Feb 29, 2012 4:23 PM by Melissa Canone

Art Museum Presents the Flags of Louisiana's History

The Hilliard University Art Museum will showcase a set of ten flags in honor of Louisiana's bicentennial celebrations. The flags will be installed on the second floor balcony of the historic A. Hays Town Building adjacent to the new museum at the corner of East Saint Mary and Taft Streets. Each flag has flown over the state of Louisiana and shows the change of cultural influence over time. Including the Independent Louisiana flag which flew over the state for only two months, the display will also feature Spanish, French and British flags. This colorful display is the perfect educational opportunity for all Louisiana residents. An interpretive panel presenting information about each flag will also be available on Museum grounds. This project was funded in part by a grant from the Visitor Enterprise fund administered by the Lafayette Convention and Visitor Commission. The Hilliard Museum is located at 710 East Saint Mary Blvd in Lafayette.

About the Flags

Ten Flags have flown over Louisiana since 1542.

Spanish Flag of Leone and Castile

Representing the two cultural identities, the Spanish flag of Castile and Leon features a castle, signifying the Old Castile, and a lion, signifying Leonese Country.

In 1542, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto lead the first European expedition across the Mississippi River near present-day Memphis, Tennessee. De Soto died before he could reach the mouth of the river, but his exploration of the Mississippi River was a great success.

French Fleur-de-Lis

Frenchman Sieur de La Salle became the first explorer to arrive at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Naming the country for the reigning French monarch, Louis XIV, the land became known as Louisiana. On April 9, 1682, near modern Venice, Louisiana, La Salle buried an engraved plate and a cross, claiming the territory for France.

From 1590-1790 the French Fleur-de-Lis flag was one of four used on warships and fortresses. With a simpler design, this flag was used in everyday situations. This was the flag that flew over all of France's forts and settlements in America.

British Grand Union

On February 10, 1763, representatives of Great Britain, France and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris. The document was ended the French and Indian War or Seven Year's War. As part of the treaty, the Spanish relinquished its territories of East and West Florida. Made possible by the British victory over France and Spain, it marked the beginning of British dominance outside of Europe.

The British Grand Union flag is considered the first national flag of the United States. Consisting of 13 red and white stripes, it represented the entire British Union before the inclusion of the St. Patrick's cross of Ireland.

Historians believe this flag was raised by George Washington's army on New Year's Day of 1776 at Prospect Hill in Charlestown, near Cambridge, Massachusetts. British observers interpreted the flag as a sign of American surrender.

In 1777, The Flag Act authorized a new official national flag with a design similar to the British Flag. It was similar to the flag recognized today with 13 red and white stripes and stars on a field of blue.

Bourbon Spain

Spanish King Charles III changed the design of the Spanish flag in 1759, because most European flags were predominantly white. Since these countries were habitually at war, confusion occurred at sea when one ship could not identify the other as friend or foe. King Charles III ordered his Minister of the Navy to submit models for a new flag that would be recognizable from a distance. The King selected a triband red-yellow-red, with the yellow band twice as large as the red bands.

In 1769, Spanish Governor Alejandro O'Reilly established control of Louisiana for Spain, using King Charles III's new design. O'Reilly divided the region into 12 districts with 22 parishes, when the Spanish system ended, the parishes remained.

French Tri-Color

The Spanish officially returned the Louisiana territory West of the Mississippi to France through a secret treaty (Treaty of San Ildefonso). In order to avoid the continued deficits the colony caused and the growing possibility that Spain might have to fight the restless Americans to retain control of the lands. Although the treaty was signed in 1796, the French did not take control until 1803.

The three colors of the French flag represent the relationship between the King and the city of Paris. The Tri-Color flag was adopted in 1794 at the French National Convention. Blue is representative of Saint Martin, a Gallo-Roman officer who ripped the blue coat with his sword to give one half of it to the poor. It became a symbol of care and duty for the rich to help the poor. The white is representative of the Virgin Mary. It also represents Joan of Arc, who drove the British out of France in the 15th century and eventually the color became the symbol of French Royalty. Representing Saint Denis, the patron saint of Paris, is the color red.

U.S. Flag of 15 Stars

Also referred to as "The Star Spangled Banner," this flag began flying over Louisiana in 1803. The United States purchased the Louisiana territory for $15,000,000. Upon concluding the purchase, Robert Livingston, America's Minister to France, said, "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives... From this day the United States will take their place among the powers of the first rank... the instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed; they prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creatures."

West Florida Lone Star

Also known as the "Bonnie Blue" flag, the West Florida Lone Star flag was first used in 1810 when a troop of West Florida forces set out for the Spanish provincial capital at Baton Rouge. Joined by republican forces, the troop captured and imprisoned the Spanish governor and raised the Bonnie Blue flag over the Fort of Baton Rouge. Three days later the president of the West Florida Convention signed a Declaration of Independence and the flag became the emblem of a short lived new republic.

Independent Louisiana

Two months after seceding from the Union and before joining the Confederacy, Louisiana flew the flag of an independent nation. Known as the Louisiana Secession flag, it was a modified version of the national flag. The thirteen stripes represent the thirteen original colonies of America. The stripes repeat in blue, white, and red, the colors of the French flag, Louisiana's mother country. A single gold star placed on a field of red represents the Spanish colors, also a former ruler of Louisiana.

Confederate Flag

Although this flag was adopted, it was never officially enacted. The Confederate Congress in their haste to have a flag prepared for the flag raising ceremony on March 4, 1861, neglected to formally enact a flag law. The flag contains seven stars representing the Confederate States. Used by the Confederate Army of the Potomac under General Beauregard at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, this flag and similar versions became the most used by the Confederate Army.

Louisiana Flag

In 1912, one hundred years after Louisiana became a state, the Louisiana Legislature adopted an official flag. Bearing the state motto, "Union, Justice, and Confidence," the flag consists of a field of solid blue, a symbol of truth and a white pelican, a symbol of protection. An old legend tells of a mother pelican tearing flesh from herself to feed her young. This pelican represents the state protecting the people and the land.

about photo
bicentennial flag display on the A. Hays Town Building adjacent to the HilliardMuseum at UL Lafayette. UL Lafayette student worker Colby Allen installs flags celebrating Louisiana 200 anniversary of statehood.





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