West Virginia broke away from the state of Virginia and joined the Union as a free state on June 20, 1863. Later that year, the legislature adopted an official State Seal, the central part of the West Virginia Coat of Arms, which would become the most prominent element of the state flag. The State Seal pictures a farmer and a miner standing on either side of a large boulder featuring the date “June 20, 1863” with two crossed rifles in front of them. A red liberty cap, the symbol of freedom, rests on top of the rifles. Below is a red ribbon with the state motto: “Montani Semper Liberi” which means “Mountaineers are always free” in Latin. The Seal is topped by a red ribbon with the words “State of West Virginia” and encircled by a wreath of Rhododendron maximum or “great laurel,” the state flower. The legislature adopted this design as the official flag of West Virginia in 1929.
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