Flag of Milwaukee

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Flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Adopted 1954
Designed by Fred Steffan

The official flag of Milwaukee was adopted in 1954.[1]


It displays symbols of Milwaukee on a medium blue background. In the center, a gear, representing industry, bears symbols of Milwaukee's identity and history. An Indian head, resembling the Milwaukee Braves logo at the time,[1] represents Native American origins. A flag with two stars, said to be a Civil War-era flag,[citation needed], may also represent a service flag.[2] A lamp symbol in the upper right was once associated with the Milwaukee City Library.[1] Below this is Milwaukee City Hall, representing government, which is flanked by abstract outlines of a church, housing, a factory, the Milwaukee Arena, and the former County Stadium (demolished in 2001) along a straight shoreline with waves representing Lake Michigan. The golden barley stalk on the left represents Milwaukee's brewing history, and the red ship with water symbolizes Milwaukee's status as a port city, with the 1846 date of city incorporation from the merger with Byron Kilbourn's Kilbourntown and Solomon Juneau's Juneautown on the flag's right vertically.


The first attempt to introduce a civic flag came in an 1897 Milwaukee Journal contest. The winning entry included an oak branch with the motto "Steady Progress" over a cream-colored field.[3] The design was praised by then-mayor William C. Rauschenberger, who lost reelection shortly thereafter. The flag never came into use.[4]

In the 1950s, Milwaukee leaders discovered it was one of only four cities with a population over 500,000 without a flag, and so the city held a contest for flag designs. Former alderman Fred Steffan combined elements of some of the better entries to create the flag.[citation needed]

Efforts to redesign the flag have been initiated four times.[when?][clarification needed] The first three proposed redesigns were rejected.[5] As of June 2016, a fourth proposed candidate has been selected but not yet formally approved.[citation needed]

In 1975, a Milwaukee Public Museum employee won a citywide contest. Although the designer won the contest's prize of a $100 savings bond, his flag was not adopted.[6][7]

In 2001, the Milwaukee Arts Board of the Milwaukee Common Council held a contest to attract designs for a new flag. Over 105 designs were submitted, but none met with the approval of the board, and the old design was kept.[8] In a 2004 poll conducted by the North American Vexillological Association, the flag of Milwaukee was rated the fourth worst of all major cities in the United States.[9] The symbols on the flag were common tropes of industry, manufacturing, and agriculture during the mid-20th century.[citation needed]

The People's Flag of Milwaukee
"Sunrise Over the Lake" by Robert Lenz, winner of the 2016 People's Flag of Milwaukee design contest[10]

In 2015, in response to negative media coverage spurred by a 99% Invisible episode, Steve Kodis, a local graphic designer, partnered with Greater Together, an AIGA-affiliated non-profit, to launch a flag contest called "The People's Flag of Milwaukee".[5][11] The public submitted 1,006 entries, from which five finalists were chosen in 2016. In an online poll of over 6,000 people, a design called "Sunrise Over the Lake" received the highest rating of the five.[12] The flag's design is described as follows:

The rising sun over Lake Michigan symbolizes a new day. The light blue bars in its reflection represent the city's three rivers and three founding towns. Gold represents our brewing history and white symbolizes unity.[10]

As of August 2017, the city had yet to take up the question of adopting the 2016 design.[12]


  1. ^ a b c "Be Brave: City's Flag May Need Some Change". Milwaukee Journal. October 18, 1973. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Milwaukee, Wisconsin". Raven: A Journal of Vexillology. 9: 216–218. 2002. doi:10.5840/raven2002/20039/1089. ISSN 1071-0043. 
  3. ^ "Design for Civic Flag". Milwaukee Journal. January 10, 1898 – via Michaels, Chance (January 6, 2016). "Flying Milwaukee's Flag". Borchert Field. . 
  4. ^ Michaels, Chance (January 6, 2016). "Flying Milwaukee's Flag". Borchert Field. 
  5. ^ a b Moseley, Claire; Maternowski, Michelle (September 4, 2015). "Local Graphic Designer: Milwaukee Deserves a Great Flag. Period". Milwaukee: WUWM. 
  6. ^ Amy Rabideau Silvers (October 8, 2007). "Tishler had a designer's eye". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
  7. ^ McCormick, Tim (June 2, 2015). "Running It Up The Flagpole". Milwaukee Magazine. 
  8. ^ Held, Tom (December 19, 2001). "Banner Bore: Designs for new city flag fail to capture spirit of Milwaukee, arts board decides". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  9. ^ "2004 American City Flags Survey - Summary", North American Vexillological Association, 2004 Archived June 8, 2017, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ a b "The People's Flag of Milwaukee". milwaukeeflag.com. 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2016-10-09. 
  11. ^ "Overview". The People's Flag of Milwaukee. Retrieved 2016-05-28. 
  12. ^ a b "Milwaukee unveils new flag by Robert Lenz highlighting a unified future". JSOnline. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 

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