When he first moved to Maryland, graphic designer and activist Benjamin Jancewicz was amazed by the ubiquity of the state flag. Marylanders showed their love for their home state with black, gold, red and white koozies, clothes and even tattoos.
"I know a lot of people with Maryland flag tattoos," he said.
Jancewicz, 34, became interested in learning more about the origins of the distinctive emblem.
He soon discovered through some research that the flag is, in his words, "half confederate."
"I was completely surprised," he said. "I think if people really really knew the ties to the Confederacy, I don't think it would be as popular."
So, here's the history: During Colonial rule, the black and gold pattern of the Calvert family coat of arms was an unofficial state symbol for Maryland. It came back in the second half of the 19th century.
Following Abraham Lincoln's election in 1861, pro-Confederacy Marylanders adopted the red and white Crossland arms — taken from the maternal side of the Calvert family — as a symbol of resistance to the Union. According to the website of the Maryland Secretary of State, "red and white 'secession colors' appeared on everything from yarn stockings and cravats to children's clothing."
The wearing of red and white clothing was so closely associated with Confederate sympathies that it was actually banned in Baltimore during the war, said Francis O'Neill, reference librarian at the Maryland Historical Society.
Despite the Confederacy's ultimate defeat in the war, the Confederate Crossland arms found its way onto the state flag after the war's end.
However, the Maryland Historical Society states that the design combining the Calvert and Crossland families actually predates the Civil War by two centuries.
"Whether or not the Confederacy adopted the symbol for their cause has nothing to do with the design's original intent," Maryland Historical Society's President and CEO Mark Letzer wrote in a statement.
According to O'Neill, the effort to adopt the flag was probably led by Confederate veterans in Maryland, who were much more active than Union veterans in Maryland since they lacked funding and official representation. (Incidentally, Confederate lobbying also led to the establishment of jousting as the state sport.)
"It is true that the guys who are the most enthusiastic about 'let's adopt a state flag' tend to be the Confederate ones," he said.