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Deseret Territory (Utah, U.S.)

Last modified: 2012-12-13 by rick wyatt
Keywords: utah | united states | deseret territory | eagle |
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Flag in Bellerophon Books coloring book

[Flag of Deseret Territory - Utah] image by Jaume Ollé, 4 November 1996

Utah was settled by Mormons and was made a territory in 1847. Since that time, a beehive has been one symbol (among others) used there. In 1851 the territory, under the name of Deseret, petitioned for admission to the union. They would not outlaw polygamy, and were turned down by Congress. Utah was admitted as a State in 1896. This flag was used apparently in 1851; at any rate, it appears in the Bellerophon Books coloring book entitled "American Flags to Color from Washington to Lincoln," which was authenticated by Whitney Smith.
Dave Martucci, 4 November 1996


Reconstruction from newspaper accounts

[Flag of Deseret Territory - Utah]

There was a giant "Deseret National Flag made in 1851 in the Utah Territory and flown for several years in Salt Lake City before it wore out. Since there are no contemporary pictures of the flag, it must be reconstructed from newspaper accounts. According to the newspaper accounts, the giant flag was 14 feet by 45 feet. Based on this, the proportions shown on the children's coloring book published by Bellerophon Books are wrong. Not only are the proportions wrong, but the newspaper accounts say there is a scroll in the eagle's beak with of the the motto "E pluribus unum" on it.

This more accurate, but still speculative, drawing is based on the newspaper accounts. The image is from John Hartvigsen.
Pete Loeser, 23 April 2012

Why nine stripes?  The newspaper accounts do not say how many stripes. This is also the case with other early flags in Utah. We know some had less than thirteen stripes. There is an existing flag of the period with nine stripes. Some flags had red and white stripes. Some flags had blue and white stripes. Some had red, white and blue stripes. The newspaper stories did not even specify the colors. I chose red and white stripes in this case, but it is just my best guess.

When I drew this reconstructed flag, I chose nine to indicate that it may have other than 13 stripes. You can't take thirteen stripes for granted. Nine worked out well to have a number of stripes equaling the hoist measurement of the canton, which was given as ten feet square, and the rest of the stripes to equal the overall hoist of the flag.

We are always are quick to interpret descriptions to fit the usual pattern of the U.S. flag. The coloring book version of the flag is a good example of this. As you said in your posting, "Attached is a more accurate, but still speculative, drawing based on the newspaper accounts."
John M. Hartvigsen,  23 April 2012


I think it is worth noting that Roberto Breschi has some nice versions of the 1849-51 and 1851-60 flags of 'Deseret" (Utah) on his site and just why it took so long for Utah to achieve U.S. statehood.

Robert's Deseret Flags: http://digilander.libero.it/breschirob/ameripag/statius9.html#deser
1849-1851
and
1851-1860
http://digilander.libero.it/breschirob/ameripag/statius9.html#utah

It is worth mentioning that 'State [or Territory] of Deseret' was not recognized by the United States and that the Utah Territorial government was the entity sponsored by the U.S. since 1850. The Mormon pioneers who settled Utah tried to obtain U.S. statehood on their own terms, which were rejected by Congress several times. Utah was not admitted as a state until 1896.

There is a nice posting here about the issue and how it took 50 years to acquire statehood: http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/46038.html

"Utah's long quest for statehood was finally officially granted in 1896. It was a long struggle for Utah's Mormons to convince the U.S. federal government that their territory should be admitted to statehood. From the first attempt at statehood in 1849- 50, the major point of contention was the Mormon's embrace of polygamy. The Mormons' second attempt at statehood, was simultaneous with the Republican Party's first presidential campaign in 1856. Republican opposition to  polygamy was akin to its opposition to slavery; both were condemned in the party platform as the "twin relics of barbarism." According to recent historical scholarship the number one reason that it took Utah nearly fifty years to be admitted to the Union was because of the practice of polygamy. As historian Joan Smith Iversen writes,"Whereas Mormon historians once held that polygamy was only a diversionary issue raised by anti-Mormons who really opposed the power of the LDS church, recent interpretations by [Edward Leo] Lyman and historian Jan Shipps have found the polygamy issue to be critical to the anti-Mormon struggles."
Ben Cahoon, 23 April 2012