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The South Dakota State Flag

Seth Bullock
Seth Bullock

In 1871 and 1872 territorial senator Seth Bullock was helping to create Yellowstone National Park. In 1873, he was serving as sheriff of Lewis and Clark County, Montana. In 1876, he and Solomon "Sol" Star opened a hardware store in the notorious Deadwood, South Dakota, banking on lucrative business in that gold rush town.

Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood, South Dakota c.1900
Courtesy: Library of Congress

At the time, Deadwood was a rowdy, lawless mining town. In fact, Wild Bill Hickok was shot the day after Seth Bullock opened his hardware store, the "Office of Star and Bullock, Auctioneers and Commission Merchants."

With business interests in Deadwood, Seth Bullock responded to a call for enhanced law enforcement in town and accepted a position as the town's sheriff. His tenure established a semblance of stability in the wild and wide-open Deadwood.

Bullock brought his wife and daughter to town and bought a ranch at the junction of the Redwater Creek and the Belle Fourche River.

When their hardware store burned down in 1894, Bullock and Star built Deadwood's first hotel where the store had stood. A good friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Bullock, earned the rank of captain in the Rough Riders.

On November 2, 1889, South Dakota attained statehood and Seth Bullock was appointed to the position of U.S. Marshall.

Former territorial senator, sheriff, hardware store owner, and Roosevelt Rough Rider, U.S. Marshall Seth Bullock approached State Senator Ernest May, of Deadwood, about a State flag. Senator May consulted with the Secretary of the State Historical Society, Doane Robinson.

The following was reported in the Wi-iyohi (Volume II, November 1, 1948), a monthly bulletin published by the State Historical Society.

The state flag was designed by Ida M. Anding, legislative librarian, in 1909 according to the following specifications:

South Dakota Flag of 1909
South Dakota State Flag of 1909 (obverse)
Courtesy: South Dakota Historical Society

This official flag, displaying on the obverse side the "blazing sun in gold" and the Great Seal of the State of South Dakota on the reverse flew over the Sunshine State for many years. Unfortunately, a flag with a different design on each side was more expensive to produce than a flag with the same design on each side and, as the price tag rose, fewer and fewer flags were in evidence in the state.

South Dakota Flag 1963
1963 South Dakota Flag
Courtesy: South Dakota Historical Society

In 1963, Representative William Sahr of Hughes County introduced House Bill No. 503, proposing that the flag be modified to display the Great Seal on both sides. This measure would significantly reduce the cost of manufacture and presumably increase the flag's presence in the State. House Bill No. 503 was signed into law by Governor Archie M. Gubbrud on March 11, 1963. The law now stipulated:

South Dakota state flag

In the South Dakota legislative session of 1966, legislation approved February 3 created a revolving fund known as the "Special State Flag Account" in the office of the State Treasurer. The law also required the Bureau of Administration "to keep on hand at all times a sufficient quantity of the South Dakota state flags as specified in § 1-6-4, for distribution, loan, or sale, as it may determine, in order to meet the demand therefore from various public, semipublic and private organizations or persons."

A third change to the flag was made in 1992 when South Dakota adopted "The Mount Rushmore State" as its official nickname and "The Sunshine State" was replaced with the official State nickname on the State flag.

Long promoted as "The Sunshine State" because of the multitude of sunny days that graced South Dakota each year, the legislature ceded "The Sunshine State" to Florida and adopted a nickname that would forever remain unique.

South Dakota Flag Law

The following information was excerpted from the South Dakota Code, Title 1, Chapter 4.

Source: South Dakota Legislature, South Dakota Codified Laws, , Nvember 7, 2007.
Source: South Dakota Historical Society, Unit 7 Notable South Dakotans, 1900-1950, , November 7, 2007.
Source: Wi-iyohi, Volume II, November 1, 1948, The South Dakota Historial Society, 1948.
Source: South Dakota Bureau of Administration, History of the South Dakota State Flag, , November 7, 2007.
Source: Flags of the Fifty States and Their Incredible Histories: The Complete Guide to America's Most Powerful Symbols by Randy Howe. The Lyons Press; First edition edition (November 1, 2002).
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded by Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer. Greenwood Press; 3 Sub edition (October 30, 2001).
Source: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers, and Other Symbols by George Earlie Shankle. Reprint Services Corp; Revised edition (June 1971).

Additional Information

South Dakota (U.S.): FOTW "Flags of the World" Web Site.

State Flags: Complete list of state flags with links to large pictures and images suitable for coloring.

Flag Terminology: The parts of a flag and terms associated with its design.

Visit Our Flag Shop: Purchase all kinds of flags and banners, lapel pins, 50 state flag sets, decals, patches, college banners at the Flag Shop.

Flags of the Fifty States and their Incredible Histories: A complete guide to America's most powerful symbols by Randy Howe.

How Proudly They Wave: Flags of the Fifty States: This book, by Rita D. Haban, is geared toward younger readers.



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