Monday, October 3, 2011

New Flag for West Virginia

West Virginia's flag has taken a page from Massachusetts by utilizing a white background, but by adding a blue border:

The border makes this flag stand out, but it isn't enough for me to keep it.  Born in battle, West Virginia came into being during the Civil War.  The common wisdom is that the state of Virginia was split because of slavery, but neglect would be a better, more inclusive term.  After decades of being treated as country cousins and losing money, power, and influence to the wealthy plantation owners in the Tidewater of eastern Virginia, the counties along the Ohio took the opportunity of Virginia's secession to secede themselves.  As the war progressed, the new state added more counties, many of which had voted to leave the Union, until two years after the war when the Supreme Court awarded two more counties from Virginia and thus created the modern state borders we know today.  In light of all that amazing history, isn't it too bad that this flag was the best they could do?

Their slogan is great "Mountaineers are Always Free" (in Latin, of course), but doesn't belong on the flag.  Neither does the name of the state.  Like I said, the border is good, but not good enough.  In the end I decided to go with a little used design in state flags (but ubiquitous everywhere else) the tricolor.  This was my first attempt:

I feel that black is underused in American state flags and it can look so good, contrasting with the sky.  I figured West Virginia, a state built on (literally and figuratively) coal would be the perfect one to utilize it.  The blue and green are also symbolic, standing for the Ohio and Potomac Rivers and the forests of the state.  As I considered this option, I decided that though I like the black being on the flag's fly, but it just wasn't right.  So I decided to change the orientation:

This one I like more, particularly because it now has a geographic component.  The blue still represents the rivers, as well as their place at the "top" of the state (the North Branch of the Potomac on the northeast and the Ohio on the northwest).  The green is for the entire state which lies below the rivers, and the black coal is on the bottom because it is underground.  However, I still thought it needed something, so I made one last change:

The yellow doesn't symbolize anything in particular, it just seemed to strengthen the difference between the bands.  I tried using red, for "born in battle" or something, but didn't like how it looked or what it stood for.  Yellow came in as the compromise choice, as white made it look too much like the flag of The Gambia.

Also fun fact, to me as a Virginian at least, did you know that in John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" that the main geographic features that he mentions, the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains, are barely in West Virginia at all?  The Shenandoah touches the state only at the eastern tip and the vast majority of the Blue Ridge are in Virginia, and only a small part is in West Virginia.  Really John, you couldn't have checked a map? (Or whoever actually wrote it, it doesn't matter).