In 1891, Minnesota agreed to sponsor an exhibition at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Governor William Merriam appointed an all-male management board to supervise development of all aspects of the preparations. This board, in turn, created a Women's Auxiliary Board to handle "women's issues" related to planning.
Minnesota had a state seal, but no official flag to fly above the exhibition. The Women's Auxiliary Board, headed by Florence Greenleaf, was given the task of designing a flag. The board held a flag design contest, and Amelia Hyde Center won the $15 first prize on February 28, 1893. The design created by Mrs. Center was similar to, and perhaps based on, the Minnesota regimental flags carried during and after the Civil War. On March 30, 1893 the Women's Auxiliary Board was mandated by the legislature to create the new flag with
"....a white ground with reverse side of blue, the centre of the ground shall be occupied by a design substantially embodying the form of the seal employed as the state seal of Minnesota at the time of its admission into the union and described on page 313 of the Legislative Manual of 1891. The said design of the state seal shall be surrounded by appropriate representations of the moccasin flower indigenous to Minnesota. Surrounding said central design and appropriately arranged upon the said white ground shall be nineteen stars, emblematic of the fact that Minnesota was the nineteenth state admitted into the Union after its formation by the original thirteen states. There shall also appear at the bottom of the flag in the white ground...the word Minnesota."
The first Minnesota flag was made of silk and embroidered by Norwegian immigrant sisters Pauline and Thomane Fjelde. Their handwork was exquisite, and received a gold medal from the world's fair panel of judges in Chicago.
In preparation for Minnesota's Centennial, the Legislature made changes to the flag's design. This was driven primarily by financial concerns. As designed, the flag required two pieces of cloth (white and blue) sewn together and this meant that a Minnesota flag cost 3-4 times the amount for which the flags of other states could be produced. The design was simplified and the background designated to be only blue. In 1983, the state seal was redesigned and at that time, those changes were also mandated for the seal on the flag, and a few other changes (most notably background color) were made to the flag.
Minnesota's flag since 1983
Front (white) and back (blue) of Minnesota's first flag designed in 1893
The 1958 Centennial flag design
The flag of the state of Minnesota has as its center the state seal. The seal is surrounded by a design made up of the state flower, the lady slipper. A ribbon is woven among the lady slippers that displays the state's motto "L'Etoile du Nord" (Star of the North) and three dates: 1819, the year Fort Snelling was established as the first American outpost in the state; 1858, the year Minnesota became a state; and 1893, the year the flag was adopted. Nineteen stars are arranged around the seal with the largest at the top representing Minnesota as the Star of the North. Minnesota was the 19th state to join the union after the original 13.