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Tennessee (U.S.)

Last modified: 2002-10-12 by rick wyatt
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[Flag of Tennessee] by Mario Fabretto, 24 February 1998

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In 1818, five stars were added, representing Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee, bringing the total number of stars on the U.S. flag to 20. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.

Development and Description of the Flag

The Tennessee State Flag was designed by Captain LeRoy Reeves of the Third Regiment, Tennessee Infantry. Captain Reeves explained the design of his flag as follows:

Tennessee is divided into three regions - the Tennessee River divides West Tennessee from Middle Tennessee, and East Tennessee is the area of the Smokey Mountains and east - the "Grand Divisions. The three stars are of pure white, representing the three grand divisions of the state. They are bound together by the endless circle of the blue field, the symbol being three bound together in one.... an indissoluble trinity. The large field is crimson. The final blue bar relieves the sameness of the crimson field and prevents the flag from showing too much crimson when hanging limp. The white edgings, contrast more strongly the other colors.
This flag was adopted as the official flag of the State of Tennessee by an act of the Legislature passed and approved April 17, 1905. The design of the flag was described by that act, Chapter 498 of the Public Acts of 1905, as follows:
An oblong flag or banner in length one and two thirds times its width, the large or principal field of same to be of color red, but said flag or banner ending at its free or outer end in a perpendicular bar of blue, of uniform width, running from side to side; that is to say, from top to bottom of said flag or banner, and separated from the red field by a narrow margin or stripe of white of uniform width; the width of the white stripe to be one-fifth that of the blue bar; and the total width of the bar and stripe together to be equal to one-eighth of the width of the flag.

In the center of the red field shall be a smaller circular field of blue, separated from the surrounding red field by a circular margin or stripe of white of uniform width and of the same width as the straight margin or stripe first mentioned. The breadth or diameter of the circular blue field, exclusive of the white margin, shall be equal to one-half of the width of the flag. Inside the circular blue field shall be three five-pointed stars of white distributed at equal intervals around a point in the center of the blue field and shall be of such size and arrangement that one point of each star shall approach as closely as practicable without actually touching one point of each of the other two around the center point of the field; and the two outer points of each star shall approach as nearly as practicable without actually touching the periphery of the blue field. The arrangement of the three stars shall be such that the centers of no two stars shall be in a line parallel to either the side or end of the flag, but intermediate between same; and the highest star shall be the one nearest the upper confined corner of the flag.

Three stars

Tennessee is divided into three regions by the Tennessee River - West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee - the "Grand Divisions". Those familiar with Tennessee's geography and politics have no trouble identifying the meaning of the three stars. Culturally and geologically, East, Middle, and West Tennessee are as different as any three states could be. Yet non-Tennesseans are often confused about the symbolism of the tri-star flag.

In its October 1917 issue, National Geographic magazine featured a colorful and detailed article about the flags of the world. The author of the article was apparently not familiar with Tennessee, and, rather than consulting Tennessee sources for an explanation of her flag, he seems to have invented a theory based upon the coincidence that Tennessee was the sixteenth state to be admitted to the American Union, i.e., the third after the original thirteen. The National Geographic article was so widely circulated, and the prestige of that journal so great, that this erroneous notion of Tennessee's three stars became widely accepted. As a result in 1920 John Trotwood Moore, director of the Tennessee Department of Library, Archives, and History (now the State Library and Archives), asked the flag's designer to explain the meaning of the stars. After reasserting that the stars represented the Grand Divisions of the state, Captain Reeves went on to say:

"I remember to have seen published in the past a statement the three stars were intended to represent the fact that Tennessee, which was the sixteenth state to be admitted, was the third state after the original thirteen. I had nothing of the kind in mind when I designed the flag prior to its adoption in 1905 "
Ever since, every publication by the state of Tennessee on the design and meaning of the Tennessee flag has emphasized that the stars represent the Grand Divisions of the state. Yet the misinformation published in the National Geographic in 1917 continues to be republished by sources outside of Tennessee."
Stephen C. Fall, 2 December 1997

Governor's flag

[Governor of Tennessee] by Joe McMillan, 27 February 2000

In use since 1939. Red with the state military crest on the center (blazoned by the U.S. Army as "on a wreath of the colors, upon a mount vert a hickory tree proper charged with three mullets one and two argent") and a white star in each corner. [smi75a] Smith says this flag was unofficial as of 1975; I have no information to say whether it has been made official since then.
Joe McMillan, 27 February 2000

General Assembly flag

[General Assembly of Tennessee] by Rick Wyatt, 10 October 1998

State Military Crest

by Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

The state military crest, which is the crest used in the coats of arms of units of the National Guard, as granted by the precursor organizations of what is now the Army Institute of Heraldry. The official Institute of Heraldry blazon is "Upon a mount vert a hickory tree proper charged with three mullets one and two argent. [An allusion to President Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, whose nickname was "Old Hickory."]"
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

55th Brigade - United States Service Command

by Ray Sholar, 16 November 1999

Located in Nashville, Tennessee. All-volunteer disaster relief group serving Tennessee and the Southeast United States. Provides trained personnel to assist any relief agency or can function independently. USSC is a member of Tennessee VOAD and is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-military organization.
Ray Sholar, 16 November 1999

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