January 28, 1864: State Legislature Authorizes W.Va.'s First Flag
On January 28, 1864, the state legislature authorized West Virginia’s first flag. The new flags were presented to each of the state’s military regiments before the end of the Civil War. Consequently, these first state flags are commonly referred to as regimental or battle flags.
The legislature didn’t specify a design for the flags, but they all looked similar to earlier Union regimental flags, featuring dark blue silk with a golden fringe. One side displayed the state seal, which had been designed months earlier by Joseph Diss Debar. The other side featured the national coat of arms and an eagle with a shield protecting its breast, arrows in its right talons, and an olive branch in its left. One of these original battle flags is now on display in the West Virginia State Museum.
The look of today’s West Virginia flag didn’t evolve until the early 1900s. One version was created for the 1907 Jamestown Exhibition and a slightly adapted design was developed for the state’s 50th anniversary in 1913. The legislature officially adopted our current state flag with a specific design and size in 1929.