In 1898, Montana had no state flag. In 1905, the Ninth
Legislative Assembly of Montana voted to adopt a rectangular banner depicting the
Montana state seal on a blue field as the official Montana state flag. Montana's state
flag design was born of the initiative of a Colonel Kessler, head of the First Montana
Infantry. During the spring of 1898, the First Montana Infantry, volunteers from several
Montana communities, prepared for the war against Spain at Fort William Henry Harrison.
The ladies of Helena provided these men with a 45-star U.S. flag to carry to the
conflict as their Regimental Colors. Colonel Kessler felt that his group of fighting
volunteers needed a special flag or banner to distinguish his men from other forces. The
flag that was constructed displayed an embroidered replica of the Montana state seal on
a dark background. This hand-made silk flag displayed "1st Montana Infantry U.S.V."
above the Montana state seal. This flag accompanied the First Montana Infantry to war in
the fall of 1898 and served the unit well during its tour of duty. When the volunteers
of the First Montana Infantry returned to Montana a year later, Colonel Kessler's flag
had grown in stature and though not official, it was considered a fitting symbol of the
state. Montana still had no official state flag and many people thought that the
regimental flag of the First Montana Infantry should be honored with official
In 1905, the Ninth Legislative Assembly proclaimed Colonel Kessler's flag to be the
official flag of the state of Montana. Since 1905, changes have been made two times to
the state flag. In 1981, the Legislature passed a bill requiring that the word
"MONTANA", in Roman letters, be positioned above the seal. This was to distinguish the
Montana flag from the flags of other states at a distance. In 1985, more specific
definition of the letters spelling "MONTANA" was approved. "Helvetica bold" was
specified to eliminate the wide variety of styles in use by manufacturers of the flag.
The Montana state flag is blue with a gold fringe on the top and bottom edges. The
Montana state seal centered on the blue field depicts some of Montana's beautiful
scenery and reflects the pioneering history of the state. A brilliant sun over snowy
mountains, forests, cliffs and the Great Falls of the Missouri River serve as the
background for a pick, a shovel and a plow. These tools on the Montana State Flag
represent Montana's mining and farming past and present.