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Chicago, Illinois (U.S.)

Cook County

Last modified: 2023-10-21 by rick wyatt
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Chicago 2:3 image(s) by permission of David B. Martucci
image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright.

See also:

Current Flag

Text and image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright. Image(s) from American City Flags by permission of David B. Martucci.


Chicago's flag has a white field with two blue horizontal stripes, each about one-sixth of the width of the hoist, and set slightly less than one-sixth of the way from the top and bottom. Between the two blue stripes are four bright red six-pointed stars, spaced evenly across the center horizontally.

Currently the points of the flag's stars are shortened and not as exaggerated as earlier versions. The shade of the blue color is not specified, but in practice tends to be a medium blue.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


The white stripes represent the North, West and South sides of the city. The two blue stripes symbolize Lake Michigan plus the North Branch of the Chicago River, and South Branch of the Chicago River plus the Great Canal. The symbolism of the stars is complex. Here is how it is described:

The First Red Star represents Fort Dearborn (added in 1939).
The Points of the First Red Stars signify:
  1. transportation
  2. labor
  3. commerce
  4. finance
  5. populousness
  6. salubrity
The Second Red Star represents the Chicago Fire of October 8-10, 1871.
The Points of the Second Red Star signify:
  1. religion
  2. education
  3. esthetics
  4. justice
  5. beneficence
  6. civic pride
The Third Red Star represents the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.
The Points of the Third Red Star signify history of the area:
  1. France 1693
  2. Great Britain 1763
  3. Virginia 1778
  4. Northwest Territory 1798
  5. Indian Territory 1802
  6. Illinois Statehood 1818
The Fourth Red Star represents the century of progress, and was added for the Exposition of 1933 (added in 1933).
The Points of the Fourth Red Star signify:
  1. Country's Third Largest City
  2. City's Latin Motto
  3. I Will Motto
  4. Great Central Market
  5. Wonder City
  6. Convention City
Jan Oskar Engene, 16 March 1996

The "Fort Dearborn" star was the last added to the flag in 1938, however when this was done, it was placed in chronological order so it is the star closest to the hoist. In my ongoing research, I discovered that the original ordinance designated the star as representing "The Fort Dearborn Massacre." But as there seem to be questions about the accuracy and interpretation of the accounts of that incident, the current information from the City of Chicago simply states that the star represents the fort itself.
David Breitenbach,, 19 June 2008

In 1939, the fourth star was added to the flag, together with the additional symbolism ascribed to the points of the stars. Although no mention was made of changes to the pennant or badge, in practice the fourth star would presumably be added to them as well. 
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


In 1915, Alderman James A. Kearns proposed to the city council that Chicago have a civic flag. The council agreed and established the Chicago Flag Commission, which held a contest and offered a prize for the winning design. This design [the two-star flag] was submitted on 28 March 1917 and adopted by the city council in the summer of 1917.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


The winner of the competition was Mr. Wallace Rice, an author and editor, who had been interested in flags since his boyhood. He worked on his design for approximately six weeks.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

More about the Flag

Probably because of the requirement that municipal buildings fly the city flag, Chicago's flag flies widely throughout the city on police stations, fire stations, libraries and schools, and no doubt is among the most recognized civic flags in the nation. It is certainly well known by the citizens of Chicago. When a police officer or firefighter dies, the Chicago flag drapes the casket. The flag's four-star motif has come to characterize the city, painted on its street signs, appearing on uniforms of police and firefighters, and even imprinted in concrete railings, sidewalks, and bridge abutments. 
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Text of the original meaning of the flag (1917)

Chicago image by Rob Raeside, 21 August 2014

Here is the short insert of the original Chicago city flag description and meaning of the original design from 1917 (Chicago Daily Tribune, March 29th, 1917, p.13)

Design for a Chicago Flag, to be emblematic of a robust municipal ideal, was submitted to the city council yesterday by the Chicago municipal flag commission, appointed by Mayor Thompson eighteen months ago. The commission describes the flag thus:

"Its uppermost stripe, of white, is eight inches broad; the second stripe, of blue, is nine inches; the central bar, of white, is eighteen inches, and the two lower stripes correspond with the uppermost two. Near the staff on the broad white stripe are two six pointed red stars, fourteen inches tall."

"Viewed locally, the two blue stripes symbolize the Chicago river with its two branches and the three white bars represent the three sides of the city. The red stars stand for the Chicago fire and the World's fair, two great influences on the city's history. The six points in the first star stand for transportation, trade, finance, industry, populousness, and healthfulness; those in the second for religion, education, aesthetics, beneficence, justice and civism [sic]."

"Considered nationally, the blue stripes stand for the mountain ranges which flank the plain of which Chicago is the center. The central white bar stands for this plain and the two outer white bars for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts."

The flag was designed by Wallace Rice, 2701 Best avenue."
Valentin Poposki, 23 September 2007

The Chicago flag of 1917-1939 had sharper pointed stars. While no special significance was then attributed to their points, Rice explained that the stars were given six points to avoid confusion with the five-pointed stars on the national flag. Possibly to reinforce this distinction, the first stars had long and rather sharp points; their form persisted for several decades.
Ben Cahoon, 21 August 2014

Chicago image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 21 March 2009

The original 2-star flag is illustrated on The Great Chicago Fire and Web of Memory page at
Valentin Poposki, 3 January 2009

The Chicago municipal code of 1922

Google Books published The Chicago municipal code of 1922. In this code is information regarding the city flag and other types of flags. About the city flag itself (having only two stars at the time), this is what the code has:

1017. The Chicago municipal flag. The Chicago municipal flag shall be white, with two blue bars, each taking up a sixth of its space, and set a little less than one-sixth of the way from the top and bottom of the flag, respectively. There shall be two bright red stars with sharp points, six in number, set side by side, close together, next the staff in the middle third of the surface of the flag.
1023 of the same code mentions the flag can have the ratios of 2x3 or 3x5.

The code also has the following types of flags:
1018. The municipal standard. The municipal standard shall be made of silk and fringed with gold composed of the same colors, hues and parts as provided for in section 1017.
1019. The municipal pennant. The municipal pennant shall be a long streamer showing the two stars on white at the staff, the fly being equally divided, blue and white. For the pennant, the ratios stated in 1023 of the code is either 2x15 or 2x20. There is no mention about the shape of the pennant other than a streamer.
Zachary Harden, 6 March 2011

The "a little less then one-sixth", I've taken as 1/6th again of the width of the bars. The stars I've drawn at the full 1/3rd of the flag's height. This slightly smaller off-set of the bars serves to separate the stars from the bars, and that same margin I used at at the other sides of the stars, though only once between them as they are close together. The sharp points I assumed to refer to the stars being lean. For the blue I used general blue, as there's no indication of a lighter shade at that time.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 22 March 2011


Chicago image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 22 March 2011


Chicago image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 22 March 2011

1933 Flag

Chicago image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 23 September 2023

In 1933, a city ordinance placed a third star on the flag for the Chicago world's fair, the Century of Progress International Exposition. The ordinance also directed that the municipal flag be displayed on all municipal buildings whenever the national flag was displayed, but subordinate to it. The flag was authorized to be pointed or notched when suspended vertically from windows or over a street, reflecting the fashion of the time. In the same ordinance, the council created a municipal pennant described as a long streamer showing the three stars on white at the staff, the fly being equally divided, blue and white, with proportions of 2:15 or 2:20, and a municipal badge, described as on a silver ground three red stars with sharp points, six in number, between two blue bars.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

1892 flag

Chicago image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 24 September 2023
based on image located by Valentin Poposki, 25 August 2020

I found a colored version of the drawing of the first Chicago flag of 1892.
Here is a video from YouTube:

And two links to documented story about the first Chicago flag 
Valentin Poposki, 25 August 2020

A red flag, apparently ~3:5 with a white "Y" shape throughout, lying horizontally with its base on the middle of the hoist and the two symmetrical arms reaching the tip and bottom edges of the flag.

The way I interpret the sketch, the three arms of the "Y" meet at equal angles of 120° each, and the whole device is set in such a way that at the fly there's a vertical area that’s fully red as wide as half the height of the flag.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 24 September 2023


[City Seal] located by Paul Bassinson, 10 July 2019

Image obtained from
Paul Bassinson, 10 July 2019


Chicago flag centenary

The flag of Chicago turned 100 on 4 April 2017. Two websites carry details about the flag:
- (with John Hartvigsen)
Vexinews, 8 April 2017

Chicago Fire Department

Chicago Fire Department flag image by Randy Young, 23 April 2015
based on a photo located by Ned Smith, 26 June 2005, source:

I found full-frame photos of the Department's flag. The graphic is made according to the design elements visible in several photographs.
Randy Young, 23 April 2015

Archdiocese of Chicago

Chicago Fire Department flag image located by Daniel Rentería, 28 August 2022

In an image found in an article published by the Daily Herald is the flag of the Archdiocese of Chicago. A flag was found in the article, which I have used to adapt a drawing of the flag from Wikimedia Commons.
Daniel Rentería, 28 August 2022

Chicago 2000

Chicago Welcomes 2000 flag image by Steve Stringfellow, 23 December 1999

This flag is being used by the City of Chicago, Bureau of Tourism, to welcome visitors to Chicago, especially for the year 2000 celebration. The mayor of this city, Richard M. Daley, has invited regular everyday people from all over the world to dinner New Year's Eve in Chicago.
Steve Stringfellow, 23 December 1999

Chicago World's Fair 1893

Chicago World's Fair 1893 image located by Katherine Janush

We have what we think is a flag from the 1893 World's Fair. It shows Christopher Columbus and the dates 1492-1892. It was purchased by my friend's father in 1906 or 1907, in New York, for $1.50. They had a few more things that they said were from the Columbian Exposition but most of those have been sold. We assume this was also from the Columbian Expo in Chicago.
Katherine Janush, 16 December 2006

See also: World Fairs

Chicago World's Fair 1933

Chicago World's Fair 1933 image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 3 December 2001

See also: World Fairs

Postcards at Ebay, showing the Chicago world fair of 1933-34 Avenue of Flags. Together they apparently show the avenue in both directions, with all of it lined with, you guessed it: Flags. They appear to be cut to hang straight from an angled staff, and it may be they also taper, but I'm not sure.

These three show a photograph towards the North, where Stars and Stripes fly at the North Entrance, with outside the Fair the Shedd Aquarium, opened a few years earlier: one, two, three. The flags are red with a yellow stripe along the "bottom".

This one shows a photograph towards the South. This was the view from the gates: An avenue filled with flags, leading to the Hall of Science: Here the flags are similar, but have a black separator line. I can't decide whether those were in the photograph or not.

The first three just mention 1933, but only as the centennial of 1833, the last also mentions just 1933 but has a 21 August 1934 stamp.
Another (no longer available) shows the avenue towards the North again. Here the flags are all red, slightly on the purplish side. This postcard explicitly says it shows Chicago's 1934 International Exposition. That would suggest that the flags differed between the years: 1933 with yellow stripe, 1934 without and maybe a bit more purplish.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 22 January 2016

Olympic Games Bids

For 1904, the Olympic Games were to be organised in the United States for the first time. In 1901, the Olympic Committee awarded these Games to Chicago, but eventually the Games were held in St. Louis.

For 1952, Chicago bid again to host the Olympics, but instead those were rewarded to Helsinki, who had been the appointed host for 1940 when the originally selected host, Tokyo, was no longer considered acceptable as host for the Olympics.

For 1956, Chicago bid again to host the Olympics, but instead those were rewarded to Melbourne, as the first Olympics mostly in the Southern Hemisphere.

For 2016, Chicago bid again to host the Olympics, but instead those were rewarded to Rio the Janeiro, as the first Olympics in South America.

Considering that even the intended hosts of the 1916 Olympics, Berlin, eventually got to organise the Games of a later Olympiad, it would appear that Chicago is not the first city awarded the Games of the Olympiad that didn't get to host them, but also the only host city appointed by the IOC that still hasn't been allowed to organise the Games of the Olympiad at all.

It's likely none of the earlier bids had a Chicago bid flag: They do understand about flag for events in Chicago, as can be seen from the 1893 and 1933/34 World's Fairs but those were for actual events, rather than just for bids. However, the 2016 bid definitely did have one; it likely even had more than one. For a while, I was unable to find the first design, but for some reason, I now can easily find it. So far, though, I haven't found a flag to show it.

Chicago Olympic bid 2016 image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 March 2019

In 2006, Chicago revealed a bid logo for its Olympic effort: It was a plain white flag (~3:5) with the bid campaign logo on it. At that time, the logo was a gradient-coloured Olympic torch where the flame on closer observation turns out to show the Chicago skyline. While this was before the city was an applicant, one would assume flags must have existed to indicate the efforts of the organisation. on

Chicago Olympic bid 2016 image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 March 2019

On 7 February 2007, the IOC decided that Olympic symbols could only be used by candidate cities and host cities. Probably because Chicago wasn't as yet an applicant city, their flag bearing an Olympic Torch wasn't grandfathered in. Unfortunately, the IOC only told Chicago about this rule change at the start of the bidding process, at 16 May 2007. A new logo would have to be designed to continue the process.

On 14 September 2007, Chicago became an official applicant city. Five days later, on 19 September 2007, the new flag was revealed, showing the new logo and the bid's new status. The difference between this one and the first was that the new logo now had the gradient-colours around the main charge, with the main charge being a white lean star; the same type of star as on the Chicago city flag. The status was apparently indicated as "Candidate City" (in all-caps), even though in IOC parlance they were an "Applicant City". At least, the two versions of this design - after all, it was never a mere bid flag with this design - differ in whether they include the Olympic Rings, making the main logo smaller.

Chicago Olympic bid 2016 image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 17 January 2009

On 4 June 2008, Chicago became a Candidate City, and was therefore allowed to use the Olympic Rings. Their flag was changed accordingly.

On 2 October 2009, the IOC decided Chicago would remain a host city without games to host.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 March 2019

At, we can see the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid flag, hoisted along with national, state, and city flags. It is a plain white flag (~3:5) with the bid campaign logo on it.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 17 January 2009

Chicago Cubs baseball

The Chicago Cubs winning the baseball World Series brings their interesting flag custom to light. A flag with a blue W on a white field is flown from Wrigley Field to signify a Win by the team, while an L flag signifies a loss. Chicago Cubs fans are flying their W flags all over the world. A Google search will bring up lots of pictures. While the flag itself is Not Of Vexillological Interest, I find it interesting that there's no way to connect the flag to the team unless you know the Wrigley Field tradition - a very odd thing for a sports team-related flag. The only other sports team flag that comes close to that (that I know of) is Michigan State University, which uses a white S on a green field. The S is for either State or Spartans, but either way, without having all 3 letters: MSU, it's less obvious than most. But W for Chicago? You really had to be an insider to know that one, until now!
Terence Martin, 5 November 2016