The Massachusetts State Flag
On March 6, 1915, Massachusetts adopted a State flag that was very similar to the flag that flies over the Commonwealth today. The 1915 flag depicted the Commonwealth coat of arms on one side on a white field. On the other side was blue shield with a pine tree on it, a symbol of the value placed on wood by the settlers of Massachusetts.
Today, the design depicts the Massachusetts coat of arms on a white field on both sides of the flag, a design approved on June 2, 1971 to take effect on November 1, 1971.
The coat of arms of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts consists of a blue shield with an Algonquin Native American on it. The Indian is dressed in a shirt, leggings and moccasins. He holds a gold bow in one hand and a gold arrow in the other hand. The point of the arrow is pointed down. In the upper right hand corner of the shield is a silver five-pointed star. Above the shield on a gold wreath is a right arm, bent at the elbow and grasping a gold broadsword. The motto of the Commonwealth is printed in gold on the blue ribbon partially surrounding the blue shield.
The shield of blue represents the Blue Hills of Canton and Milton, Massachusetts. The Indian depicted on the shield, Massachuset, is shown carrying the arrow with its tip pointed downward to indicate a friendly demeanor. The silver star of the coat of arms is designated as white (instead of silver) for the flag and represents Massachusetts as one of the thirteen original colonies of the United States.
The motto of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem, is printed in gold on a blue ribbon. It can be translated as "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." This motto is supported by the ruffle sleeved arm grasping a sword that is depicted above the shield.
Massachusetts Flag Law
The following information was excerpted from The General Laws of Massachusetts, Part 1, Title 1, Chapter 2.
PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT.
Chapter 2: Section 3. Commonwealth and naval and maritime flags; design
Section 3. The flag of the commonwealth shall consist of a white rectangular field, bearing on either side a representation of the arms of the commonwealth, except that the star shall be white. The naval and maritime flag of the commonwealth shall consist of a white rectangular field bearing on either side a representation of a green pine tree.
Chapter 2: Section 4. Flag of governor; design
Section 4. The flag of the governor shall conform to the design of the flag of the commonwealth, except that the field of the flag of the governor shall be triangular in shape.
Chapter 2: Section 5. Coat of arms, seal and flags of commonwealth; state secretary as custodian; conformance to specifications; use and display regulations
Section 5. The state secretary shall be the custodian of the coat of arms, seal and flags of the commonwealth and all representations of said arms, seal and flags shall conform strictly to the specifications which shall be prepared under the direction of the state secretary in the year nineteen hundred and seventy-one and deposited in his office. The proper use and display of said arms, seal and flags of the commonwealth and their manufacture are hereby subject to such regulations relating thereto which the state secretary may from time to time issue, provided that such regulations shall be in conformity with all the relevant legislation of the United States and of the commonwealth.
Chapter 2: Section 6. Flags of the United States and commonwealth; display
Section 6. The flag of the United States and the flag of the commonwealth shall be displayed on the main or administration building of each public institution of the commonwealth. The flags shall be of suitable dimensions and shall be flown every day when the weather permits.
Chapter 2: Section 6A. Commonwealth flag; flying at half-staff
Section 6A. The flag of the commonwealth shall be flown at half-staff at or on the main or administration building of each public institution of the commonwealth, at or on each other state-owned or state-controlled building, and at all state military installations on the following occasions for the periods indicated:--
(a) On all occasions upon which the national flag is flown at half-staff and for the same period of time;
(b) On the death of a governor or ex-governor of the commonwealth for thirty days from the day of death;
(c) On the death of a lieutenant-governor, secretary, treasurer and receiver-general, attorney general, or auditor of the commonwealth, from the day of death until sunset of the day of interment;
(d) On the death of a senator in congress from the commonwealth, from the day of death until sunset of the day of interment;
(e) On the death of a representative in congress from the commonwealth, the flag of the commonwealth shall be flown at half-staff at the aforementioned sites in the representative's congressional district from the day of death until sunset of the day of interment;
(e1/2) On the death of a member of the general court, the flag of the commonwealth shall be flown at half-staff from the day of death until sunset of the day of interment at the aforementioned sites in the member's representative district on the death of a member of the house of representatives, and the member's senatorial district on the death of a member of the senate.
(e3/4) On the death of a former member of the general court, the flag of the commonwealth shall be flown at half-staff from the day of death until sunset of the day of interment in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the governor after consultation with the speaker of the house of representatives on the death of a former representative in the general court, or with the president of the senate, on the death of a former state senator.
(f) In the event of the death of other elected officials or former elected officials of the commonwealth, from the day of death until sunset of the day of interment in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the governor; and
(g) In the event two or more of the aforementioned periods coincide in full or in part, the state flag shall be displayed at half-staff for such period as will comply with the above provisions without resulting in an additional and separate period of such display for each such death.
Source: The 185th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The General Laws of Massachusetts, (http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/index.htm), August 13, 2007.
Massachusetts (U.S.): FOTW "Flags of the World" Web Site.
State Flags: Complete list of state flags with links to large pictures and images suitable for coloring.
Flag Terminology: The parts of a flag and terms associated with its design.
Visit Our Flag Shop: Purchase all kinds of flags and banners, lapel pins, 50 state flag sets, decals, patches, college banners at the Flag Shop.
Purchase Massachusetts State Flags: You may purchase quality state flags from the United States Flag Store.
Flags of the Fifty States and their Incredible Histories: A complete guide to America's most powerful symbols by Randy Howe.
How Proudly They Wave: Flags of the Fifty States: This book, by Rita D. Haban, is geared toward younger readers.
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