Perhaps it is singular that the State of South Dakota has two
differently designed official state flags. It also has an official
coat of arms. The history of this proud banner must necessarily
begin with the sate seal, for the state seal is a most prominent emblem of
the flag design.
There seems to be no question of the fact that the design of
the Great Seal of the State of South Dakota and it's motto "Under God
the People Rule" were the suggestion of Dr. Joseph Ward, that great
South Dakotan who founded Yankton College. The Committee on the
Great Seal, during the Constitutional Convention of 1885, approved the
design. But, even here, we find a question. The original
Constitution of the State of South Dakota which is in the office of the
Secretary of State is dated September 1883, and it is clearly evident that
a figure five was superimposed upon the figure three. At the
conclusion of this Constitution is also written, in a manner quite
different from the writing of the contents, "Done at Sioux Falls this
25th day of September 1885". Article XXI, Miscellaneous,
Section 1, reads: "Seal and Coat of Arms. The design of the
Great Seal of Dakota shall be as follows: A circle within which shall
appear in the left foreground, a smelting furnace and other features of
mining work. In the left background, a range of hills. In the right
foreground, a farmer at his plow. In the right background, a herd of
cattle and a field of corn. Between the two parts thus described
shall appear a river bearing a steamboat. Properly divided between
the upper and lower edges of the circle shall appear the legend,
"Under God the People Rule," which shall be the motto of the
State of South Dakota. Exterior to this circle and within a
circumscribed circle shall appear in the upper part the words "State
of Dakota," in the lower part the words "Great Seal" and
the date in Arabic numerals of the year in which the state shall be
admitted to the Union."
Since no record or minutes of the Constitutional Convention
of 1883, other than this document, are known, and since the State
Constitution as adopted by the Constitution Convention of 1885 was the
actual document written by the Convention of 1883 with several additions,
corrections and deletions, it is not known whether the design of the Great
Seal was established in 1883 or 1885, especially since Section 1 of
Article XXI is on page separate from Section 2 and those following.
It is noted that at the Constitutional Convention of 1885,
Mr. Coffin of Beadle County presented a resolution that the seal of the
state shall bear the motto: "Under God the People Rule."
This was referred to the Committee on the State Seal, and Dr. Joseph Ward
headed this committee.
Of course, South Dakota was not granted statehood at this
time. So, again the matter came up at the Constitutional Convention
of 1889. Here we find the possibility of knowing the actual
creator of the emblem. Perhaps it was John Banvard of Watertown who
created the seal according to the design devised by Dr. Ward and the
Committee on the State Seal of the previous Constitutional Conventions,
for we note that at the 1889 convention, Mr. Clough of Codington County,
"I hold in my hand a letter and hanging on the stenographer's desk is
a seal from Mr. John Banvard (creator of the worlds largest cyclorama of
the Mississippi) from Watertown. I move that it be referred to the
Committee on Seal." It is likely that this seal which became
official with the adoption of Article XXI of the Constitution.
However, at least one portion of the wording was changed from that of
1885, as the name of the state was changed from to "State of Dakota." The constitution as adopted in essence from that of
1885 was passed in 1889. One other noteworthy change was that the
northern boundary of the state was moved from the 46th parallel of north
latitude a few miles south to the 7th standard parallel.
Evidently, South Dakota had no official state flag until the
year 1909. Here we quote from Wi-iyohi Bulletin Volume II, November
1, 1948: "In 1909 Senator Ernest May of Deadwood came into the
Historical Society office. Seth Bullock wanted a state flag.
May asked Doane Robinson about it and was told by Robinson that Ida Anding,
now Mrs. McNeil, former operator of KGFX radio of Pierre, who was then a stenographer
in the Historical offices, would design him a flag. She
did. It was a blazing sun, on an azure background. May liked
the design, Senate Bill 208 ws introduced. On the floor later, he
moved that 'on the reverse of the blazing sun shall appear the Great Seal
of the State of South Dakota in dark blue.' This was adopted and the
bill passed. Money to buy two flags was appropriated. One went
to the Secretary of State, and Seth Bullock of Camp No. 1, United Spanish
Veterans of South Dakota, got the other."
The state flag was then designed by Ida M. Anding,
legislative librarian, in 1909 according to the following specifications:
"The Flag of South Dakota shall consist of a field of blue, one and
two-thirds as long as it is wide, in the center of which shall be a
blazing sun in gold, two-fifths as wide in diameter as the width of the
flag. Above this sun shall be arranged in the arc of the circle, in gold
letters, the words 'South Dakota' and below this sun in the arc of the
circle shall be arranged the words in gold letters, 'The Sunshine State',
and on the reverse of the blazing sun shall be printed in dark blue the
Great Seal of the State Of South Dakota. The edges of the flag shall
be trimmed with a fringe of gold, to be in proportion to the width of the
flag. The staff shall be surmounted by a spearhead to which shall be
attached cord and tassels of suitable length and size."
This was the only official state flag until the year
1963. It became increasingly evident by this time that the cost to
manufacture a flag with a different emblem on each side was expensive to
the degree that there were few South Dakota state flags in existence, and
they were seldom flown. In the legislature of 1963, House Bill 503
was introduced by Representative William Sahr of Hughes County, enacted,
and was approved by the Governor on March 11th. It read as follows:
"Section 1. that SDC 1960 Supp. 55.0108 be, and the same
hereby is, amended to read as follows:
State flag. The state flag or banner shall consist of a field of sky
blue one and two-thirds as long as it is wide. Centered on such
field shall be the Great Seal of South Dakota made in conformity with the
terms of the Constitution, which shall be four-ninths (4/9) the width of
the said flag in diameter; such seal shall be on a white background with
the seal outlined in dark blue thereon, or in the alternative shall be on a
sky blue background with the seal outlined in dark blue thereon;
surrounding the seal in gold shall be a serrated sun whose extreme width
shall be five-ninths (5/9) the width of the said flag. The words
'South Dakota' symmetrically arranged to conform to the circle of the sun
and seal shall appear in gold letters one-eighteenth (1/18) the width of
the said field above said sun and seal and the words 'The Sunshine State'
in like sized gold letters and in like arrangement shall appear below the
said sun and seal. Flags designed of such material as may be
provident for outdoor use need no fringe, but for indoor and display usage
shall have a golden fringe one-eighteenth (1/18) the width of said flag on
the three sides other than the hoist.
All state flags made in conformity with state law prior to
the effective date of this act shall remain official state flags, but the
creation of a state flag from and after the effective date of this act,
other than in conformity herewith, is prohibited."
It appears this was a wise decision as the cost of the South
Dakota state flag was greatly reduced, and more requests for the state
flags were made than ever before. In the South Dakota legislative
session of 1966, House Bill 503 was enacted and was approved February 3,
1966. This law created a revolving fund known as the "Special
State Flag Account" in the office of the State Treasurer. This
law also directed the Secretary of Finance to keep on hand at all times a
supply of South Dakota flags for "distribution, sale or loan" to
"meet the demand therefore from various public, semi-public, and
private organizations or persons."
As a result of this Act and the great publicity it received,
together with the efforts of a number of dedicated South Dakotans, there
has come about an unprecedented
demand and use of this great banner of our proud state.
In 1992 legislative action changed the wording on the flag to
read "The Mount Rushmore State". Codified law now reads as
§1-6-4. State flag - Description.
The state flag or banner shall consist of a sky-blue one and
two-thirds as long as it is wide. Centered on such
field shall be the great seal of South Dakota made in conformity with the
terms of the Constitution, which shall be four-ninths the width of the
flag in diameter. The seal shall be on a white background with the seal
outlined in dark blue or, in the alternative, shall be on a sky-blue
background with the seal outlined in dark blue thereon. Surrounding the
seal in gold shall be a serrated sun whose extreme width shall be
five-ninths the width of the flag. The words "South
Dakota" symmetrically arranged to conform to the circle of the sun
and seal shall appear in gold letters one-eighteenth the width of the
field above the sun and seal and the words "The Mount Rushmore
State" in like-sized gold letters and in like arrangement shall
appear below the sun and seal. Flags designed of such material as
may be provident for outdoor use need have no fringe but flags for indoor
and display usage shall have a golden fringe one-eighteenth the width of
the flag on the three sides other than the hoist.
Source:SL 1909, ch 230, §1; RC 1919, §5064; SDC 1939,
§55.0108; SL 1939, ch 205; 1963, ch 419, §1; 1992, ch 1, §2.
§1-6-5. Existing flags remain official.
All state flags made in conformity with state law prior
to July 1, 1992, shall remain official state flags but the creation of a
state flag from and after that date, other than in conformity with
§1-6-4, is prohibited.
§1-6-4 Existing flags remain official.
Source:SDC 1939, §55.0108 as added by SL 1963, ch 419,
§1;1992, ch 1, §3.
§1-6-6. Sale and loan of state flags - Revolving account.
It shall be the duty of the Bureau of Administration to
acquire, by purchase or otherwise, and to keep on hand at all times a
sufficient quantity of the South Dakota state flags as specified in
§1-6-4, for distribution, loan, or sale, as it may determine, in order to
meet the demand therefore from various public, semipublic and private
organizations or persons. All funds from the sale of such flags
shall be covered into, and there is hearby created within the state
treasury, a revolving account known as the special state flag account,
from which payments shall be made by the bureau for the purchase of state
flags and their replacements as it may deem sufficient from time to
time. Requests for the loan of such state flags shall be filled
under such rules and regulations as the bureau may establish.
July 1, 1987
The State Flag Account was
established March 11, 1963, and the authority broadened and appropriation
increased on July 1, 1966. House Bill 503 in 1966 created a
revolving fund known as the "Special State Flag Account".
The flag has been carried proudly into battle by our infantry men, flying
on tanks, overhead in all manner of aircraft, and in all types of naval
craft from the river patrol boat to the largest aircraft carriers.
The flag of South Dakota flies over state buildings, schools
and institutions, over the SAC base at Ellsworth South Dakota and all
National Guard installations.
Flags are presented by the Governor to new industries,
building dedications, to state dignitaries and other outstanding South
Division of Central Services
State Flag Account
1320 East Sioux Ave.
Pierre, S.D. 57501
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