after little debate. This act reads as follows:

The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:
SEC. 1. That the flag of North Carolina shall consist of a blue union, containing in the center thereof a white star with the letter N in gilt on the left and the letter C in gilt on the right of said star, the circle containing the same to be one-third the width of the union.

SEC. 2. That the fly of the flag shall consist of two equally proportioned bars; the upper bar to be red, the lower bar to be white; that the length of the bars horizontally shall be equal to the perpendicular length of the union, and the total length of the flag shall be one-third more than its width.

SEC. 3. That above the star in the center of the union there shall be a gilt scroll in semi-circular form, containing in black letters this inscription "May 20th, 1775," and that below the star there shall be similar scroll containing in black letters the inscription: "April 12th, 1776."

SEC. 4. That this act shall take effect from and after its ratification. In the General Assembly read three times and ratified this 9th day of March, A.D. 1885.
It is interesting to examine the significance of the dates found on the flag. The first date, "May 20, 1775," refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, although many speculate the authenticity of this particular document. The second date appearing on the state flag of 1861 is that of "May 20th, 1861." This date commemorated the secession of the State from the Union, but as the secessionist cause was defeated, this date no longer represented anything after the Civil War. So when a new flag was adopted in 1885, this date was replaced with "April 12th, 1776." This date commemorates the Halifax Resolves, a document that places the Old North State in the very front rank, both in point of time and in spirit, among those that demanded unconditional freedom and absolute independence from any foreign power. This document stands out as one of the great landmarks in the annals of North Carolina history.

From 1885 to 1991 there was no change in the state flag. For the most part, it has remained unknown and a stranger to the good people of the State. However, as people became more intelligent, and therefore, more patriotic and public spirited, the emblem of the Old North State assumed a station of greater prominence. One hopeful sign of this increased interest was the act passed by the Legislature of 1907, requiring the state flag to be floated from all state institutions, public buildings, and courthouses. In addition to this, many public and private schools, fraternal orders, and other organizations now float the state flag. The people of the State should become acquainted with the emblem of that government to which they owe allegiance and from which they secure protection, and to ensure that they would, the legislature enacted the following:

The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:
SEC. 1. That for the purpose of promoting greater loyalty and respect to the state and inasmuch as a special act of the Legislature has adopted an emblem of our government known as the North Carolina State flag, that it is meet and proper that it shall be given greater prominence.

SEC. 2. That the board of trustees or managers of the several state institutions and public buildings shall provide a North Carolina flag, of such dimensions and materials as they deem best, and the same shall be displayed from a staff upon the top of each and every such building at all times except during inclement weather, and upon the death of any state officer or any prominent citizen the flag shall be put at half-mast until the burial of such person shall have taken place.

SEC.3. That the Board of County Commissioners of the several counties in this state shall likewise authorize the procuring of a North Carolina flag, to be displayed either on a staff upon the top, or draped behind the judge's stand, in each and every term of court held, and on such other public occasions as the Commissioners may deem proper.

SEC. 4. That no state flag shall be allowed in or over any building here mentioned that does not conform to section five thousand three hundred and twenty-one of the Revisal of one thousand nine hundred and five.

SEC. 5. That this act shall be in force from and after its ratification.
In the General Assembly read three times, and ratified this 9th day of March, A.D. 1907.
Many North Carolinians have questioned the legitimacy of having the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration, May 20th, 1775, on the flag. Historians have debated its authenticity because of the lack of any original documentation. The only evidence of the Declaration is a reproduction from memory many years later by one of the delegates attending the convention. Historians' main argument, other than the non-existence of the original document, is that the Mecklenburg Resolves, adopted just eleven days after the Mecklenburg Declaration, are comparatively weak in tone, almost to the point of being completely opposite. Many historians find it difficult to believe that the irreconcilable tone of the Declaration could have been the work of the same people who produced the Resolves. Efforts have been made to have the date taken off the flag and the seal, but so far these efforts have proved fruitless. Removal from the seal would be simple enough, for the date of the Halifax Resolves could easily be substituted without changing the basic intention of the date. The flag would prove to be more difficult, for there is no other date of significance which could be easily substituted.
Chris Young, 3 August 1999

Senate Bill 413 dated 24 June 1991 changed the official proportions of the flag. The text of Sections 1 and 3 are identical to those in the 1885 Act, with the only change being in Section 2. The original stated that "...the total length of the flag shall be one-third more than its width" (which gives official proportions of 3:4), whereas the 1991 Bill says "...the total length of the flag shall be one-half more than its width" or proportions of 2:3. The other clauses remaining the same means that the regulated width of the vertical panel increased from one-quarter of flag length to one-third in 1991, with the size of star, letters and scrolls increasing accordingly (as per our illustration).
Christopher Southworth, 1 June 2007

1861 State Flag Used During Civil War - William Jarl Browne "State" flag

[Flag of 1861 North Carolina] image by Zachary Harden and António Martins-Tuválkin, 28 May 2016, 24 September 2017
based on description at

The first ten regiments of North Carolina State Troops (Volunteers - and renumbered later as the 11th through 20th regiments of North Carolina Troops) received silk state flags made in Norfolk, Virginia by a private contractor. Later on, in 1862, the state provided these regiments wool and cotton versions of the state flag made at the Raleigh Depot. These flags were issued at least through the 55th NCT research shows. The only other Confederate state that made such an effort to issue state flags (of those that had them), was Virginia. Virginia issued state flags from 1861 into 1865 for her regiments.
Greg Biggs, 3 August 1999


The North Carolina State Flag
On May 20, 1861, the day that the secession resolution was adopted by the state of North Carolina, an ordinance to adopt a state flag was presented by Colonel John D. Whitford. A committee of seven was formed with Colonel Whitford appointed chairman. The original ordinance stated that "...the flag of this State shall be a blue field with a white V thereon, and a star, encircling which shall be the words, "Sirgit astrum, May 20, 1775."

The design intended by this original description for the flag was never to be. Colonel Whitford and his committee consulted an artist from Raleigh, William Jarl Browne, for advice. Mr. Browne prepared a model for a state flag and submitted it to the committee for approval. The "Browne" flag was not at all like that described in the original proposal but was, nevertheless, approved by the North Carolina Convention on June 22, 1861.
Milo Pyne, 12 May 2009

Colonial flag

A hornet's nest with the date "MAY 20 1775". [ric82]
Nick Artimovich, 2 May 1996

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 hornet's nest hanging from a bough beset with thirteen hornets all proper."
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000