The Chicago Flag: An Understanding

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Monday, January 28, 2013 - 10:38am

We see them at bars, restaurants, historical sites – some of us even hang them in our apartments for decoration. If you have spent any amount of time in the City of Chicago you can probably point out the Chicago flag. Iconic with its four red stars and two light blue horizontal lines, there is actually a reason for its design. Let me explain, and next time your at a house party you can dazzle the guests with your expert knowledge about the Chicago Flag!

The Blue Stripes:

The two Blue stripes represent famous Chicago waterways. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the North branch of the Chicago River while the bottom blue stripe represents the south branch of the river and the great canal.

The White Stripes (who knew right?)

Believe it or not the white areas on the Chicago flag are actually there for a reason! Each of the three white stripes represents a section of the city. The top white stripe represents the north side, the middle represents the west side and the bottom represents the south side. Now ya know!

The Red Stars:

The four red stars that are six pointed all represent an iconic moment in Chicago history. Starting from left to right they represent…

Star one: Fort Dearborn with the six points of the star representing transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity.

Star two: The great Chicago fire of 1871 with the six points of the star representing the virtues of religion, education, aesthetics, justice, beneficence, and civic pride

Star three: The world fair of 1893 with the six points of the star representing different political experiences Chicago has belonged to and the flags that have flown over the city: France 1693, Great Britain 1763, Virginia 1778, the Northwest Territory 1798, Indiana Territory 1802, and Illinois 1818.

Star four: The century of progress exposition with the six points of the star representing bragging rights - the United States' 2nd Largest City (at the time), Chicago's Latin Motto (Urbs in horto – City in a garden), Chicago's "I Will" Motto, the Great Central Marketplace, Wonder City, and Convention City.

Additional Notes:

A fifth star has been proposed numerous times in the past that include…

·      In the 1940’s when a letter was written to the Chicago Tribune about the city entering the nuclear age.

·      In honor of Harold Washington - Chicago’s first black mayor.

·      After the flood of 1992

·      If Chicago had won the 2016 Olympic bid…awkward.

Why six pointed stars?

Six-pointed stars are used because at the time the flag was made (1917) there were no other city flags that featured six pointed stars. Also, five pointed stars represent sovereign states.

Want to learn more about the Chicago flag and other Chicago History tid-bits? Check out the Chicago History Museum.


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Mark Lawrence
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