100 Years Old: Celebrate the History of the Missouri State Flag

The 100-year anniversary of the adoption of the Missouri State flag will be celebrated on March 22 in Cape Girardeau where the flag was first designed and made.

Ceremonies to celebrate the anniversary will include a Flag Centennial Program open to the public from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on March 22, and public tours will be available of the Oliver-Leming House where the flag was made. A Regional History Fair will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center immediately following the Flag Centennial Program.

(Note: the Flag Centennial Program has been moved to Centenary United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center gym due to forecasted cold weather on Friday, March 22.)

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About the Missouri State Flag

Prior to 1913, the state of Missouri did not have an official state flag. The Daughters of the American Revolution formed a committee in 1908 to design a state flag for Missouri. Marie Watkins Oliver of Cape Girardeau, the wife of former state Senator Robert Burnett Oliver, was on the committee and undertook designing the flag.

“My mother…immediately began a study, corresponded with all of the other states, and after months of such study and research designed this flag,” wrote Allen Oliver, the son of Marie and Robert, in his history of the flag.

Dr. G.H. Holcomb also designed a flag that resembled the flag of the United States. Marie Oliver’s flag contained the state’s coat-of-arms in the center. Her flag received more support in the Missouri Senate than Holcomb’s flag. Ex-Senator Robert Oliver and his nephew Sen. Arthur Oliver of Caruthersville drafted and introduced a bill to the Senate to ratify Marie Oliver’s flag as the official flag of Missouri in March 1909. A bill to adopt Holcomb’s flag was introduced to the House of Representatives.

Arthur Oliver spoke on the merits of his aunt’s flag, including the meaning of the flag’s different elements. According to Allen Oliver’s history, Sen. Oliver said, “The coat-of-arms is a part of the great seal of the state and unquestionably should be made a prominent feature of the state flag. The Doctor (sic) Holcomb design for a state flag introduced in the House is objectionable in that it does not contain the coat-of-arms, and because the general design is similar to the national flag … There is nothing in the Holcomb design that indicates state sovereignty of the relation of the state to the Union, except the abbreviation of Missouri by the use of the letters ‘Mo.’”

“At the same time [the Oliver flag] represents the state as possessing a local independence, a local self-government, but in perfect harmony with the great national compact, as shown by the mingling of the colors, red, white and blue, on every side of it.”

In addition to the large red, white and blue stripes on the flag representing the relationship between Missouri and the United States, the red stripe represents valor, the white strip represents purity and the blue stripe represents vigilance, permanency and justice.

Oliver’s bill passed the Senate almost unanimously, but it failed to make it through the House. The bill was reintroduced to the Senate in 1911 and once again passed, but a fire in the State Capitol burned the flag that Marie Oliver had made. She enlisted help and made a new flag, but the House again rejected the bill.

Cape Girardeau County Representative Charles Oliver introduced a new bill regarding the flag to the House in 1913. This time it passed almost unanimously. It then passed the Senate and the governor signed the bill on March 22, 1913, making Marie Oliver’s design the official Missouri state flag.

2 Comments

  1. This article is very well done…and quite accurate. We own the Oliver Leming Home and have completed the renovation. It’s nice to see good coverage!

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