This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Massachusetts (U.S.)

Last modified: 2011-07-08 by rick wyatt
Keywords: massachusetts | united states | arm | native american | indian | star | pine tree |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | random flag | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors



[Flag of Massachusetts] image by Mario Fabretto, 24 February 1998



See also:


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


Legal Description

Massachusetts General Laws

Chapter 2: Section 1. Coat of arms of commonwealth. The coat of arms of the commonwealth shall consist of a blue shield with an Indian thereon, dressed in a shirt, leggings, and moccasins, holding in his right hand a bow, and in his left hand an arrow, point downward, all of gold; and, in the upper right-hand corner of the field a silver star of five points. The crest shall be, on a wreath of gold and blue, a right arm, bent at the elbow, clothed and ruffled, and grasping a broad-sword, all of gold. The motto "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" shall appear in gold on a blue ribbon.

Chapter 2: Section 3. Commonwealth and naval and maritime flags; design. 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. 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.
Joe McMillan, 14 February 2000


Flag History

Massachusetts had an official naval flag during the Revolutionary War. It was white with a green pine tree and the motto "An Appeal to Heaven" and was adopted in April, 1776. Since "flags" at that time were all naval ensigns (the cloth things on poles carried by soldiers on land were "standards", not "flags"), Massachusetts was the first to adopt a state flag.

In the 1890's, Massachusetts joined the bandwagon and officially adopted what it now considered a conventional state flag for use on land. White field, on the obverse a gold Indian on a blue shield and on the reverse was the green pine tree on a blue shield (plus star, ribbon, motto, etc,...) This combined the coat of arms as used on the state seal and Civil War Regimental flags with the green tree used on naval flags.

The 1776 naval flag law was never repealed and, according to the 1780 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (oldest constitution still in effect in the world) those old laws (enacted prior to the Commonwealth's constitution) remained in effect until superseded. The Massachusetts General Court (state legislature) finally superseded the naval flag law in 1971 when it revised the state flag to show the Indian and shield arms on both sides, and established a white flag with a green pine tree as the Massachusetts Naval Flag. The religious motto "An Appeal to Heaven" was deleted thanks to Whitney Smith.

Nick Artimovich, 15 January 1997


Actually, the Massachusetts Great and General Court (later called the Legislature) defined the State Flag for the purposes of the Militia in June 1787 as white silk upon which is the Coat of Arms of the Commonwealth on the obverse and the Coat of Arms of the U.S. on the reverse. If you read this law carefully, it was the _only_ official flag of the Commonwealth for any purpose on land, not just for the militia. In 1908, it was converted officially into the State Flag.
Dave Martucci, 16 January 1997


Change of 1971

[Obverse of Massachusetts flag before 1971] image by Zach Harden, 26 June 2001
Obverse of flag Before 1971 change

From the 18th century, Massachusetts used a white flag with its coat of arms in the center. In 1915 this was legally established as the state flag. On the front was the blue shield with the indian holding a bow and arrow. A ribbon with the state motto was around the shield, and an arm holding a sword was used as a crest. Since flags were hand painted in 1915, the reverse was made to be more simple: a green tree was painted in the middle of the shield, no ribbon, no motto, no crest. By 1971 this had become an expensive flag to manufacture, so Whitney Smith of the Flag Research Center had his legislator introduce a law to re-define the state flag to make it same on front and back. The silver star next to the Native American was made "white" so as to avoid printing another color. The green pine tree was taken off the reverse of the flag and placed on a white field to re-create the Massachusetts maritime flag, just like the one used during the late 18th century Revolutionary War.
Nick Artimovich, 31 July 1996


Commonwealth vs. State

Massachusetts, like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, is called a "Commonwealth". The name, which in the eighteenth century was used to mean "republic", can be traced to the second draft of the state Constitution, written by John Adams in 1780. The people had overwhelmingly rejected the first draft of the Constitution in 1778, and in that draft the name "State of Massachusetts-Bay" had been used. Perhaps to make it clear that the second document was altogether different from the first, Adams changed this to "Commonwealth of Massachusetts". Massachusetts thus became the only state in the Union to change its name. Other than the name, there is no legal difference between the four Commonwealths and any other states.
Wayne Lovett, 2 May 1999


Governor's Flag

[Flag of Governor of Massachusetts] image by Joe McMillan, 14 February 2000

Massachusetts General Laws
Chapter 2: Section 4. Flag of governor; design. 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.
Joe McMillan, 14 February 2000

Adopted officially 1935; unofficially used earlier [smi75a].
Joe McMillan, 24 February 2000


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 dexter arm embowed, clothed blue and ruffled white, proper the hand grasping a broad sword argent the pommel and hilt or."
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000


Erroneous Massachusetts flag

image located by Valentin Poposki, 1 December 2005

Source: www.educationamerica.net/facts/

This is an erroneous representation of the Massachusetts flag. It appears in several sites on the internet and is probably a copied and recopied image from an original erroneous image. The background should be white.