Tower shines light on flag’s history

It’s one of the tallest torches in the nation, it’s brand new, and it’s in Mooresville.

Of the more than 900 Indiana Bicentennial Legacy projects underway, one of the most impressive is already in place. Maybe you have seen it as you have driven Highway 67 in Mooresville. At the intersection with Indiana Street stands a majestic 60-foot tall obelisk of Indiana limestone. On top is a torch that towers nearly 10 feet.

What’s it all about?

Look closer. This new monument is all about the Indiana state flag. Impressive by day, it is splendid by night. Illuminated in blue and white lights, the monument stands tall as an impressive beacon to travelers.

There are also two new gateway markers at the north and south ends of town on Highway 67. Each of these is red brick and limestone and supports a 25-foot lighted torch.

Mooresville is especially proud of the Indiana State Flag. After all, its designer, artist Paul Hadley, lived in the Morgan County town. He crafted the flag in 1916.

There is some good Hoosier déjà vu going on here. Mooresville’s new monument celebrates the state flag on Indiana’s 200th birthday, and the flag itself was a product of the state’s 100th birthday.

Indiana was a little late in adopting a state banner. About a century late, actually. That was obvious to civic leader Mary Stewart Carey when she attended the annual convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1915. The event, conducted in Washington, D. C., included a hall filled with the flags of all the 48 states. States without flags were represented by empty spaces.

Mrs. Carey noted the gap for Indiana. When she returned to Indianapolis she got busy with a project to fill the void. She encouraged the local chapter of the DAR to sponsor a contest to design a state flag. Many entries were received, but the top prize of $100 went to Paul Hadley, a native of Mooresville and a teacher in Indianapolis at the John Herron School of Art. According to reports, Hadley’s impressive design won hands down.

Hadley had called upon his students to help with the project. What they produced was a golden torch on a dark blue background with two rings of gold stars. Hadley explained that the outside ring of 13 stars represents the original colonies of the United States. The inside ring of five stars stands for the states which entered the union before Indiana (Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Louisiana.) Indiana, the 19th state, is represented by a slightly larger star just above the torch. Many agree that this beautiful flag, festooned with the 19 stars in gold and blue, stands out when displayed with the flags of the other 49 states.

In an interview, Hadley said that the idea of the torch came from the one at the top of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis. The torch, he said, represents liberty and enlightenment. Lines radiate from the torch as if transmitting these values to the other states represented.

The Indiana legislature took a hand in the design when the members officially adopted the flag in 1917. They suggested that the word “Indiana” be added just above the star for the Hoosier State. And that’s the flag we fly today, nearly a century later.

All Hoosiers can be proud of their state, but the folks in Mooresville take special pride in their role as the home of the state flag. The magnificent new monument and gateway markers will proclaim that pride far into the state’s third century.