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History of the State Flag

Washington did not actually adopt an official design for its state flag until 1923, more than 30 years after the state was admitted to the union. At the turn of the century, many cities and towns flew a military flag bearing a gold profile of George Washington on blue bunting. Another design, similar to the one used today, featured a gold state seal centered on a purple or green background. A ceremonial banner of this type is displayed in the State Reception Room of the Legislative Building in Olympia.

When the Legislature approved a law setting forth the design of the official state flag, it stipulated that the flag "shall be of dark green silk or bunting, bearing in its center a reproduction of the seal of the state of Washington..." The original law allowed the option of using green fringe on the flag; two years later, the Legislature changed the fringe color to gold.

The emblem on the state flag is the state seal, which was first designed in 1889 by Olympia jeweler Charles Talcott. Talcott used an ink bottle and a silver dollar to draw the rings of the seal, and then pasted a postage stamp in the center for the picture of George Washington. His brother L. Grant Talcott lettered the words "The Seal of the State of Washington 1889" and another brother, G. N. Talcott, cut the printing dye. In the seal used on the state flag, the picture of George Washington has a blue background and is encircled by a gold ring with black lettering.

According to law (RCW 1.20.010), "The official flag of the state of Washington shall be of dark green silk or bunting and shall bear in its center a reproduction of the seal of the state of Washington embroidered, printed, painted or stamped thereon. The edges of the flag may, or may not, be fringed. If a fringe is used the same shall be of gold or yellow color of the same shade as the seal. The dimensions of the flag may vary.

The Secretary of State is authorized to provide the state flag to units of the armed forces, without charge, as in his discretion he deems entitled thereto. The secretary of state is further authorized to sell the state flag to any citizen at a price to be determined by the secretary of state."

Additionally, the Secretary of State is customarily entrusted with the role of educating the public as to the history and the protocol and appropriate display of the Washington State flag individually and as it is flown with other flags.