Although the New Jersey legislature did not officially recognize its state flag as such until 1896, its design and use can be traced back to 1780. The year before, General George Washington had directed that the color of the coats for his regiment be dark blue faced with buff (light yellow-brown), in honor of the original Dutch settlers. New Jersey regiments of the Civil War period carried two flags: one representing the United States and one featuring the state coat of arms in the center on the regimental color. The coat of arms, designed in 1777 by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, is composed of a blue shield with three plows on it supported by two goddesses on either side. On the left, the Goddess of Liberty is holding a staff with the cap of freedom on it; Ceres, the Goddess of Agriculture, is on the right holding a cornucopia full of food. New Jersey’s rich agricultural tradition has given it the nickname “the Garden State.” Beneath them is a blue ribbon with the state motto “Liberty and Prosperity” and the date “1776.” Above the shield is a knight’s helmet representing state sovereignty and a horse’s head denoting speed and strength.
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