My favorite story about Idaho goes all the way back to its territory days and beyond. A prominent lobbyist for the mining industry, George Willing, named the area after a Native American phrase that meant: Gem of the Mountains, E Dah Hoe. That name stuck long enough for two successful gold mines to be similarly named (The Idaho Mines,) as well as as steamship. Soon, it was the name of the official territory signed to the U.S. in1863 by then President Lincoln. The only problem was that Idaho was actually a made up word. It didn't exist in any Native American tongue, but by the time the US Senate found out, it had already taken hold. Let's all doff our caps to Mr. Willing for his marketing prowess. I bet he was a heck of a lobbyist.
Idaho's history—like many states—is fraught with battles that pushed out (and fenced in) native tribes. This was done in order to secure settlers' safety which was required before any territory became a state. The flag's history starts with the official Idaho Territory Seal found below. This seal was used between 1866-1869, and was designed by Silas D. Cochran. Fun little fact, the Idaho territory at one point contained all of present day Idaho, Montana and about 95% of Wyoming. (See below.)
Idaho Territory Seal of 1863-1866:
Early Idaho Territory Map:
Apparently this seal was rather controversial and not liked much by Governor Caleb Lyon. So what did he do? He redesigned it himself. "Everyone is a designer these days," mumbled professional designers everywhere. The biggest difference is the deletion of the eagle for the elk. It should be noted that his design was also redesigned several times due to widespread dissatisfaction with it in government circles. Flags and seal history is also fraught with clients who play designer with pretty bad results, but ole' Caleb's design isn't half-bad as far as these things go.
Idaho Territory Seal of 1866-1890:
With statehood came the need for an official seal. The newest state set up a committee which offered the public a handsome sum of $100 for the best design. Entries came from all over the nation, but it was the submission by an E. E. Green that ended up winning the contest. His design featured two figures, one a woman sybolizing justice and a man symbolizing the main industry at the time, mining. The rest of the seal is busy with all sorts of agricultural and natural elements wrapped up in a circle featuring the words, The Great Seal of the State of Idaho. Once the design was selected it was discovered that the winning artist was a woman, Emma Edwards Green, a local artist and art instructor who used only her initials when sending her design, in order to prevent the male-only legislature from unfairly rejecting her work. Smart. It was approved by the state legislature on March 5, 1891. It is the only state seal designed by a woman. The only original we can find is this small painting below.
Idaho State Seal 1891 - Emma Edwards Green:
Idaho Revised Seal of 1957:
The current state flag, like the other states that feature seals, don't usually come with the painting but a rather poor representation of the seal, which makes the resulting designs even uglier. There may be no better example of this than Idaho. Sometimes the flag has a gold fringe on three sides per the earlier 1907 standard. From what I can tell, the flag is always supposed to have a 2.5" gold fringe on three of its sides, but that is often left off on the flags you can buy. Again, state flag standards run loose with the details. No official blue is selected, there is no official gold color chosen, no official rendered seal (lots of variation here), and no official block lettering. (This still blows my mind.) There are even disputes over the dimensions, though the official law states a fly (width) of 66 inches and a hoist (height) of 52 inches, 33:26. On our project we don't allow fringe, and don't allow weird shapes, as consistency across states is key, the other elements shoud be decided upon. Are you listening Idaho legislature?
And we all know the best marketing related to Idaho:
Fort Boise / Hudson's Bay Company Marker:
- Idaho's Salmon River is the longest free-flowing river that heads and flows within a single state.
- Idaho is the number one producer of Trout (and yes, Potatoes.)
- Shoshone Falls (212 feet) drops 52 feet further than Niagara Falls. AND
- Idaho has 3,100 miles of rivers - more than any other state.
The New Idaho State Flag: