Flag of Chicago
|Adopted||Original, 1917; additional stars added, 1933 and 1939.|
|Design||Four red stars between two light blue horizontal bars on a white field|
|Designed by||Wallace Rice|
The municipal flag of Chicago consists of two blue horizontal stripes or bars on a field of white, each stripe one-sixth the height of the full flag, and placed slightly less than one-sixth of the way from the top and bottom. Between the two blue stripes are four red, six-pointed stars arranged in a horizontal row.
The flag, designed by Wallace Rice, was adopted in 1917 after Rice won the design competition for the flag. The three sections of the white field and the two stripes represent geographical features of the city, the stars symbolize historical events, and the points of the stars represent important virtues or concepts. The historic events are Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933–34.
In a review by the North American Vexillological Association of 150 American city flags, the Chicago city flag was ranked second best with a rating of 9.03 out of 10, behind only the flag of Washington, D.C.
The three white background areas of the flag represent, from top to bottom, the North, West and South sides of the city. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River. The bottom blue stripe represents the South Branch of the river and the "Great Canal", over the Chicago Portage. The lighter blue on the flag is variously called sky blue or pale blue; in a 1917 article of a speech by Rice, it was called "the color of water".
There are four red six-pointed stars on the center white stripe. Six-pointed stars are used because five-pointed stars represent sovereign states, and because the star as designed was not found on any other known flags as of 1917. From left to right:
- The first star represents Fort Dearborn. It was added to the flag in 1939. Its six points symbolize transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity.
- The second star stands for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and is original to the 1917 design of the flag. Its six points represent the virtues of religion, education, aesthetics, justice, beneficence, and civic pride.
- The third star symbolizes the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and is original to the 1917 design. Its six points stand for political entities Chicago has belonged to and the flags that have flown over the area: France, 1693; Great Britain, 1763; Virginia, 1778; the Northwest Territory, 1789; Indiana Territory, 1802; and Illinois (territory, 1809, and state, since 1818).
- The fourth star represents the Century of Progress Exposition (1933–1934), and was added in 1933. Its points refer to bragging rights: the United States' second largest city (became third largest in a 1990 census when passed by Los Angeles); 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 stars have been proposed, with varying degrees of seriousness. A fifth star could represent Chicago’s contribution to the nuclear age, an idea first suggested in a 1940s letter published by the Chicago Tribune and later championed by Mayor Daley in the 1960s. In the 1980s, a star was proposed in honor of Harold Washington, the first African-American mayor of Chicago. The 1992 Chicago Flood was suggested as an additional natural disaster deserving of a star, in line with the existing star for the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. Another fifth star was in the works from a group of Chicago real estate professionals to represent Chicago's entrepreneurial spirit in the early 1990s. When Chicago was bidding to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the Bid Committee proposed that a fifth star be added to the flag in commemoration, but the bid was won instead by Rio de Janeiro. Other sports-related suggestions include recognizing the Chicago Bulls’ dominance of the NBA in the 1990s and a proposal for a fifth star if the Chicago Cubs should ever win the World Series, which did not happen between 1908 and 2016.
In 1915, Mayor William Hale Thompson appointed a municipal flag commission, chaired by Alderman James A. Kearnes. Among the commission members were wealthy industrialist Charles Deering and impressionist painter Lawton S. Parker. Parker asked lecturer and poet Wallace Rice to develop the rules for an open public competition for the best flag design. Over a thousand entries were received. In the end, the commission chose the design by Wallace Rice himself. On April 4, 1917, the commission's recommendation was accepted by the city council.
- "2004 American City Flags Survey", North American Vexillological Association press release, 2 October 2004
- "Chicago Facts: Municipal Flag". Chicago Public Library. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
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- "Association Sounds Chicago's Call . . .". Chicago Commerce. Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry. December 6, 1917. p. 6.
- Chicago's flag: The history of every star and every stripe, Chicago Tribune, 13 June, 2016
- Rice, Wallace; T. E. Whalen (22 July 2005). "Wallace Rice on Chicago Stars". introvert.net. Chicago. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
- Heise, Kenan (August 15, 1976). "It's a grand old flag. But it could be grander.". Chicago Tribune Magazine. p. 34. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- Whalen, T.E. (January 3, 2006), The Municipal Flag of Chicago: References (PDF), p. 8
- Konkol, Mark (June 30, 2015). "The Story of the Rare 5-Star Chicago Flag That Wasn't Supposed To Exist". My Chicago. Chicago: DNAinfo. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- "Please, A Moratorium On Memorials". Chicago Tribune. 23 December 1987. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
Ald. Raymond Figueroa and others want a fifth star added to the city`s flag in memory of Mr. Washington.
- Chicago 2016 Newswire (December 14, 2006), "Chicago Students Creatively Try to Bring Home the Bid", NEWS, Chicago 2016 Committee, City of Chicago, U.S. Bid City, 2016 Olympic Games, archived from the original on February 10, 2007, retrieved April 14, 2017
- Rumore, Kori; Marx, Ryan (June 13, 2016). "Chicago's flag: The history of every star and every stripe". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- "Art and Architecture: How the Chicago Municipal Flag Came to be Chosen", Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1921, p. 21.
- "City Gets New Flag Today with Third Star for 1933 Fair", Chicago Daily Tribune, October 9, 1933, p. 7.
- "Fort Dearborn Gets a Star on Chicago's Flag", Chicago Daily Tribune, December 22, 1939. p. 18.