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Last modified: 2013-04-04 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
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image by Clay Moss, 19 February 2009
One of the original 13 colonies, Delaware is represented by a star and a stripe on the 13 star U.S. flags.
Section 306. State flag. The design of the official state flag shall be as follows: A background of colonial blue surrounding a diamond of buff in which diamond is placed the correct coat of arms of the State in the colors prescribed by law and in accordance with section 301 of this title, with the words, "December 7, 1787," to be inscribed underneath the diamond.
The official state colors, colonial blue and buff, are designated by the Textile Color Card Association of the United States, Inc., New York, as "arno blue" Cable No. 10663, and "golden beige" Cable No. 10781 respectively; the color shades having been determined by Colorimetric Specifications of the National Bureau of Standards, United States Department of Commerce, in Test No. 2, 1/140565, dated November 18, 1954, which is on file with the Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. The colors of the coat of arms and other elements of the state flag shall be the following: Husbandman, trousers of gray brown, shirt of red, hat and hilling hoe of brown; rifleman, suit of green, binding, bag and leggings of buff, hat of brown, powder flask and feather of gray; shield, frame of shaded yellow, top panel of orange, center panel of blue, lower panel of white, ox of red brown, grass and corn of green, wheat and branches underfoot of yellow, heraldic wreath to be blue and silver twisted); ship under full sail to have a dark hull and white sails; date, December 7, 1787, to be white; cord and tassels to be blue and gold.
Joe McMillan, 10 February 2000
Buff was the colour of facings laid down for the uniform of general officers (by Washington himself in c1776 if I remember rightly), and was also worn as a facing colour by several (if not many) infantry regiments of the Continental
Line. The origin of such use was very possibly however, the buff coloured heavy leather coats worn by both cavalry and infantry (as a little extra protection) during the seventeenth century?
Christopher Southworth, 20 February 2009
Here are a few sources:
"In 1779, Gen. Washington devised a plan to take advantage of the new found wealth he believed the alliance with France would bring. The volunteer regiments of the United States would be grouped into Corps Areas by geographic region. The troops of each Corps Area would wear a distinctive outer coat. All coats to be blue with facings in white, buff, red, and blue; respectively. Unfortunately, Washington's plan was countered with a Congressional plan and it is unclear to what extent either was carried forth."
(The illustration shows white for NH, MA, RI, CT; buff for NY and NJ; red for PA, DE, MD, VA; blue for NC, SC, GA.)
"In June 1780, Gen. Washington issued orders on uniforms and insignia from his New Jersey headquarters...Generals were to wear '...blue coats with buff facings and linings, yellow buttons, white or buff underclothes...'"
"The colors of the New Jersey flag (buff, with the shield primarily in blue) were selected due to the fact those were the colors of the state's soldiers during the Revolutionary War."
"On March 23rd, 1779 during the war of the Revolution, the Continental Congress, by resolution authorized and directed the Commander-in-Chief to prescribe the uniform, both as to color and facings, for the regiments of the New Jersey Continental Line. In accordance with this resolution, General Washington, in General Orders dated Army Headquarters, New Windsor, New York, October 2nd, 1779, directed that the coats for such regiments should be dark blue, faced with buff.
"On February 28th, 1780, the Continental War Officers in Philadelphia directed that each of said regiments should have two flags, viz: one the United States flag and the other a State flag, the ground to be of the color of the facing. Thus the State flag of New Jersey became the beautiful and historic buff, as selected for it by the Father of His Country, and it was displayed in view of the combined French and American armies in the great culminating event of the War of the Revolution, the capitulation of a British army under Lieutenant General Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown.
"The same color has been prescribed for the state flag of New York, where a law requires it to be displayed with the United States flag over the capital when the legislature is in session. [NL: The New York flag is now blue- Civil War influence, maybe- but still has yellow elements on the arms; the New Jersey flag remains buff/yellow but with blue elements.]
"The inquiry arises, why did General Washington select the beautiful historic buff facings exclusively for the Continental lines of New York and New Jersey when such facings were only prescribed for his own uniform and that of other Continental general officers and their aides-de-camp? [NL: It seems from the links above that this reverses the chronology somewhat, the General's uniform being established after the regional plan failed.]
"He evidently made the selection not only designedly, but for historic reasons. New York and New Jersey had originally been settled by the Dutch. Dark blue (Jersey blue) and buff were Holland or Netherlands insignia."
NL: Of course, the Dutch colors were orange, blue, and white- still seen on many flags of the area- but I suppose buff and orange are close enough. As it happens, Delaware was also part of the New Netherlands (after having been the colony of New Sweden- blue and yellow again!- first), and although its colonial uniform was not buff and blue, the Dutch relation may have influenced the flag as well.
Nathan Lamm, 20 February 2009
This accounts for its use in the US Army, but it's important to remember that buff was already a facing color used by a number of British regiments, and as such still appears in a number of British regimental colours, including the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Mercian and Wiltshire Regiments, and the Seaforth Highlanders. It was on the basis of its use in the British forces that it was also used as a facing color by various militia regiments during the colonial period. It may originally have been derived from the color of leather, but was well established as a color of cloth more than a century before Washington used it in Continental Army uniforms.
Joe McMillan, 20 February 2009
"Diamond State" is a reference to Jefferson calling it a jewel among the states. I've no idea whether the diamond in the flag refers to the nickname.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 May 2008
I assume the diamond on the state flag came from the "Diamond State" nickname, which is one of Delaware's nicknames).
David Kendall, 6 may 2008
A star in Ursa Major is called the Delaware Diamond, named after the flag,
Al Kirsch, 6 May 2008
image by Joe McMillan, 13 March 2004
The official blazon of the Delaware coat of arms was enacted by the state legislature in 1847 (now codified in title 29 of the state code, section 301): "Party per fess, or and argent, the first charged with a garb (wheat sheaf) in bend dexter and an ear of maize (Indian Corn) in bend sinister, both proper; the second charged with an ox statant, ruminating, proper; fess, wavy azure, supporters on the dexter a husbandman with a hilling hoe, on the sinister a rifleman armed and accoutred at ease. Crest, on a wreath azure and argent, a ship under full sail, proper." The motto is "Liberty and independence."
Specific colors, including the clothing of the supporters, are prescribed in the section of the code relating to the state flag. These include stipulating that the chief of the shield is shown in orange--not "or" (yellow or gold), as the verbal blazon states and as state publications showed it as late as the 1950s.
The coat of arms was originally adopted on January 17, 1777, as the basic design of the state seal. The work of developing a seal had been entrusted in October 1776 to a joint committee of the two houses of the legislature, which (after a horrendous first concept offered by the committee in early November) eventually consulted with the Philadelphia heraldic artist Pierre Eugene du Simitiere on the matter. On January 17, 1777, the committee presented its final recommendation for a seal, which it described as "a Sheaf of Wheat, an ear of Indian Corn and an Ox in full Stature, in a Shield, with a River dividing the Wheat Sheaf and Ear of Indian Corn from the Ox, which is to be cut [i.e., on the seal die] on the nether part of the shield below the river; that the Supporters be an American soldier under arms on the right, and an Husbandman with a hoe in his hand on the left; and that a Ship be the Crest." The legislature accepted this design the same day.
A rendering of this blazon can be seen on Delaware currency issued in early 1777, photographs of which can be found here. Note that the positions of the supporters are reversed, possibly because of confusion between right/dexter and left/sinister in the statutory description. In addition, the tinctures were not specified; the state seal manufactured in 1793 contains Pietra sancta hatching indicating an azure field with an argent crest and argent ox.
At one level, the symbolism of the charges and supporters is obviously a reference to the role of agriculture in the state's economy. In addition, however, the wheat sheaf and ear of corn are drawn from the county crests used for Sussex and Kent Counties during the colonial period. Under the Penn proprietorship, of which modern Delaware was a part, each county was assigned a distinctive crest to be displayed with the Penn arms on the county seal. The ship crest of the Delaware arms represents New Castle County's shipbuilding industry, but is not the New Castle County crest (which was a castle).
As in other states, Delaware troops in the Civil War and earlier periods carried blue regimental colors with the state arms. Smith (1975b) records that the first civilian use of a flag with the arms was at the Jamestown (Virginia) tercentenary exposition in 1907. The battleship USS Delaware also flew a flag with the state coat of arms on the center. The present design of the flag was enacted on 24 July 1913.
It has probably been observed before but still interesting that the Delaware motto, "Liberty and independence," is a shortened form of Pennsylvania's, "Virtue, liberty and independence." This borrowing may be appropriate, since the three counties of Delaware were originally part of Pennsylvania, but the significance of Delaware's having no "virtue" is perhaps best left to personal speculation.
Other sources: The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army, Records Department, File 840-10, Heraldic Item, Flag: Delaware;
National Geographic January 1946 article on U.S. seals (King 1946); Eugene Zieber, Heraldry in America (1895)
Joe McMillan, 13 March 2004
The State Seal was changed on 17 June 2004 with the dates on the edge around the seal being changed from 1793, 1847 and 1907 – the dates on which previous alterations had been made to the Seal – to dates with more historical meaning: 1704 – the year in which Delaware established its First General Assembly; 1776 – the year in which the 13 colonies declared independence from Great Britain and 1787 – the year in which Delaware became the first state to ratify the United
States Constitution. Only the latter date is reflected on the flag.
André van de Loo, 26 February 2009
Section 301. Great Seal. The seal now used as the Great Seal of this State and bearing the arms of this State shall be the Great Seal of this State. It is emblazoned as follows: Party per fess, or and argent, the first charged with a garb (wheat sheaf) in bend dexter and an ear of maize (Indian Corn) in bend sinister, both proper; the second charged with an ox statant, ruminating, proper; fess, wavy azure, supporters on the dexter a husbandman with a hilling hoe, on the sinister a rifleman armed and accoutred at ease. Crest, on a wreath azure and argent, a ship under full sail, proper, with the words "Great Seal of the State of Delaware" and the words "Liberty and Independence" engraved thereon.
Joe McMillan, 10 February 2000
Section 307. Governor's flag. The official flag of the Governor of the State shall be identical to the official flag of this State except that it shall also bear a fringe of gold surrounding the edge of the flag and the pole upon which the Governor's flag is carried shall have mounted thereon a model of a blue hen's fighting cock.
Joe McMillan, 10 February 2000
The Colors of the flag of the State of Delaware seems to be fixed as follows:
Munsell PNT* COLONIAL BUFF 10YR 7/4 S24-1 COLONIAL BLUE 2.5B 6/4 S238-6 Farmer: Trousers Gray Brown 5Y 6/2 S42-7 Shirt Red 5R 4/12 S89-1 Hat & Hoe Brown 2.5YR 3/2 S317-1 Face & Hands Flesh 10R 9/2 S61-9 Rifleman: Suit Green 5GY 4/4 S293-1 Binding, Bag & Leggings Buff 10YR 7/4 S24-4 Hat, Gun Stock Brown 2.5YR 3/2 S317-1 Flask, Feather, Gun Barrel Gray 2.5B 3/2 S327-3 Face & Hands Flesh 10R 9/2 S61-9 Shield: Frame Shaded Yellow 5Y 8/10 S5-3 Top Panel Orange 7.5YR 7/12 S36-2 Center Panel Blue 10B 6/6 S235-6 Lower Panel White Ox Red Brown 10R 4/6 S317-5 Grass & Corn Husk Green 5GY 5/6 S293-2 Corn Yellow 5Y 8.5/12 S5-4 Wheat Yellow 5Y 9/6 S5-5 Branches underfoot Yellow 5Y 8/10 S5-3 Emblem above Blue and silver (twisted) 2.5B 6/4 Blue S238-6 10B 8/1 Silver S235-9 Bark: Hull Brown 2.5YR 3/2 S317-1 Sails White Water Blue 10B 6/6 S235-6 Bunting White Liberty & Independence, Hem and Center Flag Red 5R 4/12 S89-1* PANTONE 1995 Process Color System
Source: letter (March 22, 1995) of the Assistant Secretary of the State of Delaware to Jos Poels, Grubbenvorst, the Netherlands.
Notes: Nothing is said about the color of the date DECEMBER 7, 1787 on the bottom of the flag. In the color copy which I received, the lettering however is white. Binding, bag and leggings of the rifleman are buff. This is also the same color of the diamond in the center of the flag on which the rifleman is placed. so you get here color-on-color (buff-on-buff). Delaware was December 7, 1787 the first state which ratified the Federal Constitution. Delaware became thus the first American state. Colonial blue and colonial buff were - according the designers of the flag - the colors of the uniform of general George Washington.
Jos Poels, 15 June 1995