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What Does the Design of the Chicago Flag Represent?

Chicago flag

Chicago is one of the most popular and populated cities in the U.S.  It has one of the most recognizable skylines in the world dominated by the Willis Tower (still called the Sears Tower by locals) and is home to many landmarks and attractions that draw visitors from all over the globe.

About the City of Chicago

Chicago is also a city of historical significance as industry within the city helped develop the western U.S. in the 19th century, and it is a major cultural center as many artists, writers, actors, and musicians have hailed from Chicago.  Many prominent businesses were started in Chicago, including Sears and Marshall Fields (now Macy’s), and many businesses still operate out of Chicago and the surrounding areas including Boeing, Walgreen’s, United Airlines, and more.

This Chicago Flag

When one thinks of Chicago, several visuals may come to mind, including the Sears Tower, the Lakefront, Navy Pier, and the Bean.  One symbol of Chicago that is recognizable across the U.S. is the city flag.

The Chicago flag has a simple design with 3 white stripes, 2 sky blue stripes, and 4 red 6-pointed stars and different representations of this design can be found all throughout the city.  The flag is flown in homes, outside of businesses and government buildings, and at public parks.  It can also be seen in graffiti art and some Chicago residents even incorporate the design into their tattoos as a display of city pride.

The Chicago flag is easily one of the most recognizable city flags in the U.S. and each symbol on the flag represents something about the Windy City.  In this guide, we will cover the history and meaning behind the design of the Chicago flag.  If you own or manage a business and are interested in moving your operation to Chicago, our commercial movers at Chicago Office Movers can help with every aspect of your business relocation.

History of the Chicago Flag

The history of the Chicago flag starts in 1915 when then Mayor of Chicago William Hale Thompson created a municipal flag commission.  This commission was asked to hold an open public competition in which people submitted their design for a Chicago flag.  The winning design was submitted by a man named Wallace Rice and his design was adopted as the city’s flag in 1917.

At its inception in 1917, the Chicago flag had the design that is familiar to us today, but with only two stars.  In 1933, the third star was added and in 1939, the fourth star was added.  The design of the Chicago flag has remained unchanged since the addition of the fourth star.

Chicago Flag Design

Every element of the Chicago flag symbolizes something in relation to the city.  To put it generally, the white and blue stripes represent the city in a geographical sense, the stars represent historical events, and each point of the star represents concepts and virtues related to the historical events.

Bars

The bars on the Chicago flag consist of three white bars at the top, bottom, and middle of the flag, separated by two sky blue bars.  Each of these bars represent the following geographical aspects of the city:

  • Top white bar: The North Side of Chicago
  • Top blue bar: Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River
  • Middle white bar: The West Side of Chicago
  • Bottom blue bar: The Great Canal and South Branch of the Chicago River
  • Bottom white bar: The South Side of Chicago

Chicago was established on the shore of Lake Michigan in the early 1800s because the Lake, Chicago River, and the Great Canal that connects the Chicago River to the Des Plaines River made it easy to import and export goods by water.  Because of this, Chicago’s downtown area developed on the shore of Lake Michigan and the city could only spread north, west, and south, creating the main geographical regions of the city known as the North Side, West Side, and South Side.

Stars

The four stars of the Chicago flag represent important historical events that occurred in the first 100 years of the city’s history.  Each of the 6 points of these stars also symbolize virtues, concepts, and accomplishments related to the historical events.

  • The Great Chicago Fire: The first star which was featured on the flag’s original design stands for the Great Chicago Fire that occurred in 1871. The Great Fire occurred when most of the city’s buildings were made from wood and it burnt much of the city to the ground.  Chicago’s subsequent recovery and literal rise from the ashes showed the resiliency and city pride of its residents.  The six points of this star represent transportation, heath, population, finance, commerce, and labor.
  • World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893: The second star from the original 1917 design represents the World’s Columbian Exposition which was held in Chicago in 1893. The exposition was held in Jackson Park in a temporary fairground known as the White City.  It drew over 27 million visitors from around the world between May and October of 1893 and this event had a profound effect on Chicago’s arts, architecture, and self-image.  The six points of this star represent religion, civic sport, beneficence, justice, aesthetics, and education.
  • Century of Progress International Exposition: This third star which was added to the flag in 1933 represents the Century of Progress International Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, which was held from May 27, 1933 through October 31, 1934. This fair was held as a celebration of the city’s centennial and the theme was technological innovation.  It was also a celebration of Chicago’s rise to become the second largest city in the U.S. (now third largest behind New York and Los Angeles).  The six points of this star stand for world’s third largest city, convention city, wonder city, great central market, the “I will” motto, and the city motto urbs in horto (city in a garden).
  • Fort Dearborn: The final star added to the flag in 1939 represents the founding of Fort Dearborn in 1803. Fort Dearborn was built along the Chicago River before the formal establishment of the city, and it was reconstructed in 1816 after being destroyed in the Battle of Fort Dearborn in the War of 1812.  While European and American settlers had already reached and settled in the area that became Chicago, the opening of Fort Dearborn resulted in a permanent small settlement being developed in the surrounding area which grew to become Chicago.  The six points of this star represent every political entity that Chicago once belonged to including France 1693, England 1693-1763, Virginia 1763-1778, Northwest Territory 1798, Indiana Territory 1798-1802, and Illinois statehood 1818.

The Chicago city flag remains one of the most popular and recognizable city flags in the U.S. and has been named the second-best flag in multiple surveys, coming in second to the Washington, D.C. city flag.

There have been proposals for adding a fifth star to represent various people and events including the city’s first African American mayor Harold Washington, the founding of the Special Olympics, and even the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s and Cubs 2016 World Series.  However, it is expected that the city will stick with the current iconic design.

Relocate Your Business to ChicagoChicago Office Movers Truck

Chicago is a great America city that is home to world renowned businesses and institutions and a proud populace.  There are many great reasons to move your business to Chicago, including access to a young and tech savvy workforce, access to the third largest market in the U.S., access to two international airports, and lower taxes than the east and west coast.  If you want to endear your business to the local workforce, customers, and clients, be sure to fly or display the Chicago city flag.

Chicago Office Movers is a professional commercial moving company that can help you move your business to the city of Chicago or the surrounding Chicago suburbs.  Our licensed, union commercial movers will help manage every aspect of your move to make your office relocation as seamless as possible.

You can reach us at 312-244-2246 (CHI-CAGO) for more information about our office relocation and commercial moving services.

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