State Flag of North Carolina

by Josh Howard.
Research Branch, NC Office of Archives & History, 2010.

See also: Honor and Remember Flag

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Related entry: Salute, flag

State flag of North Carolina

Some statutes relating to the flag are in the N.C. General Statutes, Chapter 144.

§ 144-1.  State flag.

The flag of North Carolina shall consist of a blue union, containing in the center thereof a white star with the letter "N" in gilt on the left and the letter "C" in gilt on the right of said star, the circle containing the same to be one third the width of said union. The fly of the flag shall consist of two equally proportioned bars, the upper bar to be red, the lower bar to be white; the length of the bars horizontally shall be equal to the perpendicular length of the union, and the total length of the flag shall be one half more than its width. Above the star in the center of the union there shall be a gilt scroll in semicircular form, containing in black letters this inscription: "May 20th 1775" and below the star there shall be a similar scroll containing in black letters the inscription: "April 12th 1776". (1885, c. 291; Rev., s. 5321; C.S., s. 7535; 1991, c. 361, s. 1.)

State flag history

In Colonial North Carolina, the flag most often seen would have been that of the colony’s mother country, England, and later Great Britain.  Prior to the Act of Union in 1707, the flag would have been that known as St. George’s Cross. After 1707, the symbol became the Union flag, incorporating the Scottish St. Andrew’s Cross with a blue field with St. George’s Cross.  Lord William Tryon carried two such flags with him during the Alamance campaign of 1771 during the War of Regulation.

Numerous locally made flags were likely utilized within the state’s borders during the Revolution, but virtually nothing is known of them.  North Carolina did not officially have a state flag until the constitutional convention of 1861.  John D. Whitford, a Craven County delegate, advocated a resolution to create a state flag consisting of a “blue field with a white V thereon, and a star, encircling which shall be the words ‘Surgit astrum, May 20, 1775.”

Convention delegates established a flag committee, but went with a different design than that proposed by Whitford.  The committee adopted a flag that would “consist of a red field with a white star in centre, and with the inscription, above the star, in a semi-circular form, of ‘May 20, 1775,’ and below the star, in a semi-circular form, of ‘May 20, 1861.’” There were also to be “two bars of equal width, and the length of the field shall be equal to the bar, the width of the field being equal to both bars; the first bar shall be blue, and the second shall be white, and the length of the flag shall be one-third more than its width.”  The new design appears to have derived from one suggested by Raleigh artist William G. Browne.   The 1775 date came from the traditional date of the controversial, and since debunked, Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.  The second date commemorated the day that North Carolina seceded from the Union.  The flag ordinance was ratified on June 22, 1861.

The flag flew over North Carolina until 1885 when a new model banner was proposed by the state legislature.  The new design consisted of a blue union containing a white star in the center with a gilt N on the left and gilt C on the right, with scrolls above and below documenting, once again, the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and changed the second date to April 12, 1776 in honor of the Halifax Resolves.

Despite the controversy over the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, the flag has remained little changed since 1885. Only minor modifications to the length and the elimination of two commas have occurred.


Additional resources:

Edmonds, W. R. 1913. The North Carolina state flag. Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards & Broughton Print. Co. Online at:,20643

Image credit:

"North Carolina State Flag." NC Secretary of State website.




Thanks for the wonderful information. My question is why did they change the 1861 flag? I haven’t seen a reason for the change. Thanks in advance


Dear Thomas,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and especially for taking time to share your post and question.

The 1861 flag was adopted the day the legislature voted to secede from the United States. By 1885, with Reconstruction ended and the Civil War long past, it’s a fair assumption that state leaders deemed the time had come to remove the date from the flag . I am not aware of any sources that detail the specific discussions or reasons.  I think that newspapers might yield something here, particularly editorials around the time of the legislation. I’m attaching an article from The Farmer and Mechanic (Raleigh, NC), August 15, 1911 that talks about the history and alludes to some in 1885 being of the mind that the 1861 flag, adopted as the flag upon secession, was not the State Flag.  

If you have access to, more searching for 1885 might be interesting to see specifically what was reported in the papers. If you live in North Carolina, many public libraries are part of NC LIVE which also has access to the North Carolina historical newspapers that are on The Raleigh newspapers on microfilm would also be a good place to look. 

It’s also possible that more clues might be found in diaries or letters of legislators and other interested parties of the time. I wish I could give you more conclusive information!  But I think it’s fair to say that by 1885 some deemed the 1861 flag not to be the flag of the State. If I do happen on to anything, I will update the NCpedia entry.

You might also be interested in these search results from the NC Digital Collections that mention the State Flag: Some of them include records of the legislature and magazine articles from Our State Magazine.

I hope this helps answer your question!  Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Best wishes,
Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library


It makes me happy SPDT


why no facts about why it was chosen


Hi Ally,

Please let us know what additional information you may be interested in and we will try to help you.

Please feel free to post back here.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


When was the flag established or ratified to be the state flag?


Hi, Jeff.

Thanks for your question. The design of the state flag was ratified in the same year it was proposed: 1885. 

See the first date in the parentheses at the end of 144-1. State flag at

This flag replaced the previous design of 1861.

Thank you.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


I like this... almost as much as I like chicken.......XD


i think that they should add the flag dates' meanings on the page telling about the flag of NC. seriously, this page didn't help me AT ALL.



Thanks for visiting NCpedia.  I'm sorry it didn't help.  If you look at the last three paragraphs under "State Flag History" you'll see a description of how the date came to added.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

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