The Sentinel recently received a news article published in The Wichita Eagle that related information about a Lincoln woman who had made the first Kansas flag. A portion of the article is reprinted here:
Wichitan Pearl Castello was a senior in high school when her aunt, Hazel Avery, made the state’s first flag.
That was in 1925.
"I know that it was a flag that she had appliqued and it was made for a Fourth of July in Lincoln," Castello recalled in the article.
"She ran a little dress shop in Lincoln and was quite a studious person. She liked Kansas history and that’s how she came up with the symbols. Someone noticed how beautiful it was and they got in touch with the state legislature."
That first state flag was adopted in 1927 and is now part of the museum collections of the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka. The Topeka Capital reported in 1943 that it was made of blue cotton material and that the Young Women’s Blue Cross, an organization formed during World War I, had planned to make the new flag of the finest silk. But the organization disbanded soon after Avery’s flag was created and the silk version was never made.
Castello said it’s sad that her aunt, who died during World War II, never received more recognition.
"She wasn’t recognized at the time of her funeral for creating the flag, but she really was quite an industrious lady," Castello said.
Kansas was the last of the 48 mainland states to adopt a flag – but that wasn’t because people didn’t try to have a flag in the state’s early years.
According to the article, designs for a state flag included a sunflower, a sod house, a sheaf of wheat, a shock of corn, a sparrow hawk and a sky lark. But none of the ideas were accepted by the state legislature. A banner was finally adopted which featured a sunflower with the state seal in the center and the word "Kansas" printed directly above the flower. But it was often criticized as representing a "weed [that] in many respects is worse than the cocklebur."
The article continued: "So, when Hazel Avery’s full-fledged flag was unfurled at the July Fourth parade in Lincoln, the residents there were so impressed that they showed it to their legislators."
The flag was described as a "rectangle of dark-blue with the state seal as its center. Above the seal is the state crest, a sunflower resting on a twisted bar of blue and gold."
The symbols Hazel Avery put on the flag represent a little portion of Kansas’ history. The 34 stars represent that Kansas was the 34th state admitted to the union. The rolling hills identify terrain around Fort Riley and the steamboat represents a time when boats traveled the Kansas River. Teams of oxen, Indians hunting buffalo and covered wagons represent the frontier, and the plowed fields in front of a log cabin represent the state’s agriculture.
The flag was well received by the state’s legislature and was adopted March 21, 1927. Since 1927, the flag has only been altered once when the word "Kansas" was added in 1961 below the seal in gold, block lettering.
Kansans also seem strongly opposed to ever changing the flag. The article mentioned another edition of the Eagle, in January 1974, when it asked readers if they’d like a change. Outraged readers responded. A fourth grader from Colby summed up the suggestion, "I like the flag the way it is … so leave our flag alone," he wrote.
Lincoln resident Hazel Avery would have been proud of the loyalty inspired for her Kansas State Flag. Although she was never recognized for her accomplishment, her flag continues to wave on at the state capitol in Topeka, in school rooms, state government buildings, and in more parades than just those on the Fourth of July.