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The Lone Star Flag of Texas

The state flag of Texas is one of the most recognized flags in the United States, and in the world. But the Lone Star flag of Texas today is not the same flag that flew over the Alamo—where 171 years ago today (March 6, 1836), the thirteen-day siege ended in a violent dawn attack.

Texas Peter Krag

Peter Krag’s original color sketch for the flag and seal of the Republic of Texas.

It was a few years before the design so highly esteemed today was agreed upon by the legislators of the Republic of Texas. The historical records reveal a lot about the new flag, but not the name of the person who created the design.

Texas flags with a single star had long been a favorite symbol. On December 28, 1838, Senator William H. Wharton submitted a bill to the senate with a description for a proposed flag: The national flag of Texas shall consist of a blue perpendicular stripe of the width of one third of the whole length of the flag, with a white star of five points in the centre thereof, and two horizontal striped of equal breadth, the upper stripe white, the lower red. Of the length of two thirds of the whole length of the flag.

On January 4, 1889 a senate committee paid $10 to Austin artist Peter Krag create a color drawing of the proposed flag, and by January 25th, President Mirabeau B. Lamar signed the bill and the Republic of Texas had a new flag that flies unchanged to this day. Subsequent state legislation in 1933, and 1993 codified specifics about the design measurements and colors used.

Lamar signature

For more information about the flags of Texas, consult the Handbook of Texas Online.

13 thoughts on “The Lone Star Flag of Texas

  1. […] recurring bit of Texas mythology and misinformation is that Texas is the only state that was a Republic before it joined the Union. This simply is not […]

  2. Why do you not mention the other Texas flag that Lamar signed on Jan. 25, 1839?
    There was is a note on it that identifies it as the “original flag, property of Texas”
    It is in the Sam Houston State Library and Archives in Liberty, Texas.
    This flag can be seen on the Texas Timeline link at http://www.jmmsm.com .
    What is the number of the Wharton flag bill of 1838?

  3. Thank you David, for your comments.
    The reference material I used to write the above article did not mention Dr. Charles Bellinger Stewart, but I spent the morning cross-referencing the links you included.
    On Dec. 5, “The Daily Flag” linked to a (Dec.1, 2007) story in “The Courier of Montgomery County” regarding Stewart, and I need to follow up with another article. Tomorrow is the birthday of the Lone Star flag, but I won’t be ready so soon.
    Regarding the legislative number of the Wharton Bill of 1838: I cannot find a number for it in any of my reference materials or on-line. But I am not far from Austin, so it looks like we at “The Daily Flag” are taking day trip!

  4. why did Lamar sign sketch upside down?

  5. I’ve wondered the same thing Joe. My best guess is that Lamar likely was handed a whole sheaf of papers to sign, including the drawing. I think he just signed the edge closest to him and that happened to be the top.

  6. This ‘may’ clarify the issue. We have just moved to Montgomery, Texas and in 7th grade every student is required to do a scavenger hunt regarding Montgomery County history. One of the questions (clues) is in regards to the design of the Texas State Flag. According to the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County located in Conroe, Texas, as well as multiple historical signs and displays around the Montgomery area, and her teacher, we are being given this information:

    “Montgomery County – The Official Birthplace of the State Flag of Texas
    The Texas Lone Star Flag was designed by Montgomery County resident, Dr. Charles B. Stewart. Dr. Stewart signed the Texas Declaration of Independence as well as designing the Texas State flag. The flag was officially designated in 1839. On May 30, 1997 Governor George W. Bush signed House Resolution 1123 recognizing the county for it’s heritage as the birthplace of the lone star flag.” – Plaque outside the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County

    Elsewhere inside the museum it claims that Dr. Stewart designed the flag in 1839 and it was approved and signed, “upside down (it was handed to him that way from across his desk)”, by Mirabeau B. Lamar on February 25, 1839. They state that the original sketch is in the Texas State Archives in Austin, Texas.

    The Museum also claims that Dr. Stewart designed the original Seal of the State of Texas.

    Now according to the Texas State Archives website (in Austin, Tx) the design was from Peter Krag as your article claims:

    “This original color design sketch by Peter Krag shows the flag and seal for the Republic of Texas. It was approved on January 25, 1839 and signed by Mirabeau Lamar, President of the Republic of Texas; John M. Hansford, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives; and David Burnet, President of the Texas Senate.”

    http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/flagsandmaps/flags/lone-star-design.html

    But finally, another website, and the House Resolution 1123, disputes and clarifies the issue.

    “Early designs of the flag are attributed to many including Joanna Troutman, Sara Dodson, Charles Bellinger Stewart, Peter Krag and William Wharton, but it was long held that the actual designer of the Lone Star Flag was not known. The Texas House “may” have put an end to the mystery in 1997.”

    I’m not going to post the entire resolution, but here is the website that discusses the flag, it’s history and the House Resolution: http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/flags/tx_flag.htm

    I’m not sure there will ever be a definitive answer, since no one alive was there, but as close as I can discern the ‘official’ designer, now given credit by the Texas State government, was Dr. Charles B. Stewart.

    I hope this helps. Neat site, thanks for the interesting discussions.

  7. Shawn, your comments are timely and useful. I’ve been working on a updated story about the flag with corrections and fresh links. The scavenger hunt is a brilliant idea for students. I loved studying Texas history and geography when I was a seventh grader, and I still refer to far West Texas as the “Trans-Pecos” as my teacher insisted.
    Thank you for writing.

  8. I’Mworking on that same project right now. Thats why I came here. To find out about the upside-down flag!

  9. Daniel, I’m glad you stopped by.

  10. To anyone who has been following the question about the designer of the Texas State Flag, I sent the above information to the Texas State Library and Archives in Austin. Today I received the following response:

    “Dear M. Sedoff:

    Your message concerning the designer of the Lone Star flag was received by the staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

    The debate over who actually designed the flag has been going on for quite some time. Perhaps the most authoritative article on the subject is in the article on Texas flags in the Handbook of Texas Online:
    http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/FF/msf1.html

    In it, Charles A. Spain, Jr., an authority on flags, discusses the 1839 flag question in some detail. Unfortunately, during the renovation of the building our book collection, including the House and Senate Journals have been moved to offsite, deep storage and will not be available for some time for reference work. However, you can check with the State Law Library for possible text of Committee appointments and reports for the session:
    http://www.sll.state.tx.us

    Mr. Spain has done considerable research into the matter, both in our holdings and elsewhere in order to try to resolve the issue.

    The Charles Bellinger Stewart Papers in our holdings does contain a piece of paper that has a penciled drawing of the flag, colored by what appears to be crayon. Lamar’s signature is penciled in “upside down” at the top of the drawing, just as it is on the official engraving attached to the statute copy of the Act. Over the years there has been great controversy whether this is actually Stewart’s own drawing or one simply traced from the Krag engraving (since the dimensions are identical and the placement of the signature is also the same in location and orientation). No one has been able to make a authoritative decision if the drawing is authentically Stewart’s.

    The page reproduced on our Texas Treasures Web site shows the engraving of the flag and seal made by Peter Krag. We have no other information on Krag. This is the “official” design–the one signed into law (upside down) by President Lamar–and it and the other Navy standards also authorized by this legislation and drawn by Krag are bound with text of the law.

    We hope this information will be helpful to you.

    Archives Services Staff/jc ”

    Enjoy!

  11. Thank you Shawn, for your continued efforts. I tried in January to contact Charles A. Spain, Jr., to ask his opinion regarding the house resolutions recognizing Stewart as the flag designer. I was not able to reach him, and I need to try again.

  12. The Charles Stewart flag is the original drawing of the third flag of the Republic of Texas. It is a “free hand” drawing of the concept of the flag committee of 1838 – 1839. The original is in the Sam Houston Library and Research branch of the Texas State Archives. A copy was needed, as customary at that time, and Peter Krag was contracted :
    “for drafting the contemplated National flag & seal for the use of the Senate, as accompaning the Report of the Committee. $10.~~ Houston 15th Janry 1839. Oliver Jones Chairman of the above Committy
    The definition of drafting is copying, therefore there had to be an original to copy.
    The Stewart flag is not a traced drawing. It was described as on linen in 1936 by Mamie Wynne Cox, DRT (reporter and author) and the seal is on one side and flag on the other. The Lamar signature when photographed in 1936 was more natural and flowing than it is now (after preserving by the Archives) . It was not originally colored, having the words of the colors written into their appropriate spaces (as you can plainly see even today). Early family records state that some of the Stewart children colored the spaces of the flag and Charles Stewart was upset about it. The “free hand” seal and flag are irregular and the star is not concentric which is not consistent with a tracing.
    All of what is written here is well documented…….davmart@jmmsm.com

  13. I am here for the scavenger hunt also but u did not really explain why it was signed upside down, is it because it came across the table like that cause u diddnt really clarify that

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