The History Behind the State Flag of Hawaii

Daniel Ganninger
February 21, 2023
hawaii flag

The Hawaii state flag is one of the more interesting flags of the fifty states. It has the Union Jack of Great Britain in the left corner, and the rest of the flag is made up of red, white, and blue stripes. How did the flag of the state become so unique?

The story starts with King Kamehameha, the man who united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810 into one kingdom after many conflicts and warfare. In the late 1700s, Kamehameha flew a British flag over his home, which was given to him as a sign of friendship by King George III. When the War of 1812 came about, however, an American flag was flown over Kamehameha’s home to appease American interests. This didn’t sit well with British officers who were in the King’s court.

To satisfy both sides, Kamehameha had a new flag made, which was designed by an officer in the Royal Navy, and it incorporated bits of each nation’s flag. Stripes were added to appease the Americans, and the Union Jack was put in the left corner to appease the British. The eight stripes of the flag represent the major islands of Hawaii, just like the thirteen stripes on the American flag represent the original thirteen colonies.

Another Hawaii Fast Fact:

The spelling of Hawaii is seen as “Hawaii” and “Hawai’i.” Why the difference? It’s because the Statehood Act in 1959 used the spelling for the new state as Hawaii and did not use the ‘okina (the apostrophe between the “i” letters) in the spelling.

The National Park Service has officially changed all the units it controls to the Hawai’i spelling, but it would take an Act of Congress to change the state’s name. So, the name of the state is Hawaii, and the island of the same name is spelled Hawai’i.

Sources: Hawai’i Magazine, Hawaii Aloha, NPS