Texas has had six flags of six different countries throughout its history. Why?
TO start with, you need a bit of background history:
While today we think of the United States as the whole center of North America from coast to coast, it wasn’t always that way. After the Revolutionary War in 1777, the United States became an independent country. But look at the map: The United States didn’t look anything like the country we have today. It was just a small section that ended at the Mississippi River. Past that was the Louisiana Territory, which belonged to the French, and the section that belonged to Spain. And while Americans live in America, Spanish people who moved to Spanish Territory were known as Mexicans. Scattered throughout were the Natives, Native Americans who lived in the Americas before the Europeans ever got there. And now for those flags:
1. The Spanish Flag
Okay, so the first people in Texas were probably the Native Americans. But because they didn’t have a flag to fly over the state, we’re going to move on to the next nation that resided in the state. Remember Christopher Columbus? Well, after he explored America, in the 1500s and 1600s other Spaniards, called conquistadors, traveled over the ocean, eventually arriving in America. They killed thousands of Native Americans (80 percent!). Then, they set down their Spanish flag and declared Spain the ruler of the land.
While Spain ruled, there were actually four different Spanish flags that flew over Texas — yikes, that’s confusing! But they are all lumped together into one flag.
2. French Rule: 1685–1690
In the 1600s, the Louisiana Territory, the middle part of the United States, was under the rule of the French. As you would expect, the French wanted more land — no one is ever satisfied with what they have, after all. So the French sent Robert Cavelier off to the Americas to find the mouth of the Mississippi River and build a colony there. He set off with four ships and between 300 and 400 people — a very large group.
Unfortunately for them, things didn’t work out as they expected. First they were attacked in the West Indies by scary, murderous pirates who managed to make off with one of the ships. The expedition was now down to three vessels. Then, another ship sank in the Matagorda Bay. Fortunately, the rest of the group managed to make it to land. Somewhere along the way, the third ship disappeared. The colonists settled and created a French colony in an area of what is today… you guessed it, Texas.
They were still bent on finding the mouth of the Mississippi River, however. When the last of their four ships got stuck in the mud, the group set off on foot. But it’s never a good idea to explore wild, dangerous, uncharted territory on foot. That’s even worse than going off-trail on a hike. And there was no Chaveirim to send out a search party either. Robert Cavelier was lost in the marshes of the river for two years! After that he was killed by the Natives of the area. The French colony he founded didn’t last much longer either as they, too, were killed by the Natives. And that was the end of the French flag over Texas.
3. Mexico 1821–1836
After the French were kicked out, the Spanish held on tightly to Texas. They were not about to let go of their land very fast. It took until 1821 before the Spanish lost their grip on South America, which — remember — included Texas! Mexico (made up of Spaniards who wanted independence from Spain), fought the Spanish for 11 years until they finally managed to shake them off. But there weren’t that many Spanish — or Mexican — people living in Texas. And the Native Americans weren’t about to let a handful of people push them around. By 1836, Mexico was overthrown by a joint army of Americans and Native Americans who worked together and kicked the Mexicans out. Flag number three, torn down. Hey, at least the Mexicans lasted longer than the French.
4. Confederate States of America 1861–1865
When Texas joined the Union, as the US was known at the time, it was staunchly a slave state. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons Texas broke away from Mexico was because Mexico had already freed their slaves and the Texans wanted to hold onto theirs. When the Southern states seceded, or broke away, from the Union, Texas joined them. They proudly flew the Confederate States flag until 1865 when the south was defeated and came crawling back to rejoin the United States.
The most common Confederate States flag was the “Stars and the Bars” but, just like many of the others, there were actually three different Confederate States flags that flew over Texas. Have you been counting how many Texas flags there were altogether?
5. The Republic of Texas 1836–1845
When those brave and battle-worthy men got rid of the Mexicans, they tried to join the United States. Many of the people living there were originally from the US, after all. The United States, though, rejected their request. There was too much tension with Mexico to take the risk. Accepting Texas, a territory the Mexicans still considered theirs, would be like declaring war on Mexico. So for a while, Texas was its own country with its own flag. It wasn’t a very successful country, and after nine years it finally joined the United States as the 28th state to join the union. During those nine years, there were actually three different flags representing the Republic of Texas: The Burnet Flag, the national flag for the Naval service, and the Lone Star flag — which is the most famous of the three and eventually became the state flag.
6. United States of America 1845–1861 and 1865–Today
Finally, last but not least, comes the most familiar flag. When Texas joined the United States, there were actually 28 stars on the flag for the 28 states. A year later, Iowa joined, and the number of stars increased to 29. One by one, states joined the union until the current flag, with all 50 stars, became the final flag to fly over Texas.
The Battle of the Alamo
The most famous battle during the war between Mexico and Texas is known as the “Battle of the Alamo.” In the city of what is today San Antonio, Texas, there was a large fortress. When Texas belonged to Mexico, the Mexican army used it as a fortress for its army. Then the Texans wanted independence. They kicked the Mexican army out and took over the Alamo for themselves. The Mexicans were angry. They were not about to let Texas break away from Mexico without a fight.
In 1836, the Mexican army traveled toward the Alamo, ready for battle. But while the Mexican army was ready, the Texan army had no clue that they were about to be attacked. It was only when the army was one-and-a-half miles away that the Texans realized they had better prepare for a siege. They quickly tried to gather food from nearby abandoned houses and locked themselves up in the Alamo. With two-and-a-half-foot thick and nine-to-twelve-foot-high walls, they figured that it would be very hard for the Mexican army to get in.
Unfortunately, they were mistaken. The Texan army had only 100 men to defend themselves against Mexico’s army of 3,100 soldiers! The United States refused to provide backup because Texas wasn’t part of the United States yet, and joining the battle would start a war with Mexico.
When the Texan army tried to surrender, the Mexican general wouldn’t accept it. He wanted honor, and to him, honor meant a fight. The Mexican soldiers entered the Alamo and killed every single one of the Texan soldiers. In the end, though the Texans lost the Battle of the Alamo, they eventually won the war.
Six Flags. Does this phrase sound familiar? It’s the same name as a popular amusement park you may have gone to recently. But what do roller coasters have to do with the six flags that flew over Texas?
In 1959, a man named Mr. Waynne visited Disneyland in California and decided to create another theme park that was closer to Texas. It took two years to build the park, and when it was finally ready, Mr. Waynne needed to choose a name. After thinking about it, he decided to name his park “Texas Under Six Flags.” Catchy, no? Well, whether you like it or not, his wife thought it was a terrible idea. After all, she maintained that “Texas isn’t under (or less-than) anything!” Talk about having pride in your state. So the name was changed to “Six Flags Over Texas.” And that is still the name of the park today.
So, you may have thought you never heard that Texas had six flags. But you did. Every Chol Hamoed. Bet you’re never going to look at the Six Flags logo the same way again.
How did the Six Flags of Texas become a thing?
In 1936, when Texas celebrated 100 years of independence from Mexico, there was a big celebration. During the 1936 Centennial Celebration, the idea was to celebrate Texas’s past and look toward the future. They displayed all sorts of things from Texas’s history, and one of the displays was of the six flags that had flown over Texas. While the Six Flags idea had existed before this celebration, the display made it hugely popular. Added to that, during that celebration, there were tickets, programs, and memorabilia that all featured drawings of the six flags. After the celebration, the flags were permanently displayed in the State of Texas Building, a.k.a. the Hall of State, in Dallas, and in the Capitol Rotunda in Austin. With all that publicity, it’s no wonder that the Six Flags of Texas became such a big deal.
Use these words to sound like a flag expert
Vexillographer — a flag designer
Field — the main, solid colored body of the flag
Canton — a design in the top left corner, like the blue square of 50 stars on the US flag
Fesses — horizontal stripes instead of a field like the red and white strips of the US flag
Pales — vertical stripes on a flag instead of a field
So now you can say: “The flag of the United States of America is made up of red and white fesses with a blue canton that features 50 white stars,” and sound like a real vexillologist!
Flag Fun Facts
The flag that has stayed the same for the longest amount of time is the flag of Denmark. It hasn’t been changed since 1625 and has had only minor changes since 1219!
Switzerland has a square flag.
US state flags are considered really strange, and many believe they are poorly designed.
Nepal has the only flag in the world that doesn’t have four sides
Many flags around the world feature stars as symbols.
Switzerland has a square flag.
The study of flags is called Vexillology. Say that ten times fast.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 960)
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