The Humble Backstory of the Official Montana State Flag

When students attend schools across Montana, one of the subjects and classes that are covered are those that deal with the history of the state.  Most that enter into the early years of high school will learn about the formative years of Montana, and what makes us the Last Best Place.

I'll admit, my academic prowess was probably not that of lore for teachers in my high school.  Which is probably why I don't recall learning about how Montana came to have the flag that we do.  What about you?  Do you know how it came about?

The Simple Beginnings of Cloth from Wartime Heroics

With Montana still in its infancy, the state was called upon to help with the war effort of the day.  The Spanish-American War.  The year is 1898 and the man tasked with putting a regiment together is Col. Harry Clay Kessler.  After gathering volunteers from Fort William Henry Harrison, the recruits were given a 45-star US flag to fly as their regimental colors.

Kessler on the other hand felt that they needed something special to set them apart and to be able to distinguish them from other troops.  Col. Kessler's Flag as it was called, was a silken banner, 60 inches by 44 inches embroidered with the state seal.  It was put into service when troops left for the war in 1889.

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As Times Change, So Has the Design, But Very Minimally

Upon the troops return in 1890, newspapers were already declaring it the state of Montana flag.  Col. Kessler gifted the flag to the then governor, who displayed it across the state.  However, the flag wouldn't be officially recognized until the legislature made it official in 1905.

In the following years, only one change has been made to our state flag.  In 1981, the legislature chose to add the words "Montana" across the top to help distinguish it from other similar state flags.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, the flag represents the state’s history of mining and farming as it features a pick, shovel and plow. A sun rises over mountains, forests, and the Great Falls of the Missouri River. A ribbon contains the state motto “Gold and Silver” in Spanish.

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