Alabama Symbols and Their Meanings (List)

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Alabama is a popular state, with beautiful landscapes and a rich history. It has stores of natural resources, including iron and steel, and is also known as the Rocket Capital of the world as it houses the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Here’s a tidbit – Alabama was the first to declare Christmas as a legal holiday and celebrate it back in 1836 thanks to which Christmas is now a day of fun and celebration.

Popularly known as the ‘Yellowhammer State’ or the ‘Heart of Dixie’, Alabama was the 22nd state to join the Union in 1819. The state played a significant role during the American Civil War and its capital, Montgomery, was the first of the Confederacy.

With its rich culture and history, Alabama has a grand total of 41 official state emblems, some of which we’ll be discussing in this article. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important symbols and their significance.

Alabama state symbols list

State Flag of Alabama

Adopted by the state legislature in 1894, the flag of Alabama features a diagonal cross known as the cross of St. Andrew defacing a white field. The red saltire represents the cross that St. Andrew was crucified on. Some believe that it was specially designed to resemble the blue cross seen on the Confederate Battle Flag since both are square instead of the regular rectangle. The legislation of Alabama doesn’t specify whether the flag should be rectangular or square but it does state that the bars should be at least 6 inches wide, or it won’t be approved for use.

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of Alabama, created in 1939, features a shield in the center, containing symbols of the five nations which have at some point held sovereignty over the state of Alabama. These symbols are the coats of arms of France, Spain and the U.K. with the battle flag of the Confederate States of America on the lower right.

The shield is supported by two bald eagles, one on either side, which are seen as symbols of courage. On the crest is the Baldine ship which sailed from France to settle a colony in 1699. Beneath the shield is the state motto: ‘Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere’ which means ‘We Dare Defend Our Rights’ in Latin.

Great Seal of Alabama

The Seal of Alabama is the official state seal used on official commissions and proclamations. Its basic design features a map of the rivers of Alabama nailed to a tree and was selected by William Bibb in 1817, the Governor during that time.

The seal was adopted as the Great Seal of the State by the Legislature of Alabama in 1819 and remained in use for 50 years. Later, a new one was made with three stars added in the edge on both sides and the words ‘Alabama Great Seal’ on it. It also featured an eagle perched in the center holding a banner in its beak with the words ‘Here We Rest’. However, this seal wasn’t popular so the original one was restored in 1939 and has been used ever since.

Conecuh Ridge Whiskey

Produced and marketed as ‘Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey’ by the Conecuh Ridge Distillery, Conecuh Ridge Whiskey is a high-quality spirit illegally produced in Alabama until the late 20th century. Later on, in 2004, it was designated the official state spirit of Alabama by the state legislature.

The history of the Conecuh Ridge Whiskey begins with a legendary Alabama bootlegger and moonshiner called Clyde May. Clyde managed to produce roughly 300 gallons of his delicious Conecuh Ridgewhiskey a week in Almeria, Alabama and it gradually became an incredibly popular and much-loved brand in many parts of the world.

Horseshoe Tournament

The Horseshoe Tournament is a popular event named as the official horseshoe tournament of the state of Alabama in 1992. ‘Horseshoes’ is a type of ‘lawn game’ played by either two people or two teams. Two people in each team has to use two throwing targets and four horseshoes. The players take turns tossing the horseshoes at the stakes in the ground which are typically placed about 40 feet apart. The goal is to get the stake through the horseshoes and the person to get them all in wins. The horseshoe tournament is still a big event in Alabama with hundreds of participants each year. 

Lane Cake

Lane cake (also known as Alabama Lane cake, or prize cake) is a bourbon-laced cake, which originated in in South America. Often mistaken for the Lady Baltimore cake, which is also fruit-filled and made with liquor, there are now several variations of the lane cake. It’s often enjoyed in the South at certain receptions, wedding showers or holiday dinners.

In the beginning, lane cake was said to be extremely difficult to make since it took a lot of mixing and accurate measuring to get it right. However, with the advancement of technology this is no longer the case. Made the official desert of the state of Alabama in 2016, Lane cake is now a symbol of Southern identity and culture.

Camellia Flower

Designated the state flower of Alabama in 1959, the Camellia replaced the original state flower: goldenrod which was previously adopted in 1972. The Camellia is native to Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China. It’s cultivated in the southeastern U.S. in many different colors and forms.

Camellias were many uses in the past since they were used to make tea oil and a beverage that was quite similar to tea. The tea oil was the main type of cooking oil for many people. Another benefit of Camellia oil was that it could be used to protect and clean the blades of certain cutting instruments.

Racking Horse

The Racking horse is a breed of horse recognized by the USDA in 1971 and derived from the Tennessee Walking Horse. Racking horses have naturally raised tails and are known for their distinctive single-foot gait. They stand at an average of 15.2 hands high and weigh around 1,000 pounds. Overall, they’re generally described as gracefully and attractively built with long necks, sloping shoulders and impressive muscles.

The origins of this horse breed date back to when America was being colonized. At the time,  racking horses were popular because of their versatility. They could easily and comfortably be ridden for hours on end and their calm, friendly disposition was also noted. In 1975, racking horses were adopted by the state of Alabama as the official state horse.

Alabama Quarter

The Alabama quarter (also called the Helen Keller quarter) is the 22nd in the 50 State Quarters Program and the second quarter of 2003. The coin features the image of Helen Keller with her name written both in English and braille, making this quarter the first circulating coin in the U.S. to feature braille. On the left side of the quarter is a long leaf pine branch and on the right side are some magnolias. Under the central image is a banner with the words ‘Spirit of Courage’ written on it.

The quarter is symbolic of celebrating the spirit of courage, by featuring Helen Keller, a highly courageous woman. On the obverse is the familiar image of the first president of the U.S., George Washington.

Northern Flicker

The northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a stunning little bird that belongs to the woodpecker family.  Native to most of North America and parts of Central America as well as the Cayman Islands and Cuba, this bird is one of the very few woodpecker species that migrates.

Unlike most other types of woodpeckers, northern flickers prefer to forage on the ground eating termites, ants, caterpillars, spiders, some other insects, nuts and seeds as well. While it doesn’t have the hammering ability that other woodpeckers do, it seeks out hollow or rotten trees, earthen banks or fence posts for nesting. In 1927, the northern flicker was named the official state bird of Alabama which is the only state that has a woodpecker as its state bird.

Christmas on the River Cookoff

Held annually in Demopolis, Alabama, the Christmas on the River Cookoff is a famous holiday celebration including several events that take place over a period of four days to a week.

The event, which started in 1989, is always held in December and now involves many participants from the other U.S. states. It includes three cooking competitions: the ribs, shoulders and the whole hog and the winner of these competitions is eligible to take part in the World Champions ‘the Memphis in May Barbeque Cooking Contest’.

In 1972, this event became the official state BBQ championship in Alabama. It has grown greatly since it first started and now attracts attendees from all over the world.

Black Bear

The black bear (Ursus americanus) is a highly intelligent, secretive and shy animal that’s quite difficult to see in the wild since it likes to keep to itself. Despite their name, black bears aren’t always black. In fact, they’re found in several colors including cinnamon, beige, white and blue, a slate gray color. They also vary in size, ranging anywhere from 130 to 500 pounds.

Black bears are omnivorous animals and will eat just about anything they can get their paws on. While they mostly prefer nuts, grasses, berries and roots, they will also eat small mammals and insects. They’re also excellent swimmers.

The black bear, a symbol of strength and power, was designated as the official mammal of the state of Alabama in 1996.  

Check out our related articles on other popular state symbols:

Symbols of Hawaii

Symbols of New York

Symbols of Texas

Symbols of California

Symbols of Florida

Symbols of New Jersey

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