UPDATE: A couple of readers have sent along a link to the Arkansas History Commission’s digital collection of many of the other proposed flag designs submitted in 1913. A couple have obvious Confederate imagery. Most do not. Some are quite pretty. The above design, the website says, was created by Evelyn Metzger at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas has the history behind Arkansas’s flag. It was commissioned in 1913, before which the state made do without.
In 1910, the keel was laid for the U.S. Navy’s newest battleship, the Wyoming-class USS Arkansas. Early in 1912, with the Arkansas’s scheduled commissioning just nine months away, the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) resolved to present a “stand of colors” (a national flag, a naval battalion ensign, and a state flag) to the new ship. The chapter contacted Arkansas secretary of state Earle W. Hodges requesting information on obtaining the state’s flag. Hodges informed the chapter that in fact no state flag existed. The DAR chapter thereupon launched a statewide design contest to create one. Hodges agreed to chair a committee for selecting the winning design.
This is how things were in an age before the Internet — you had to ask the Secretary of State whether or not your state even had a flag.
I want to see some of these alternate possibilities, especially the last one:
Ultimately, some sixty-five designs—including crayon drawings, watercolor sketches, and even miniature silk flags—were submitted. … The apple blossom, Arkansas’s state flower, appeared in one entry centered on a field scattered with stars representing the United States, with thirteen rays recalling the original states. On another, the flower was repeated four times within colorful blocks. Another design combined the state’s outline with its great seal. One entrant memorialized territorial governor James Miller, a hero of the War of 1812, emblazoning “I’ll try, sir,” his famous battlefield utterance, upon a blue field.
Willie Kavanaugh Hocker came up with the winning design, which originally had three stars alone occupying the axis of that center diamond rather than an ungainly sans-serif declaration of the state’s name — sleeker, for sure. But hey, give the committee what they want, right?
The committee decreed that the flag ought to bear the state’s name. Hocker assented and suggested that the three blue stars be rearranged, one above the name and two below. On February 26, 1913, the General Assembly adopted this design as the state’s official flag. The design remained unchanged until 1923, when the General Assembly added a fourth star to the central diamond to represent Arkansas’s membership in the Confederate States of America.