In recognition of Sunday, June 14, as Flag Day, the Wilton Historical Society reminds us Connecticut’s state flag design dates back to 1639 and comes from the seal of the Saybrook Colony.
The most prominent feature of the Connecticut state flag is the Arms of the State in the center. Prominently in the middle are three grape vines.
Historically, these grape vines were passed down from a seal brought from England by Colonel George Fenwick in 1639. Fenwick’s seal served as the seal of the Saybrook Colony and was passed on for the use of the Connecticut Colony around 1644. It is thought by some that the number of grape vines represents three colonies, New Haven, Saybrook and Connecticut (Hartford), which merged as “Connecticut” by 1665. Grapes are symbolic of good luck, felicity and peace. Vines represent strong and lasting friendships.
Our state measures five feet, six inches long and four feet, four inches wide. The field is azure blue; the armorial bearing (shield) is argent white and described by law as “rococo design.” Rococo refers to a style distinguished by fancy curves and elaborate ornamentation.
Three grape vines are depicted on the shield, each bearing three bunches of grapes. The rococo shield is outlined in gold and silver and is decorated with clusters of oak leaves and acorns.
A white streamer, cleft at each end and bordered in gold and brown, is displayed below the shield. The motto of the state of Connecticut is lettered in dark blue on the streamer. It reads “Qui Transtulit Sustinet.”
Qui Transtulit Sustinet was also inherited from the Fenwick seal. This Latin phrase has been translated as “He who transplanted continues to sustain” or, more commonly, “He who transplanted still sustains.”
In the Connecticut State Register and Manual, 1889: Register and Manual of the State of Connecticut, it was written by Charles J. Hoadly that the motto is an adaptation of Psalms, Chapter 79, Verse 3 of the Latin Vulgate Version of the Bible. In the article titled The Public Seal of Connecticut, he wrote: “The vines [on the state seal] symbolize the Colony brought over and planted here in the wilderness. We read in the 80th Psalm: ‘Thou has brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou has cast out the heathen, and planted it’ — in Latin, ‘Vineam de AEypto transtulisti, Ejicisti gentes et Plantasti eam;’ and the motto expresses our belief that He who brought over the vine continues to take care of it — Qui transtulit sustinet.”
Symbolic of faith and endurance, age and strength, the white oak leaves and acorns were not present on the Fenwick seal but the oak does occur another time in Connecticut’s colonial history in the story of the Charter Oak that was made the official state tree in 1947.