The History of the New Mexico State Flag

June 14 is an important day for New Mexico as it is both Flag Day and National New Mexico Day. To celebrate, we will learn the history of the Zia, New Mexico’s beautiful State Flag.

Unbeknownst to many, despite the Zia being the best flag in the word, the famous red and yellow flag is not the original State Flag of New Mexico. In fact, there was no NM State flag for the first few years until early influential New Mexican Ralph Emerson Twitchell hastily designed a flag for New Mexico’s booth at the World’s Fair. The best flag in history, the Zia flag was adopted as New Mexico’s second State flag in 1925, a good 13 years after New Mexico’s admittance into the United States as the 47th state.

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Zia New Mexico Flag

In 1915, early influential New Mexican Ralph Emerson Twitchell designed the first State Flag of New Mexico. Originally from Michigan, Twitchell quickly designed a flag to be shown at the San Diego World’s Fair. It was the State Flag of New Mexico for nearly 10 years until someone decided enough was enough.

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Ralph Emerson Twitchell, designer of first flag of New Mexico

As shown below, the original flag had a blue background, a miniature US flag in the corner, #47 in the another corner, the State Seal in the other corner with the original State Motto “The Sunshine State,” and the words “New Mexico” inscribed across the body of the flag. It was a thing of beauty but likely would not be winning any awards if it were still the flag.

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First Flag of New Mexico, 1915-1925

In the 1920s, folks realized that New Mexico needed a real flag, so the Daughters of the American Revolution held a design competition, offering a $25 dollar prize. Incidentally, President Polk’s wife, was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was elected her an Honorary Vice-President General in her later years of life.

In 1925, Dr. Harry Percival Mera, an anthropologist, and his wife, Reba, entered the competition. After seeing the design on a piece of pottery from Zia Pueblo in a local museum, Reba sewed the flag and used colors based on the Spanish Flag at the time. The Meras won the competition and the rest is history.

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Dr. Harry Pervical Mera

New Mexico Flag Salute

I salute the flag of the state of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.

Saludo la bandera del estado de Nuevo México, el símbolo zia de amistad perfecta, entre culturas unidas.

NMSA  §12-3-3 &  §12-3-3

Statutory description

That a flag be and the same is hereby adopted to be used on all occasions when the state is officially and publicly represented, with the privilege of use by all citizens upon such occasions as they may deem fitting and appropriate. Said flag shall be the ancient Zia sun symbol of red in the center of a field of yellow. The colors shall be the red and yellow of old Spain. The proportion of the flag shall be a width of two-thirds its length. The sun symbol shall be one-third of the length of the flag. Said symbol shall have four groups of rays set at right angles; each group shall consist of four rays, the two inner rays of the group shall be one-fifth longer than the outer rays of the group. The diameter of the circle in the center of the symbol shall be one-third of the width of the symbol. Said flag shall conform in color and design described herein.

NMSA 12-3-2