The Maryland flag is, in my opinion as a Marylander, the greatest state flag.
Ungepotch? Yes. But it has that ineffable “it shouldn’t work but it does” that marks really great art.
But here’s something I didn’t know about my home state’s flag:
Despite the antiquity of its design, the Maryland flag is of post-Civil War origin. Throughout the colonial period, only the yellow-and-black Calvert family colors are mentioned in descriptions of the Maryland flag. After independence, the use of the Calvert family colors was discontinued. Various banners were used to represent the state, although none was adopted officially as a state flag. By the Civil War, the most common Maryland flag design probably consisted of the great seal of the state on a blue background. These blue banners were flown at least until the late 1890s….
Reintroduction of the Calvert coat of arms on the great seal of the state [in 1854] was followed by a reappearance at public events of banners in the yellow-and-black Calvert family colors. Called the “Maryland colors” or “Baltimore colors,” these yellow-and-black banners lacked official sanction of the General Assembly, but appear to have quickly become popular with the public as a unique and readily identifiable symbol of Maryland and its long history.
The red-and-white Crossland arms gained popularity in quite a different way. Probably because the yellow-and-black “Maryland colors” were popularly identified with a state which, reluctantly or not, remained in the Union, Marylanders who sympathized with the South adopted the red-and-white of the Crossland arms as their colors. Following Lincoln’s election in 1861, red and white “secession colors” appeared on everything from yarn stockings and cravats to children’s clothing. People displaying these red-and-white symbols of resistance to the Union and to Lincoln’s policies were vigorously prosecuted by Federal authorities.
During the war, Maryland-born Confederate soldiers used both the red-and-white colors and the cross bottony design from the Crossland quadrants of the Calvert coat of arms as a unique way of identifying their place of birth. Pins in the cross bottony shape were worn on uniforms, and the headquarters flag of the Maryland-born Confederate general Bradley T. Johnson was a red cross bottony on a white field.
By the end of the Civil War, therefore, both the yellow-and-black Calvert arms and the red-and-white colors and bottony cross design of the Crossland arms were clearly identified with Maryland, although they represented opposing sides in the conflict.
In 4th grade, in Maryland history, right after having to memorize the names of the counties, we learned about the flag’s origin in the Calvert coat of arms
but not about the symbolic meaning of the flag’s adoption, as an explicit gesture of reconciliation between Confederate sympathizers and Union loyalists sharing power in a post-war border state.
The Howard County flag is based on the Crossland arms. (There’s also a sheaf of wheat and a silhouette of Howard County nosing its way through a golden triangle.) The city of Baltimore, on the other hand, uses the Calvert yellow-and-black only.
Oh, and there’s one more flag:
That’s the flag of the Republic of Maryland, an independent country in West Africa settled mostly by free black Marylanders. It existed only from 1854 to 1857, when it was absorbed into Liberia, of which it’s still a part, called Maryland County. The county flag still has Lord Baltimore’s yellow, but not the black.