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Date Issued: 1976-02-23
Postage Value: 13 cents

Commemorative issue
State flags - American Bicentennial

The official flag of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was authorized by an Act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on June 13, 1907. This legislation required that the back-ground of Pennsylvania’s flag be of the same color as the blue in the flag of the United States, that the Coat of Arms of the Common wealth be in the center of the flag, and that its edges be trimmed with a fringe of knotted yellow silk.

The origin of the Pennsylvania flag can be traced to a much earlier date. Although there is no record or evidence of use of a particular flag by colonial Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin did design a series of military flags in 1747, and such emblems were later used by Pennsylvania military companies during the American Revolution. In 1799, the General Assembly authorized a flag with a coat of arms embroidered on a blue field.

A State Coat of Arms first appeared twenty-two years prior to this and was printed on Pennsylvania paper money used during the Revolutionary War. In 1778, Caleb Lownes of Philadelphia prepared a coat of arms virtually identical to the one used today. It consisted of a shield; an American Bald Eagle for the crest; two harnessed black horses as supporters; and the State’s motto, “Virtue, Liberty and Independence,” printed at the bottom. An olive branch and cornstalk were crossed below the shield. Behind each horse was a stalk of corn, but these stalks were later omitted. Upon the shield were emblazoned the following: a black ship with white sails resting upon a blue sea, to symbolize the very extensive commerce sent forth from the State to every part of the world; a deep red plough, which signifies the natural mineral and plant resources of the Commonwealth; and three golden sheaves of wheat, which symbolize not only the splendid agricultural harvests of the State, but also her vast wealth in the field of human thought and action.

Numerous modifications were made to the coat of arms between 1778 and 1873, mainly in the position and color of the supporting horses. In 1874, the Legislature noted these variations and appointed a commission to establish an official Coat of Arms for the Commonwealth. After a one-year study, the commission reported that it had adopted, almost unchanged, the coat of arms originally designed by Caleb Lownes 96 years earlier, and this design remains in use today

Topic: Flag (328)  

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