Oregon Symbols: History And Meaning
Oregon boasts a rich and diverse culture that is represented by various symbols. From its magnificent wildlife to its stunning landscapes, each symbol holds a special significance to the state and its people. In this article, we’ll delve into the history and meaning behind the symbols of Oregon, and gain a deeper understanding of the state’s unique heritage.
Origin and History of the Oregon State Flag
Oregon’s state flag was officially adopted on April 15, 1925. The design of the flag was selected from a statewide contest, which received more than 100 submissions. The winning design was created by a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Maude Kerns.
Interestingly, Oregon was the only state in the United States to have a two-sided flag. The front side of the flag has the state seal and the back side has a beaver – the state animal. Although the flag was adopted in 1925, it was not until 1969 that the design of the flag was standardized.
Design and Colors of the Flag
The flag of Oregon has a navy blue background with gold lettering and symbols. The front side of the flag features the state seal in the center, surrounded by thirty-three stars, symbolizing that Oregon was the thirty-third state to join the Union. The reverse side of the flag displays a beaver with the words “State of Oregon” above it and “1859” below it, which is the year that Oregon became a state.
Meaning Behind the Symbols on the Flag
The state seal on the front of the flag includes a variety of important symbols. The eagle at the top of the seal represents the United States. In the center of the seal, there is a shield with 13 stars above it, which represents the original thirteen colonies. The plow, wheat, and pickaxe in the center represent the agriculture and mining industries in Oregon. The steamship on the seal represents commerce, and the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean represents the fact that Oregon is the westernmost state in the contiguous United States.
Overall, the Oregon state flag is full of rich symbolism and history, making it a beloved symbol of the state. So, the next time you see the Oregon flag waving proudly in the wind, take a moment to appreciate the deep meaning behind it.
Oregon State Seal: History and Symbolism
The Oregon state seal was first adopted in 1859, just a few months before the state became the 33rd state of the United States. The original design was created by James Shields, a former secretary of state, and was modified in 1969 to include more detail and modernize the design.
The seal features a beaver, which is a symbol of the state’s early history as a center of the fur trade. The beaver is shown building a dam with a forest in the background, representing the state’s rich natural resources. A shield in the center of the seal features a heart, an eagle, a wagon wheel, and a plow, representing the state’s agricultural and industrial heritage. Above the shield is a banner with the state motto, “Alis Volat Propiis,” which means “She Flies With Her Own Wings.”
The beaver on the seal is a symbol of Oregon’s early history, as beaver fur was a valuable commodity that attracted many traders and settlers to the area. The forest in the background is a nod to the state’s timber industry, which was once a major contributor to the state’s economy. The shield in the center of the seal represents the state’s diverse economy, with the heart symbolizing the state’s love for freedom and independence, the eagle representing strength and courage, the wagon wheel representing transportation and commerce, and the plow representing agriculture.
Overall, the Oregon state seal is a powerful symbol of the state’s rich history, diverse economy, and independent spirit. It’s a reminder of the hard work and dedication of the pioneers who settled the state and built a thriving community based on the values of freedom, independence, and self-reliance.
Oregon State Bird
The Oregon state bird is the Western Meadowlark. This beautiful bird is about 8.5 inches long and has a bright yellow breast with a black “V” on its chest. Its wings and back are brown, and it has a long, pointed beak.
In 1927, the Oregon Audubon Society sponsored a statewide contest to choose the state bird. The Western Meadowlark won, beating out other birds like the quail and the junco. The choice was made because the Western Meadowlark is a common bird found throughout the state, and its cheerful song is often heard in the meadows and fields.
Symbolism of the Bird
- Musicality: The Western Meadowlark’s melodic song symbolizes the state’s love for music and the arts.
- Freedom: The bird’s ability to soar through the sky represents the state’s spirit of freedom and independence.
- Beautiful Landscape: The Western Meadowlark’s presence in Oregon’s meadows and fields symbolizes the state’s natural beauty and abundant wildlife.
Overall, the Western Meadowlark is a fitting symbol for the state of Oregon. Its beautiful appearance, melodic song, and presence in the state’s natural landscape make it a beloved bird among Oregonians.
Oregon State Flower: The Oregon Grape
When it comes to state flowers, the Oregon Grape might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But for Oregonians, this tart little berry is much more than just a plant.
The Oregon Grape, also known as Mahonia aquifolium, is a low-growing evergreen shrub that produces small clusters of yellow flowers in early spring. These flowers eventually give way to berries in late summer, which can range in color from dark blue to almost black. While the Oregon Grape might not have the visual impact of other state flowers, its unique qualities make it a beloved and important symbol of Oregon.
Significance of the Flower to the State
The Oregon Grape was designated as the official state flower of Oregon in 1899, making it one of the oldest state symbols in the country. The flower was chosen by the Oregon Legislature because of its prevalence throughout the state and its hardy nature – the Oregon Grape can thrive in a variety of different environments, from the coastal forests to the high desert.
But the Oregon Grape’s importance to the state goes beyond just its hardiness. The plant has a long history of traditional use by Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest, who used it for everything from treating infections to dyeing clothing. Today, the Oregon Grape is still used in herbal medicine and is a popular ingredient in everything from teas to skincare products.
Cultural Significance of the Flower
The Oregon Grape has become a cultural touchstone for Oregonians, symbolizing the state’s rugged beauty and independent spirit. Its tart berries are often used in cooking and are a key ingredient in Oregon’s famous Marionberry pie. And the plant’s striking foliage and berries are a favorite of gardeners, who appreciate its year-round beauty and low-maintenance nature.
Overall, the Oregon Grape might not be the flashiest of state flowers, but its unique qualities and importance to the state make it a beloved symbol of all that makes Oregon special.
Oregon State Tree: Douglas Fir
The Douglas Fir is the official state tree of Oregon. It is a large coniferous tree that can grow up to 330 feet tall and 17 feet in diameter. The tree’s needles are soft and blue-green in color, and its cones are large, measuring up to 4 inches long. The Douglas Fir is a long-lived tree, with some specimens living up to 1,000 years old. It is widely distributed throughout Oregon and is an important part of the state’s forests.
The Douglas Fir has been an important part of Oregon’s history and economy. In the early days of settlement, the tree was used extensively for building homes, barns, and other structures. Its wood is strong and durable, making it an ideal building material. Today, the Douglas Fir is still an important part of Oregon’s economy, with the state’s timber industry relying heavily on it. The tree is also an important part of the state’s ecology, providing habitat for many different species of plants and animals.
Symbolism of the Douglas Fir
- Strength: The Douglas Fir is a symbol of strength and resilience, both qualities that are highly valued in the state of Oregon. The tree’s strong wood and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions make it a symbol of strength and endurance.
- Independence: The Douglas Fir is a symbol of independence, reflecting Oregon’s history as a state that values individualism and self-reliance.
- Connection to Nature: The Douglas Fir is a symbol of the state’s connection to nature, reflecting Oregon’s commitment to preserving its natural resources and protecting the environment.
Overall, the Douglas Fir is an important symbol of Oregon’s history, economy, and values. It is a reminder of the state’s natural beauty and its commitment to preserving that beauty for future generations.
Oregon State Animal: The Beaver
The Oregon state animal is the beaver, a unique and fascinating mammal known for its engineering skills and ability to shape its environment. Beavers are large, semi-aquatic rodents that can weigh up to 60 pounds and grow up to four feet long, including their broad, flat tails. They are famous for building dams and lodges with sticks, mud, and rocks, which they use to create still-water habitats where they can live and raise their young.
Significance of the Animal to the State
The beaver has a rich history in Oregon, where it played a critical role in shaping the state’s landscape and economy. In the early days of the Oregon Territory, beavers were hunted extensively for their soft, dense fur, which was in high demand for hats and other garments. The fur trade helped drive the state’s early economy and played a significant role in the growth of several Oregon cities, including Astoria and The Dalles.
Today, the beaver remains an important symbol of Oregon’s natural heritage and its commitment to sustainability and conservation. The beaver’s impressive engineering skills and ability to create habitats that benefit other wildlife make it a powerful symbol of the state’s dedication to preserving its natural resources.
History Behind the Selection of the State Animal
The beaver was officially designated as the state animal of Oregon in 1969. The selection of the beaver was based on its historical significance to the state and its unique ecological role in shaping Oregon’s landscape. The beaver was also chosen for its ability to inspire people to work together to preserve and protect Oregon’s natural resources for future generations.
Overall, the beaver is a beloved and iconic symbol of Oregon, representing the state’s rich history, its commitment to conservation, and its unique natural beauty. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, taking the time to learn more about Oregon’s state animal is a great way to appreciate all that this incredible state has to offer.
Exploring the Oregon State Song: “Oregon, My Oregon”
Oregon, My Oregon is the official state song of Oregon. It was adopted as the state song by the Oregon Legislature in 1927, with the lyrics written by J.A. Buchanan and the music composed by Henry B. Murtagh. The song symbolizes the pride that Oregonians feel for their state and its natural beauty.
Significance of the Lyrics and Melody
The lyrics of Oregon, My Oregon reflect the state’s stunning geography, including its mountains, forests, and rivers. The song starts off with the line, “Land of the Empire Builders, Land of the Golden West,” which highlights the state’s role in the westward expansion of the United States. The song’s melody is lively and uplifting, with a catchy tune that is easy to sing along to.
Cultural Significance of the Song
Oregon, My Oregon is a song that is deeply ingrained in the culture of Oregon. It is played at state events, such as graduations and inaugurations, and is often sung by schoolchildren across the state. It has become a symbol of Oregon’s natural beauty and its place in America’s history. The song has even been covered by famous musicians, including the country singer Johnny Cash. Overall, Oregon, My Oregon is a beloved and important song that represents the pride and spirit of the people of Oregon.
What a fascinating journey it has been exploring the symbols of Oregon! From the majestic Douglas Fir to the iconic Crater Lake, each symbol tells a story of the state’s unique history and natural beauty. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, these symbols are sure to inspire a sense of pride and wonder for the great state of Oregon. So next time you see the state flag or hear the state song, take a moment to reflect on the rich cultural heritage that makes Oregon so special. Cheers to the Beaver State!