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RED FLAG: New specialty plate celebrates Oklahoma's first flag and official motto

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OKLAHOMA CITY – There will soon be a new Oklahoma specialty license plate decorating the backs of cars and trucks, celebrating the Sooner State’s first flag and its official motto: “Labor Omnia Vincit.”

During the 2015 legislative session, one of the bills to pass the legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin was House Bill 1269, authored by State Rep. Dennis Casey (R-Morrison) and Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie), which is for the “Oklahoma Original State Flag License Plate.” It was State Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs) who originally sponsored legislation to create the 46-star flag plate.

Dorman told Red Dirt Report he was looking forward to ordering one for his vehicle.

"I think it will be a very striking plate," Dorman said. "They did a great job with the design. A simplistic style of the original state flag. A lot of people rallied behind that design."

The final bill by Casey and Griffin reads, in part: "(S)uch plates shall be designed to include the original Oklahoma state flag and issued to any person wishing to demonstrate support for the original Oklahoma state flag."
 

This and other laws go into effect Nov. 1st.

Spearheaded by David Glover, an Oklahoma City-based community activist and local rabble rouser, along with others.  Matt Goad, considered one of the best graphic artists in the Southwest, volunteered his time to design the specialty plate which will go into production once 100 or more people sign up to purchase one. To download the application and order the new plate, click here.

"RED RAG OF SEDITION"

It was in the spring of 1911 that Oklahoma Gov. Lee Cruce approved and adopted Oklahoma’s first flag, which included a striking red field with a white star in the middle, fimbriated in blue with a blue “46” in the middle of the star.  The 46 is significant in that Oklahoma was the 46th state, admitted into to the union in 1907.

The original, 46-star flag of Oklahoma. (Oklahoma History Center)

The 46-star flag would remain the state flag until 1925, when reactionary elements in the state began to see the red flag in a negative light, associating it with Bolshevism and Communism and the red flag used during the Russian Revolution in 1917. This was also around the time the Socialist Party - once quite strong in Oklahoma - began to fall out of favor, particularly during the final year of World War I. 

According to the Chronicles of Oklahoma, the first flag was ultimately dubbed the “red rag of sedition” because of its similarities. The 46-star flag was also not popular due to the association with red flags hung on homes to indicate quarantines for smallpox and Spanish influenza.

And for those who think it is illegal to fly the first state flag, this link indicates that a person flying a red flag - flown for the purpose of overthrowing the government - could face a fine and 10 years in prison. However, that part of the state code addressing red flags likely did not mean the first flag since that flag was still officially flying in 1919, the year when that code was established.

DESIGNER

Regarding the design of the flag – which includes red, white and blue, like the American flag – Kentucky native Ruth D. Clement, who moved to Oklahoma City shortly before statehood, according to Oklahoma Trails, a website linked with GenealogyTrails.com, came up with the simple, straightfoward and brilliant design.

Two years later, in 1913, the red 46-star flag was delivered to Washington D.C. aboard a train to be present during the inauguration of Pres. Woodrow Wilson.

As for Clement, she was an active member so fthe Daughters of the American Revolution and a past president of the Daughters of the Confederacy here in Oklahoma, co-founding the Daughters of the Confederacy home in Ardmore.

When it was decided by patriotic Oklahomans that it was time to replace the red 46-star flag, a contest was held – sponsored by the DAR organization – to choose a new design.

The new flag, designed by Louise Funk Fluke, the contest winner, was chosen to honor 60 groups of Native Americans and their ancestors. It includes a battle shield of an Osage warrior, along with a calumet (peace pipe) and an olive branch. As for the crosses, those were considered Native American symbols for stars and represents “high ideals.” It also included the world “Oklahoma” on it as a statement regarding literacy. This was added in 1941.

As for the motto Labor Omnia Vincit, - “Labor Conquers All” - it was incorporated into the Grand Seal of the Territory of Oklahoma in 1893 and later, in 1907, adopted into the Great Seal of the State of Oklahoma in the 1907 Oklahoma Constitution. The motto will now grace the bottom of the new license plate in all capital, off-white letters. 

According to NetState.com, the Roman poet Virgil, over 2,000 years ago, came up with the term in support of Emperor Casear Augustus’s “Back to the Land” campaign to get more Romans to participate in agriculture. This would go well with Oklahoma’s agrarian socialist roots, as noted in Jim Bisset’s 1999 book Agrarian Socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920, which Red Dirt Report reviewed here.

GETTING THE PLATE

Dorman said he encourages Oklahomans to order the attractive plate. He added, somewhat enigmatically, that the creation of this plate is a "modern, political wake-up call."

"I think will be on many cars," Dorman said. "Especially with the younger generation of Oklahomans."

Added Dorman: "I look forward to seeing a lot of these on the road." 

Motorists can get this plate personalized or pre-numbered. One of the least expensive specialty plates. Once 100 people choose to get it also, you will get it mailed it to you.

Go here to see the 46-star flag plate and other new speciality license plates available in 2016. 

Editor's Note; And in the interest of full disclosure, Red Dirt Report has been working to raise the visibility of the once-derided red, 46-star flag. We sell hats and T-shirts emblazoned with the flag and they are available for sale here

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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