The state flag of Florida consists of three major elements: the white background (or field in vexillology terms), the intersecting red bars, and the state seal. The white background with the crossing red bars is almost identical to the state flag of Florida’s neighbor to the northwest, the state of Alabama, except a small variation on the exact hue of red used.
Added in 1900, the red bars harkened back to the southern cross pattern that appeared on the flag used by the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. It is interesting to note that, as well as the southern cross, the red cross pattern is very similar to the flag of the Spanish empire which consisted of the original Europeans to inhabit what we know today as Florida.
This flag was originally the flag of the Duke of Burgundy, whose family eventually ended inheriting the Spanish empire. The flag was made up of a white field with two intersecting jagged red bars running from corner to corner in an X shape. Before 1900, and after 1868, the flag was made up of the state seal in the center of the white field of the flag.
The Floridian State Seal serves as a very complex and interesting focal point of the flag. On August 6, 1868, due to the requirements of the state’s newly adopted constitution, a resolution was passed dictating “That a Seal of the size of the American silver dollar, having in the center thereof a view of the sun's rays over a high land in the distance, a cocoa tree, a steamboat on water, and an Indian female scattering flowers in the foreground, encircled by the words, 'Great Seal of the State of Florida: In God We Trust', be and the same is hereby adopted as the Great Seal of the State of Florida.”
In the year 1970, over a century since the original seal was designed and adopted by the government of the state of Florida, a small, and some would say, minor change was made to the official resolution describing the flag, which changed the “cocoa tree” to a “Sabal palmetto palm” tree.
In 2006 the phrase “In God We Trust,” which graces the banner at the bottom of the original seal and would later be moved to the bottom half of a banner encircling the modern seal, was adopted by the state of Florida as its official motto. After a few different variations in art style and overall design of the seal, as well as the correction of what were viewed as historical errors in the seal, the current version of the seal, the one that is now located at the center of Florida’s official state flag, was adopted in 1985.
Dissecting the Meaning Behind the Seal
The woman on the seal is a member of the Seminole native American tribe who inhabited parts of the state before the Europeans began to settle the area.
The tree is a sable palm tree, which is the state tree.
The woman is dropping flowers which represent Florida’s name, referencing its abundance of flowers.
The rising sun is a representation of Florida’s being famously known as “the land of sunshine.”
The water is supposed to be the meeting of the lakes and rivers scattered throughout the state.
The steamboat appears to be an homage to Florida’s booming industry and trade that helped build the state.
Changes in the Seal
The native American woman originally in the seal was wearing clothing from the Plains Indian tribes.
The tree from the first seal was changed from a cocoa tree to a sable palm tree.
The first seal had a banner reading “In God We Trust” across the bottom. This was then removed and replaced with a banner encircling the seal reading “Great Seal
of the State of Florida” across the top and “In God We Trust” at the bottom .
The art style has also changed, from a very realistic painting, to a simpler version of the scene, to the current and more abstract art style the seal has now.