What Makes Texas “Texas”? • Official State Emblems

OFFICIALLY TEXAN

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few of our favorite “Texas Official State…” emblems and activities. And one we love especially because it is close to home. 

Lone Star Flag

The Lone Star Flag was originally designed by Texas Constitutional Convention delegate Dr. Charles Bellinger Stewart. It was adopted by the Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1839 and is one of only two state flags (Hawaii being the other) to have been a national emblem at one time. 

Austin artist Peter Krag was paid a fee of $10 (about $200 in current dollars) to make an architectural rendering of Stewart’s original freehand flag design. 

By law, the exact shades of red, white, and blue are specified by Texas statute to be the same as those of the flag of the United States; they stand for courage (red), purity and liberty (white), and loyalty (blue). The code says the single star “represents ALL of Texas and stands for our unity as one for God, State, and Country.”

It is the only state flag, allowed by statute, to fly at a height equal to the American flag, and Texas is one of 17 states that have a state flag pledge of allegiance. When hung vertically, the white stripe should be on the left. 

Sport: Rodeo

Spanish for “round-up”—the Texas rodeo actually has its roots in a Spanish culture that began in the 16th century, with the arrival of cattle. As the cattle industry flourished, Mexican vaqueros and their successors, the American cowboys, staged competitions to test their riding and roping skills. With the fencing of the open range in the late 1880s, the cattle industry got to be confining for the range cowboy. So, when towns and communities sprang up, social occasions, especially 4th of July, gave cowboys a chance to challenge the bronc riding and roping skills of cowboys from other ranches. Soon, local contests became annual events, and Wild West shows, like those of “Buffalo Bill” Cody, popularized the sport around the country, and even a handful as far as Europe. Rodeo became a formally organized sport in 1936 and, for a time, was one of the few sports in which men and women competed against each other. Many Texas cowboys and cowgirls remain dominant forces in the sport today.

Dish: Chili Con Carne

Chili con carne (chili with meat) was a trail stew that cowboys made with dried beef and dried chilies. Today, chili con carne is usually made with fresh chuck roast or ground beef with a mix of chilies. Recipes are often family traditions and closely guarded secrets. The chili may be served with garnishes such as cilantro, green onions, or cheese, along with warm tortillas. Chili con carne was designated the state dish in 1977. Today, chili cook-offs are a state pastime. Debates rage about the most authentic way to prepare Texas chili con carne, but one rule is absolute—no beans.

And speaking of chili…

Vehicle: Chuckwagon

The chuckwagon was proclaimed the official state vehicle in 2005 for its utility among cattle ranchers in the 19th century, carrying equipment, the ranchers themselves, and even food. Another salute to the legacy that ranchers and cattlemen bestowed upon Texas prosperity. 

Dessert: Pecan Pie

This state emblem came to be in 2013, when a 1st grade class at Ford Elementary in Georgetown was doing research on Texas symbols. The students felt, since the state tree is Pecan, and the state nut is Pecan, the state dessert should be a Pecan Pie. Marsha Farney, who was a newly-elected State Representative, says, “They did their background research and presented their evidence to me and Senator Charles Schwertner. They wanted to pursue the idea and see if they could make legislation happen.” The two lawmakers jumped at the chance to help, and when the children, teachers, and parents testified to the committee, every member was given a pecan pie of their own for research

“The best part,” Marsha adds, “The kids were able to see, and realize they could affect change, even as first-graders. It was an honor to show them what they could accomplish with hard work and legislators who are committed to being responsive to their constituency.” 

“Of all the Lone Star State’s unique culinary dishes, perhaps none say ‘Texas’ more sweetly than pecan pie.” —State House Concurrent Resolution 53 and state Senate Concurrent Resolution 12.

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