The Indiana Flag: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

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While the name sounds like something that should be associated with India, Indiana is actually one of the 50 states of the United States. However, historians say the state’s name could be traced back to the American Indian tribes who lived in the area when Europeans arrived.

Indiana is bordered by Michigan and Lake Michigan to the north, Kentucky to the south, Ohio to the east, and Illinois to the west. This strategic location in America’s Midwest is one of the reasons the state is known as the “Crossroads of America,” a term that also serves as its motto.

With a landmass of 94,321 km² (36,417 sq mi), Indiana is reportedly the 38th largest state in the United States. And with a population of about 7 million as of 2021, it is the 17th most populous. Indiana was admitted to the Union as the 19th state on December 11, 1816, with Indianapolis becoming its capital in 1825.

Since the state’s history is tied to the Native American tribes of the Americas, what role did Europeans play in the founding of Indiana? And more importantly, how did Indiana become an established state with its flag? Let’s take a walk down memory lane!

Founding of Indiana

Indiana became the 19th state of the Union in 1816.

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The area now known as Indiana was once inhabited by a number of Native American tribes such as the Miami, Shawnee, and Illini, and some of these tribes still reside in the state today. These groups of people arrived around 8000 BC. to the region, and over the years tribal dominance has contributed to the development of the area.

Then, around 1614, Samuel de Chaplain, a French explorer, discovered the country; and by the late 16th century the French had taken control of the country. The Kingdom of France ruled Indiana for a century until the English took power after the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years’ War, between 1754 and 1763. Britain ruled the Indiana Territory for twenty years until the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, when Britain ceded some lands, including Indiana, to America. Indiana eventually became the 19th state in the Union in 1816 and actively participated in the Civil War between 1861 and 1865.

Features of Indiana

Indiana consists of three main geographic regions. One is Northern Indiana, which consists of the Great Lake Plains, an area full of flat and hilly farmland and some cities and towns. Then there is the Tipton Till Plain which is located in the central part of the state. This region is the most populous and home to the Indianapolis metropolitan area. The Till Plain also includes Hoosier Hill, Indiana’s highest point.

Finally, the Southern Hills and Lowlands region of southern Indiana offers a mix of forest, hilly areas, and farmland. Area attractions include the rugged Norman Upland, flat Wabash Lowland and Crawford Upland.

Indiana is also part of the east-central lowlands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Another interesting fact about the state is that due to glacial action it now has a rich deposit of gravel, glacial polish, loess and sand. Southern Indiana has the highest levels of these soil materials, making it an ideal area for various agricultural practices.

History of the Indiana State Flag

Unlike several states and countries whose flag has been associated with colonization and oppression, the Indiana state flag came about through an entirely different process. During Indiana’s centennial in 1916, the state general assembly voted to adopt a state flag. The General Assembly then asked the Indiana Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution to sponsor a contest for the design of a state flag. To attract more participants, a cash prize of $100 was announced as the winner’s prize.

The Society received over 200 entries and after careful consideration, Paul Hardley of Mooresville emerged as the winner of the competition.

The winning design was a blue box with a flare surrounded by 19 stars – 13 in an outer circle, an inner semicircle of five stars, and a large star above the flare. The flag was officially adopted on May 31, 1917. While Hardley’s flag design saw little tampering, the General Assembly voted to include the word “Indiana” in the form of a crescent above the flare. It was originally called the state banner, but was later renamed the state flag in 1955 when Indiana standardized flag dimensions.

The symbolism of the Indiana State Flag

The large star above the torch on Indiana’s flag represents Indiana as the 19th state in the Union.

©iStock.com/rarrarorro

The golden torch in the flag represents enlightenment and freedom; its rays mean its far-reaching influence. Then the thirteen stars in the outer circle represent the original thirteen states of the union. The other five stars in the semicircle symbolize the next five states that will become part of the Union. The large star above the torch represents Indiana as the 19th state of the Union.

In 2001, a survey of various flag designs in US territories, states, and Canadian provinces was conducted by the Northern American Vexillological Association (NAVA). The Indiana flag ranked 32nd out of 72 flags in the poll. Also, a variant of the Indiana flag was adopted as Gotham’s flag in the 1989 film Batman.

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