Montana State Flag, Facts Map and Symbols

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Montana: The Treasure State
Capital City: Helena
Location: 46.59652 N, 112.02038 W

Bird:
Western Meadowlark – This bird is known for its loud, cheerful chirps. It is about as big as a robin with a bright yellow chest and throat under a black collar. It builds its nest on the ground and lays between three and seven white eggs with purple and brown spots. The eggs only take two weeks to hatch. It can be found in spring and summer along most dirt roads, sitting on fence posts singing to other meadowlarks nearby. Lewis and Clark were the first to write about the western meadowlark in 1805 and it was chosen for state bird in 1931.

Border States: Idaho – North Dakota – South Dakota – Wyoming
Constitution: 41st State

Economy:
Agriculture: Cattle, wheat, barley, sugar beets, hay, hogs.
Industry: Mining, lumber and wood products, food processing, tourism.

Flag:
The Montana State flag is easily identifiable by the large gold letters spelling out “Montana”, top and center. The state seal in the center displays some of the states beautiful scenery and reflects some of our states pioneer activities including mining and farming. A brilliant sun rises over mountains, forests, and the Great Falls of the Missouri. The state motto at the bottom of the seal, in Spanish, means “Gold and Silver.”

Here is a brief history of the State flag. Colonel Kessler headed the First Montana Infantry, a group of volunteers mustered in for the war against Spain. Units organized in several Montana communities converged on Fort William Henry Harrison, west of Helena, during the spring 19 1898. Under Kessler’s guidance, the recruits were “whipped” into fighting shape and provided, courtesy of Helena’s ladies, with a fine 45-star U.S. flag to carry as their Regimental Colors.

Something special was needed, however, in Colonel Kessler’s view, a flag or banner to distinguish Montana Volunteers from other units. On his own initiative, the Commander commissioned a unique Montana flag. The hand-made silk flag (60 X 44 inches) had a dark field on which was sewn an embroidered replica of the State seal. The unknown seamstress was, of course, free to use whatever colors she wanted.

“Colonel Kessler’s Flag” embarked for the “Philippine Insurrection” with the First Montana Infantry in the fall of 1898, and served as the unit’s chief insignia during its tour of duty.

By the time the volunteers returned to a grand State welcome in October of 1899, the Colonel’s private flag had grown in acceptance and stature. Montana newspapers looked upon the blue banner as an unofficial state flag. Upon reaching Helena, Kessler turned the flag over to the Governor who, in turn, offered it for display throughout the state. Ultimately, the worn flag became part of the Montana Historical Society collection, preserved for future generations.

The idea of an official state flag appealed to many. The Ninth Legislative Assembly reflected that support in 1905 and proclaimed Colonel Kessler’s flag official, deleting only the words “1st Montana Infantry, U.S.V. “which appeared above the seal. Flag makers had difficulty reproducing the handmade, weather-worn patterns and colors, but from this beginning, the state seal acquired color and Montana obtained a flag.

Since 1905 there have been just two modifications of the State Flag.

The 1981 Legislature passed a bill requiring the state flag to bear the word “Montana” in Roman letters above the seal. Rep. Mel Williams of Laurel and his wife Eugenia presented the idea, pointing out that without the letters, the old flag looked too much like those of other states.

That same year Secretary of State Jim Waltermire laid down the first specifications for the exact colors of the state seal on the state flag. They ranged from a gold sky with white clouds and white sunrays to blue and white waterfalls.

Then in 1985, Legislators passed another bill requiring the word “Montana” above the great seal of the state on the flag to be in “Helvetica bold letter,” a specific kind of Roman letters. This eliminated a variety of letter styles being used on the flag.

Flower:
Bitterroot – Long before explorers Lewis and Clark wrote about the beautiful purplish-pink flower of the bitterroot, Native Americans were using its roots for food and trade. Tribes dug up the roots and dried them so they could be kept and used for months. The root was too bitter to eat unless it was cooked, and it was usually mixed with berries or meat. An Indian story tells how the bitterroot came to be. It says the sun heard a mother crying because she couldn’t find food for her family. The sun changed her tears into the bitterroot so she would always have food for her children. You can find the bitterroot growing near the mountains and boulders of western Montana in spring and summer. Mice love its leaves and seeds.

Geology:
Land Area; 145,388 sq.mi.; 4th
Highest Point: Granite Peak; 12,799 feet
Inland water: 1657 sq.mi.
Largest City: Billings
Lowest Point: Kootenai River; 1800 feet

Motto: Oro y plata – Gold and Silver

Nickname:
Treasure State Montana is also known as “Big Sky Country,” “Land of Shining Mountains,” “Mountain State,” and “Bonanza State.”

Origin of state’s name:
Based on Spanish word for “mountainous” Population: 878,810; 44th – 7-97

Seal:
The Montana state seal is a round picture designed to show Montana’s history and natural beauty. At the top, a sunrise shines over snowy mountains. Waterfalls, the Missouri River, mountains, hills, trees, and cliffs are shown behind three tools. A pick, a shovel, and a plow are symbols of Montana’s mining and farming, past and present. The plow stands for Montana’s farming history. Montana farmers grow apples, wheat, mint, sugar beets, cherries, and other crops.

When Montana changed from a territory to a state in 1889, the seal changed, too. Montana’s first seal had a buffalo where the trees are now, and the falls and river were different, but it was very close to this one.

Song:

Montana
Lyrics by Charles Cohan
Melody by Joseph E. Howard

Tell me of that Treasure State
Story always new,
Tell of its beauties grand
And its hearts so true.
Mountains of sunset fire
The land I love the best
Let me grasp the hand of one
From out the golden West

Refrain:

Montana, Montana, Glory of the West
Of all the states from coast to coast,
You’re easily the best Montana, Montana,
Where skies are always blue
MONTANA, Montana I love you.

Each country has its flow’r;
Each one plays a part,
Each bloom brings a longing hope
To some lonely heart.
Bitter Root to me is dear
Growing in my land
Sing then that glorious air
The one I understand.

Statehood: November 8,1889

Tree:
Ponderosa pine – The ponderosa pine is the most common tree in Montana and early settlers used it to make most of their buildings. The ponderosa can grow 200 feet tall and eight feet thick. Wild turkeys eat its seeds. It can be seen almost everywhere along the roads of western Montana.