On January 21, 1911, Representative Colonel John H. Fraine introduced H.B. No. 152 designating an official flag for the state of North Dakota (1911 S.L., ch. 283). The legislation specifically required that the flag conform to the color, form, and size of the regimental flag carried by the North Dakota Infantry in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and Philippine Island Insurrection in 1899; the only exception was the name North Dakota placed on the scroll below the eagle. On March 3, 1911, the Legislative Assembly adopted the North Dakota state flag. North Dakota Century Code Section 54-02-02 describes the state flag in detail.
In 1951 S.B. No. 156 established the North Dakota State Flag Commission to consider changes to the flag (1951 S.L., ch.303). The commission concluded the flag "too closely resembled the coat of arms of the United States and that the flag was not symbolic of North Dakota." The commission's conclusions were widely challenged and its suggested changes rejected. S.B. No. 265 was introduced during the 1953 session and contained the recommendation of the flag commission. That legislation was defeated.
The Flag Today
The 2011 Legislative Assembly adopted and the Governor signed House Bill No. 1097 that amended 54-02-02 (quoted below) of the North Dakota Century Code (2011 S.L., ch 384). The emphasized portion, beginning with the words "To ensure historical accuracy...", became effective August 1, 2011.
The flag of North Dakota must consist of a field of blue silk or material which will withstand the elements four feet four inches [132.08 centimeters] on the pike and five feet six inches [167.64 centimeters] on the fly, with a border of knotted yellow fringe two and one-half inches [6.35 centimeters] wide.
On each side of said flag in the center thereof, must be embroidered or stamped an eagle with outspread wings and with opened beak. The eagle must be three feet four inches [101.6 centimeters] from tip to tip of wing, and one foot ten inches [55.88 centimeters] from top of head to bottom of olive branch hereinafter described. The left foot of the eagle shall grasp a sheaf of arrows, the right foot shall grasp an olive branch showing three red berries. On the breast of the eagle must be displayed a shield, the lower part showing seven red and six white stripes placed alternately. Through the open beak of the eagle must pass a scroll bearing the words "E Pluribus Unum". Beneath the eagle there must be a scroll on which must be borne the words "North Dakota". Over the scroll carried through the eagle's beak must be shown thirteen five-pointed stars, the whole device being surmounted by a sunburst.
The flag must conform in all respects as to color, form, size, and device with the regimental flag carried by the First North Dakota Infantry in the Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection, except in the words shown on the scroll below the eagle. To ensure historical accuracy, reproductions of the flag of North Dakota must adhere to the official design and industry color chart codes provided by the state historical society. A description in writing of the flag must be made available to the public by the state historical society. Flags purchased by a state entity or a political subdivision must substantially meet the requirements of this section.
This section does not apply to the purchase of an item that is not a flag but which portrays a likeness of the flag of North Dakota, for example, a miniature flag, food, clothing, a lapel pin, a paper product, or other nonflag item.
Additional details about the North Dakota Flag are available at the North Dakota Historical Society.