By Jacob Kersh
Every state in the country has its own dedicated flag. Each flag represents something unique about that state specifically, but in many instances, they are not particularly well recognized by their subsequent citizens. However, this unfortunate principle is thankfully not the case in our home state.
The vast majority of Marylanders adore the unique and vibrant flag, and according to Junior Hassan Malik, “You would be lying if you said that you didn’t see at least one plastered onto the back of someone’s car the last time you went for a drive.” We represent our flag in every way possible, and from articles of clothing to phone cases, the symbol is everywhere. In fact, Sophomore Gabby Steinberg says that “not seeing some sort of Maryland themed clothing in public would legitimately not be normal.” But have you ever wondered what the Maryland flag truly symbolizes? Or why it is so distinctive compared to the rest of the 50 states? Read on to find out.
Firstly, prior to the Civil War that began in the year 1861, there was no official Maryland flag. However, flags across the state were generally black and yellow. This was the case because George Calvert, proprietor of the province of Maryland, carried on his paternal family’s heraldic color traditions from the United Kingdom. Since he had a powerful influence on the majority of the settlers across the region, his family’s colors spread as well. Additionally, Calvert’s mother was a heiress, so her family line had another coat of arms with its own separate color scheme: red and white. And when Calvert eventually created a coat of arms for himself, he decided to incorporate all four colors instead of just using black and yellow. When Calvert had this coat made, he chose to have it quartered like the Maryland flag is today—with the black and gold Calvert colors in upper right and lower left and the red and white colors on the upper left and lower right.
Again, although the black and yellow colors of the Calvert family spread throughout Maryland before the Civil War began, there was still no formal Maryland flag in existence. However, 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. And since the majority of Marylanders were used to seeing black and yellow, they chose to use the red and white colors associated with the bloodline of Calvert’s mother.
After the Civil War, Marylanders needed some sort of symbolism that would help unify the state. As a result, many who were inspired by Calvert’s coat of arms began putting the four distinctive colors together. And although they chose to reverse the order by placing black and yellow on the top left and bottom right with red and white filling in the adjacent spots, the idea to bring together the people of Maryland nonetheless succeeded. In 1904, the state officially adopted the current flag.
Therefore, the hidden symbolism in Maryland’s iconic flag lies in its combination of colors, which represent far beyond the two coats of arms of the Calvert family. In reality, their togetherness embodies the permanent unification of our state’s citizens following the Civil War and portrays how our people reconciled following a violent conflict to create a new sovereignty. So next time you see a Maryland sticker attached to someone’s car bumper, remind yourself about the immense meaning it truly carries.