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Oklahoma Memories

New Oklahoma Flag Raised for the First Time, April 2, 1925

2010-04-05

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That's the voice of Louise Fluke the woman who designed the Oklahoma flag that flies over all of our buildings in Oklahoma.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

You might think that designing an official flag might be one of the first orders of business for a new state but not so for Oklahoma in 1907. For almost four years Oklahoma was without a state flag, flying only the U.S. flag above the state's government buildings. In 1911 the legislature adopted the official state flag, and you would think that after having four years to think about it the design would be something really special but that was not the case. The first state flag to fly over Oklahoma invoked the national colors red, white, and blue. The field was solid red with a single blue edged white star in the middle. In the center of that star was the number 46 representing Oklahoma's place as the 46th state.

Several things happened to inspire a new flag. First, the design just looked too simple and plain and with the number 46 on it was a bit too obvious. Secondly, the prominent red color and star combination hinted a bit too strongly, many believed, at Oklahoma's one-time strong connection to the Socialist Party. Regardless of the reasons behind it, in 1924 a contest was announced to come up with a new design.

"A statewide contest was publicized and many designs submitted. Several of the designs considered best were selected by the committee and sent to then-Governor Martin E. Trapp who asked Mr. Markham, Adjutant General, and Mr. Charlie Barrett, former Adjutant General, to assist him in making the selection, and this is where my design was chosen."

That is the voice of the winner of the contest, Mrs. Louise Fluke. But she almost missed the announcement of the contest…

"I had not known of the contest, or it had not registered with me, as I was at that time legally engaged in preparation to be married a week before Christmas. I went to Oklahoma City where my husband was employed at Liberty National Bank."

Her winning design featured a field of blue with the middle occupied by the shield of an Osage warrior. Emblazoned on the shield are white crosses, the American Indian symbol for stars which represent high ideals. Lying diagonally across the shield are two symbols of peace, an American Indian calumet or peace pipe and an olive branch. In this speech recorded in 1975, Louise Fluke describes the symbolism contained in the flag she designed.

"The blue of the field signifies devotion; the shield, defensive or protective warfare, but always surmounted by and subservient to the olive branch and peace pipe which betoken a love of peace on the part of united people; and the state name was added in 1941."

And thus it was in this week of 1925 that the new design became the official flag of Oklahoma and made its first appearance outside the state capital.

"On April 2, 1925, the new flag was first raised over the Capitol."

The new design met with the overwhelming approval of state residents, but in 1941 the flag was altered once again this time by adding the name Oklahoma across the bottom in large white letters, a move that did not meet with great approval but remains to this day. You can see all fourteen flags that have at one time or another flown over the Territory and/or the State of Oklahoma and learn more about early day Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.