Chicago’s flag is the best-known city flag in the entire United States. You can find it on t-shirts, tattoos, memorabilia, and a variety of other items from and representing Chicago. But why is this municipal flag so popular?
Many would say its a result of the flag’s brilliant design, symbolism, and passionate audience proud of their city. Let’s discover what makes Chicago’s flag so special by looking into its design and symbolism, and see how they’ve helped it inspire such passion and wide adoption.
The symbolism and design of Chicago’s flag both add to its appeal. Let’s find out what sets them apart.
There’s an ample amount of symbolism found in Chicago’s flag; you can tell that more thought went into it than other municipal flags. Perhaps that’s one of the things driving its popularity. The flag isn’t just well designed and recognizable, it also rewards those interested in learning what the flag means with a rich history.
The flag’s three white backgrounds stand for the north, west, and south sides of the city. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the north branch of the Chicago River, and the bottom blue stripe represents the south branch of the river and Chicago’s great canal.
This location-based symbolism holds special meaning to Chicago residents, who have integrated the flag into their identities. It’s easy for Chicagoans to identify with the locations represented by the flag.
The four red stars all stand for events and places important to Chicago’s history. From left to right, you’ll find a flag representing Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Century of Progress Exposition.
Furthermore, each point on the stars represent something important to the residents of Chicago.
- The points on the Fort Dearborn star represent transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity.
- The points on the Great Chicago Fire star represent the virtues of religion, education, aesthetics, justice, beneficence, and civic pride.
- Each of the points on the World’s Columbian Exposition star stand for a flag that has flown over the city: the flags of France, Great Britain, Virginia, The Northwest Territory, the Indiana Territory, and Illinois.
- Finally, the points on the fourth star represent Chicago’s status as the 2nd largest city, Chicago’s latin motto, Chicago’s “I will” motto, the Great Central Marketplace, Wonder City, and Convention City.
With all this symbolism packed into the flag, it’s easy to see how it can mean a lot to a lot of different people!
Perhaps the biggest element driving this flag’s wide adoption is its appealing design. The North American Vexillological Association awarded the design a 9.03 rating out of 10—good for second in the nation. The only municipal flag to receive a higher rating was the flag of Washington D.C., a simple, single-color flag based on the Washington family coat of arms.
Unlike many state and municipal flags that incorporate seals and detailed, intricate designs, the Chicago flag’s design is straightforward, recognizable, and versatile. Its simplicity makes it suitable for a wide variety of applications.
The design is also uniquely Chicagoan: at the time of its creation, the six-pointed stars could only be found on this flag—a testament to the flag’s designer's desire to create a new icon that was worthy of representing his city.
Patriot Wood’s Chicago wood flag is the perfect gift for the Chicagoan. If you or someone you know loves Chicago, help them show their passion with a wooden replica of this beautifully designed flag from Patriot Wood. Made by hand with care and high-quality materials, the Chicago wood flag is sure to inspire for years to come.