Sunday, April 14, 2013

State Tartans

I've written before about issues of heritage, suggesting that our cuisine embodies our jumbled backgrounds as Americans, and arguing that - within certain bounds - we can choose our heritage, as I choose to identify with certain elements of Scottish history and certain British regiments.

Recently I stumbled upon a series of cultural artifacts which recalled this question of Americans, their sense of heritage, and the extent to which they can choose it.

A great many states have official tartans, and several more have unofficial ones.  My instinct for all manner of pomp, symbolism, and history is immediately attracted to such things.  But it also begs some questions: must one be of Scottish - or at least some permutation of Celtic - ancestry to wear a tartan?  Should a state have a substantial Scottish-American population before adopting such a tartan?  And when does one actually use such a tartan?  While I hold nothing against those men who wear kilts, I do not, and aside from the flannel shirts I wear on Saturdays, there aren't many opportunities for tartans.  (Or are there?  Do correct me, dear readers.  Perhaps a tartan flatcap?)

Below are a few state tartans of interest to our family, with blurbs stolen from the Scottish Registry of Tartans.

Commissioned by a joint committee of Arizona State's Scottish societies, this tartan was designed by Dr Phil Smith and proclaimed by Governor Symington in December 1995. Colours: green is for the forest that covers half the state; brown for the desert; azure for copper, white for silver; yellow for gold; red for the Native Americans and the red, white and green stripes for the Mexican population.

The unofficial Mississippi tartan has dark green for the never-ending forests of Pine and evergreen leaves of the Magnolia, light green for the lustrous leaves of the Great Southern Oaks, dark blue for the waters of the Mississippi River and the many lakes within the state, red for the color of the state flag and for the blood shed in Mississippi's past, white for the sands of the Gulf Coast and the cotton fields, and yellow for the heart of the Magnolia, the state flower.

The official state tartan of Louisiana was designed by Joe McD.Campbell in 2001. For use by all those with Louisiana affiliations. Blue for the sky, lakes, bayous, rivers and waterways, green for agriculture and forests, white for rice, sugar cane, cotton and the magnolias, black for petroleum and natural resources.

Designed by June Prescott McRoberts (1922-1999), proprietor of the 'Thistles & Bluebonnets' store in Salado, Texas. The tartan was adopted as the Sequicentennial Tartan and was officially adopted as the Texas State Tartan on 25th May 1989. The colors of the Texas Bluebonnet district tartan owe their selection to the bluebonnet flower, a member of the lupin family, which is widespread in many parts of Texas. The flower changes color with the passing of time, the 'brim' becoming flecked with wine red.

Virginia Quadricentennial Tartan is the official state tartan of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was designed in 2003 by David McGill and in 2005, during preparations for Jamestown 2007, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Colony of Virginia, it was selected as Virginia's tartan because the colors reflected those of the American dogwood, the Virginia state flower and tree.
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