Today is Colorado Day!
Whether you live in Colorado or visit to ski and ride, you may have noticed that the Colorado flag is everywhere — not just today, but every day.
Ubiquitous, with a bright red “C” filled with gold, on a background of blue and white stripes, the Colorado flag adorns everything from dog collars, to underwear, to bags, to socks, to-t-shirts, to stickers, to ball caps.
And that’s just at our house.
Visit any grocery store, drugstore or hardware store in the state and you’ll find even more Colorado flag products.
In any case, to honor Colorado’s 141st birthday, here’s some surprising background on the state flag.
The Evolution of the Colorado Flag
With apologies to the native populations that have called Colorado home for centuries and whom are left out of most Euro-centric historical accounts, here’s a rundown of the flags that have flown over the Colorado plains, Rocky Mountains and western plateaus.
The first European flag was that of Spain, brought by early explorers during the 1540-42 expedition.
In 1662, La Salle, a French explorer, floated the Mississippi River and claimed all lands within the river’s drainage for France. This included rivers in Colorado east of the Continental Divide.
In 1821, what is now Western Colorado came under Mexican control and remained part of Mexico until the end of the Mexican American war in 1848. During this time, the Republic of Texas also claimed part of Colorado.
Between 1803 and 1861 the District of Louisiana (part of Indiana Territory), Territory of Louisiana, Missouri Territory, the State of Deseret (what would become Utah), Utah Territory, New Mexico Territory, Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory all made claims on Colorado lands.
In 1861, Colorado became a territory of the United States and joined the union in 1876 as the 38th state. The statehood flag, appropriately, had 38 stars.
The first Colorado state flag, which flew from 1907-1911, is largely forgotten. Similar to many other states, it featured the state seal on a blue background. As far as flags go, it’s not bad. But it’s hard to imagine wearing it on your socks.
In 1911, the state legislature approved the basic outline of today’s state flag.
With two outer stripes of blue (representing Colorado’s famous “bluebird” skies), a central stripe of white (representing snow-capped peaks — no wonder we skiers love it!), a red “C” (representing both the state’s name and the red rocks and soil) and a golden disc within the “C” (said to represent either the sun or a nod to the colors of the Spanish flag), the flag largely looked like it does today.
However, it wasn’t until 1964 that the legislature standardized the design.
This meant that until 1964, the flag could like this.
Or it could look like this.
And both would be acceptable.
A Final Word
Last year, for Colorado Day, 9News Denver posted this video. It’s a fun take on why the Colorado flag is “the best.”
Happy Colorado Day.
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