Illinois' Flag Turns 100 Years Old

The first version of the familiar white banner was adopted in 1915. Through the 1800s, Illinois and other states had informally adopted a variety of colors that were physically carried by each regiment in battle. Many of Illinois’ and other states’ Civil War flags became famous. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, changes in military technology were making regimental flags obsolete.

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) led a nationwide campaign to get all of the 48 states that were part of the Union at that time to adopt separate, unique State flags. Here in the Prairie State, the Illinois DAR chapter sponsored a statewide contest for a proposed new flag design. Lucy Derwent of the Rockford DAR designed a white banner charged with the Great Seal of Illinois. The Illinois General Assembly agreed, and a law creating the new flag became law on July 6, 1915. This weekend thus mark’s our State flag’s 100th birthday.

The 1915 law did not specify some of the elements of the flag’s design with the precision required by practitioners of “vexillology” (flag design). A major amendment to the Flag Act, adopted in 1970, codified the components of the flag design and created a precise template for Illinois flag weaving and manufacture. The amended Flag Act generated the flag that we know today. The flag’s centennial was celebrated on Tuesday, June 30 by HR 596, sponsored by Rep. Joe Sosnowski, who represents much of the Northern Illinois grounds around Rockford that was the home of flag designer Lucy Derwent in 1915.