Why is There a Texas Flag in Front of City Hall?

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The flags in front of San Francisco City Hall. (David Sawyer/Flickr)

You might be puzzled about a few of the 18 flags that fly at Civic Center Plaza in front of San Francisco City Hall. (Or you might have just learned there are 18 flags flying in front of City Hall and find that puzzling too.)

For example, the Texas flag is the only other state flag besides California's that flies there, leading some people to wonder: Why Texas?

We reached out to San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to find out and they shared some interesting history.

In the 1960s, a man named Stanley Bergman approached the city with the idea to display flags that represented key moments in United States history. Bergman belonged to the Sertoma Club, a service organization that focuses on hearing health and hearing assistance, but also promotes democracy and community in their local chapters. At a time when patriotic fervor was high, Bergman and the Sertoma Club led a group of 19 organizations who went about deciding which flags should be included in this historical curation.

But some of the choices they made were controversial. In 1965, Bergman himself wrote, "The inclusion of those temporary banners proclaiming the Republic of Texas and the Republic of California, for instance, was questioned. Because both of those flags came into being as an integral part of our dynamic westward expansion, a significant part of our heritage, the Committee voted to retain them."

So the Texas flag flying outside of San Francisco City Hall actually represents the ten-year period when Texas was an independent republic, before it was added to the Union as the 28th state. They just happened to keep the same flag into statehood — the blue, white and red block pattern with a lone star. The republic flag and the state flag are indistinguishable.

The Republic of California flag, on the other hand, looks a little different than today’s state flag — a smaller bear that quite honestly could be mistaken for a javelina. (We're happy to see they upgraded to the grizzly we know today.)

These are some of the flags displayed in front of City Hall:

Do you know what they are? Find out if you're right and read more about all 18 flags in this info sheet from the Recreation and Parks Dept.

All the chosen historically significant flags were raised on Flag Day in 1964. These include the famous yellow snake above the words "Don’t Tread on Me" that became the Navy’s first official flag; Betsy Ross' ring of the thirteen stars; and a pine tree with the words "An Appeal To Heaven" that flew on some of the war ships during the American Revolution.

But one original flag does not remain. A Confederate flag was removed after civil rights leaders protested, calling the flag "the badge of slavery," according to a 1964 article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Next time you're walking through Civic Center Plaza, you can stop at each flag pole to read the plaque beneath it that explains the flag's significance — and maybe explain to confused onlookers why the Texas flag is included.