Anytime you hear about a controversy involving a South Carolina flag, you might assume it’s the Confederate flag. But not this time.
Have you taken a look at the official South Carolina flag lately?
I’ll go ahead and answer that for you: No. You haven’t seen it lately, because no such flag exists. State lawmakers decided to repeal a law that required an official, uniform flag design 80 years ago.
So since then, people who produce and market “official” state merchandise simply improvised the design. The design always included the shape of a crescent moon and a Palmetto tree over a field of dark blue. But the shape and thickness of the tree varies. The shape and closeness of the crescent shape varies. Even the shade of blue varies.
That’s what happens, after all, when there’s no standard by which every South Carolina flag should be produced.
Committee formed to study state flag history
The South Carolina State Legislature provided for the creation of the South Carolina State Flag Study Committee in 2018. They tasked the committee with nailing down an official design once and for all.
The committee conducted research on two prior “official” designs.
The first was found on a sample of letterhead from March 26, 1861. The committee found the letter in the Benjamin F. Perry Papers in the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Perry served as South Carolina’s 72nd governor, from June to November of 1865.
The letter showed the crescent shape with the two ends pointing upward like an inverted horseshoe. I’ve never seen a South Carolina flag with that shape pointing quite that way.
Then they looked at the state’s second flag design. The legislature approved that design, depicting a crescent angled toward the upper left corner, in 1910.
It looks closer to what we’d recognize as the more familiar design, no matter who creates the design.
What’s curious to me about this design is how tiny that little crescent looks. Also, it appears further away from the Palmetto tree than any design I’ve seen.
The committee referred to these designs to get ideas about the two shapes.
But the first thing they examined, even before the shapes, was the color. For this, they went all the way back to 1776.
That year, Moultrie’s 2nd South Carolina Regiment debuted a new regimental flag. A surviving copy of that flag helped them decide on the proper color, which they determined would be Pantone 282-C. (While Pantone stands as a color authority these days, it wasn’t yet around in 1776.)
Committee releases their proposed design
With their research concluded, the committee released its proposed design for the official South Carolina state flag. Here’s what they came up with:
The color looked right. The crescent, which they insist is not a moon, was angled the right way. But that tree…well, if you look at this image and then scroll up to the cover image for this post, you’ll see a difference. The official proposal features a tree that looks paltry at best.
Public reaction didn’t seem to favor that tree. In fact, the public bashed it across social media, Charleston’s Post and Courier reported.
“Others say it looks like the tree just survived a major hurricane or a lengthy addiction to meth,” their article states.
Meth addiction. Ouch.
Those may well have been some of the kinder comments. In fact, commenters ripped up the flag design (figuratively) so much that the committee decided it will update the design before lawmakers get the chance to vote on it.
It’s not clear how long that will take. But if they can do something to make that tree look a bit sturdier, that should do it. And the state will finally have an “official” design again.
On the other hand, even if they make the tree look more similar to the example above, I doubt if the average South Carolinian will notice the difference between an official design and an “improvised” design.