West Virginia became the 35th state in the Union after President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation on April 20, 1863, although the proclamation would not become effective for another sixty days. This was after the people of Virginia seceded from the Union in 1840. The ones who opposed formed their own government and this formed the state of West Virginia. This is the only state to be proclaimed with a Presidential Proclamation.
West Virginia’s state flag is white with a navy blue border surrounding it. In the center is the coat of arms of West Virginia, while a wreath of rhododendron (the state flower) is on the lower half of the coat of arms. Above it is a red ribbon, reading the words “State of West Virginia”. Inside the coat of arms stands two men and in between them is a rock which has the date of West Virginia’s admission (June 20, 1863) inscribed and the state’s motto, Montani Semper Liberi, meaning “Mountaineers are always free”.
West Virginia adopted its state flag on March 7, 1929 by Senate Joint Resolution Number 18, which was approved by the Legislature. The proportions of the West Virginia state flag are the same as the United States national flag.
While coal was West Virginia’s biggest industry for years, tourism is now their biggest industry, placing coal in second. People visit popular attractions like the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Seneca Caverns, and New River (which is ironically one of the oldest rivers in the world).
The current version of the West Virginia was adopted on March 7, 1929. The flag is rectangular with a white background and dark blue border. The West Virginia coat of arms appears in the center of the flag. Rhododendrons, West Virginia’s state flower, decorate the coat of arms. The text “The State of West Virginia,” appears on a red ribbon above the coat of arms. The text “Montani Semper Liberi,” (“Mountaineers are Always Free”) appears on another red ribbon below the state seal.
The coat of arms bears symbolic meaning for the people of West Virginia. The two men depicted in the coat of arms symbolize West Virginia’s agriculture and industry. The man on the left side of the coat of arms is a farmer, holding an ax and plow and standing in front of a cornstalk. On the right side of the coat of arms is a miner holding a pickax. An anvil and sledge hammer appear on behind the miner, representing mining’s importance to West Virginia’s industrial growth.
In between the two men is a boulder inscribed with the date June 20, 1863, the day West Virginia became an official state of the Union. On the grass in front of the boulder are two rifles and a Phrygian, or liberty, cap, representing the importance of the West Virginia people’s conquest for liberty.
Although the current West Virginia flag was adopted in 1929, the West Virginia State Legislature adopted the state’s first flag in 1905. The original flag had a white background with a blue border, but a larger rhododendron appeared on the front of the flag and the West Virginia coat of arms appeared on the back. Two years later, in 1907, another version of the flag reversed the images: the rhododendron appeared on the back and the coat of arms on the front. Unfortunately, manufacturing a flag with different front and reverse sides was expensive, and by 1929, the state adopted a flag with the rhododendron and coat of arms depicted together on the same side.