The flag of New York was adopted in 1778 and consists of a blue background, with the Great Seal of the State of New York in the center.
State law from 1778 dictates exactly how the flag and Great Seal are supposed to be designed. The state motto is on the flag, “Excelsior,” meaning “Ever Upward.” The figures on each side of the seal represent Liberty and Justice.
The Laws of New York State
“STATE LAWS – Article 6 – ARMS AND GREAT SEAL OF STATE § 70. Description of the arms of the state and the state flag. The device of arms of this state, as adopted March sixteenth, seventeen hundred and seventy-eight, is hereby declared to be correctly described as follows:
Charge. Azure, in a landscape, the sun in fess, rising in splendor or, behind a range of three mountains, the middle one the highest; in base a ship and sloop under sail, passing and about to meet on a river, bordered below by a grassy shore fringed with shrubs, all proper.
Crest. On a wreath azure and or, an American eagle proper, rising to the dexter from a two-thirds of a globe terrestrial, showing the north Atlantic ocean with outlines of its shores.
Supporters. On a quasi compartment formed by the extension of the scroll.
Dexter. The figure of Liberty proper, her hair disheveled and decorated with pearls, vested azure, sandaled gules, about the waist a cincture or, fringed gules, a mantle of the last depending from the shoulders behind to the feet, in the dexter hand a staff ensigned with a Phrygian cap or, the sinister arm embowed, the hand supporting the shield at the dexter chief point, a royal crown by her sinister foot dejected.
Sinister. The figure of Justice proper, her hair disheveled and decorated with pearls, vested or, about the waist a cincture azure, fringed gules, sandaled and mantled as Liberty, bound about the eyes with a fillet proper, in the dexter hand a straight sword hilted or, erect, resting on the sinister chief point of the shield, the sinister arm embowed, holding before her her scales proper.
Motto. On a scroll below the shield argent, in sable, Excelsior.
State flag. The state flag is hereby declared to be blue, charged with the arms of the state in the colors as described in the blazon of this section.”