Louisiana State Flag

The pelican has been a symbol of Louisiana since the 1800’s.
The pelican has been a symbol of Louisiana since the 1800’s.

The flag of Louisiana has changed since 1861 when the state formally seceded from the United States. Over the years, Louisiana has had 5 flags. The first was that used unofficially when Louisiana had seceded from the US but before the confederation of states of America. Upon the formation of Confederate States of America, Louisiana adopted a second flag which was used concurrently with the unofficial flag. Two versions of the flag were then used between 1912 and 2006. In 2006, Louisiana passed a law requiring standardization of the flag to prevent alternating versions of the 1912 flag. In 2010, the current flag of Louisiana was adopted.

History of the Louisiana State Flag

In January 1861 Louisiana declared secession from the US. Louisiana flew a flag modified from the French flag with seven stars on the blue stripe. This was later changed in February 1861 to a modified version of the national flag. It consisted of 13 red, blue, and white horizontal stripes with a 5-point yellow star in a red canton.

The design of the Louisiana flag dates back to 1812. The then Governor, William Claiborne admired the kind nature of pelicans and began using the pelican bird symbol on official documents. The flag comprises of an Eastern Brown Pelican in white and gold color, on a blue background. The blue, white, and gold colors are the state colors. Both the mother pelican and her three chicks rest on a golden nest with the mother spreading her wings to cover the chicks below her. The Louisiana motto “Union Justice Confidence” is written in blue on a white and gold banner below the pelicans. The design was officially adopted in 1912 and used concurrently with the 1861 flags.

There were several versions of the pelican flag between 1912 and 2006. Inconsistencies on the flag were spotted on the mother pelican where there was no particular number of drops of blood. The wording of the state motto was also inconsistent. Some had a comma between ‘Union and Justice’, others had the symbol ‘&’ between ‘Justice and Confidence’, while others had the word ‘and’ between ‘Justice and Confidence’.

These inconsistencies were addressed in the 2006 bill when all punctuations and conjunction were abolished. The current flag had three drops of blood with the words “Union Justice Confidence”.

Adoption and Symbolism

The current Louisiana flag was officially adopted on November 22, 2010. Due to the many versions of flags used between 1912 and 2006, the state of Louisiana passed a bill and made it mandatory to include three drops of blood on the pelican. The previously used flags did not have this aspect which is the aspect that distinguishes the current flag from other previously used flags.

The mother pelican is depicted as tearing flesh from her own breast to feed her three chicks. This is depicted by three drops of blood oozing from the mother pelican. This aspect symbolizes the self-sacrifice among the Louisianan people. The pelican symbolizes the state that could go to any extent to protect its people and land.

Before 2010, the flag did not depict the aspect of ‘sacrifice’ by the mother pelican. This was brought to the attention of the state by a student at Vandebilt Catholic High School. It was believed that when food was scarce, pelicans in their generous nature, would tear at their breasts to feed their blood to their chicks.


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