The present Nebraska state flag with the reproduction of the state seal on a blue background was not officially adopted by the Nebraska Legislature until 1925. In that year Representative J. Lloyd McMaster of Lancaster County introduced a bill into the Nebraska House of Representatives. It was passed, 92 to 4, and referred to the Senate. That body’s judiciary committee reported out the bill with an amendment providing for a new state seal designed by Bertram G. Goodhue, architect of the Nebraska State Capitol building. The amendment was rejected, and the original proposition adopted unanimously by the upper house.
On April 2, 1925, Governor Adam McMullen approved the bill and Nebraska was provided with a state banner, described officially: “There is hereby designated a banner for the State of Nebraska which shall consist of a reproduction of the great seal of the state, charged on the center in gold and silver on a field of national blue.” The bill also provided that the state banner shall never be used as a business advertisement or trademark and established penalties for insult to the banner or violation of the provisions of the bill. The 1925 law resulted from the efforts of many organizations and individuals.
The seal, which is the banner’s sole insignia, was provided for by Nebraska’s first constitution, adopted in 1866. The seal itself was adopted by the legislature of 1867 and approved by Governor David Butler. Embodied in the seal: a steamboat ascending the Missouri River; the mechanic arts represented by a smith with hammer and anvil; agriculture represented by a settler’s cabin, sheaves of wheat and stalks of growing corn; and a train of railroad cars heading toward the Rocky Mountains. At the top of the circle is Nebraska’s motto: “Equality Before the Law.”
Some confusion exists over the use of unofficial state banners prior to 1925. For example, the 1915 Nebraska Blue Book described a state flag with the state seal imposed on a field of yellow. National Geographic magazine reprinted this description in its special flags issue of October 1917, lending credence to the idea of a yellow state flag. The official state flag with the seal on a blue background was first displayed January 1, 1926, at a New Year’s celebration at the Nebraska State Capitol.