What do the symbols on New York's flag stand for?

June 14 is Flag Day, an annual celebration of the United States’ adoption of its official flag in 1777. It’s neither a national or state holiday – except in Pennsylvania and New York, which observes it on the second Sunday in June.

Everybody knows what the red, white and blue of Betsy Ross’ Old Glory stand for, but what about New York’s emblem? In honor of Flag Day, let’s take a closer look.

The seal depicts the Hudson River with three masted ships on it, symbolizing commerce, as well as three mountains in the backgrounds representing the highlands. The sun is rising behind the mountains, displaying a subtle message of hope.

Bald eagle:
A bald eagle, facing toward the right, symbolizing a good omen, sits on a globe on top of the seal, depicting the Western Hemisphere.

Two woman surround the seal: Liberty and Justice. Facing the flag on the left side, Liberty stands tall with a crown on her left foot, representing the failed attempts of the British monarchy to take over the United States. She is wearing a Phrygian cap, which was presented to Roman slaves at the official start of their emancipation. On the opposite side stands Justice, blindfolded, holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other to symbolize that every reward and punishment must be delivered with fairness.

One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s favorite words (and the name of his new scholarship offering free state college tuition), “Excelsior”  translates into the state’s motto: “Ever Upward.” The uplifting saying is meant to serve as a reminder that New York state is constantly moving forward – as represented by the confident undertones of the state’s shield.