2023 WHE Most Famous City Flags in the United States
Can you imagine a country or city without a flag? How would you feel if your favorite sport team was without a flag? Mostly designed on a cloth, flags are unique symbols which gives the country, city or institutions its unique identity. For a country, it signifies self-governance, pride and freedom. It also promotes unity and peace in the country. It is for this reason that they are considered as one of the most respected symbols of a nation.
We’re all familiar with the United States’ red, white, and blue colored-flag. But do you also know that all the cities in this great nation of ours have their own flags? Yes, every city in America has a unique symbol which promotes its culture and history. All the flags have a unique story behind them which makes it very difficult to choose the best out of them.
Based on other factors and surveys, World History Edu presents the most famous city flags in the United States:
Very few city flags in the United States can match the design of that of the city of Phoenix. Despite its simplicity, the flag portrays everything about the city, which is often described as the “Valley of the Sun”. Designed by the Smit Ghormley Sanft firm, the flag has a white-colored phoenix symbol on a maroon background. It was adopted in 1990.
Before it was adopted, the city used a flag designed by Frederick C. Green. Accepted in 1921, Green’s flag contained a gray-colored phoenix. Behind the bird was a golden sun with 48 points. It was abandoned in 1990, the same year the current one was adopted.
The flag was first seen at the swearing-in of Paul Johnson, the mayor of the city.
It was one of the flags featured on the cover of the 2003 book “American City Flags” which was published by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA).
It certainly will be a travesty of justice without making mention of the capital city, Washington, D.C. Being the seat of the federal government, Washington D.C.’s red and white colored flag is one of the well-known flags in the United States.
Adopted in 1938, the city’s flag consists of a couple of red horizontal bars on a white background. Atop the first bar are three five-pointed red stars. The stars, as many sources have disclosed, depicts the three government officials who once ruled the District. It was first used by the famous Washington family during the 13th Century.
One of the descendants of the family named George Washington, who would later become the first president of the our nation, used this symbol on his plantation and personal objects at his Mount Vernon base. Many sources have named American artist Charles A. R. Dunn as the original designer of the flag.
A search for a permanent flag for the District of Columbia (D.C.) began after the First World War. Dunn proposed the Washingtons’ flag but with blue stars instead of red. The Daughters of the American Revolution came up with a bill in 1924 which sought to create a District Flag Commission.
In 1938, the committee was set up by Congress to find a flag for the district. The group included Claude A. Swanson who served as the secretary of Navy. After analyzing a number of designs from the public, the committee came up with the Coat of Arm of the Washington Family as the district’s flag.
Did you know…?
- Although, initially criticized for the lack of representation in the District Flag Commission, the flag has since become widely by many residents of district today.
- A number of sports teams in the city including MLS’ D.C. United, and the Washington Wizards of the NBA have all featured the flag in their respective logos.
Adopted in 1917, the Chicago flag today comprises four six-pointed stars, with each representing a major event in the city’s rich history. For example, the second red star on the Chicago flag commemorates the sheer loss suffered during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. That star honors the close to 300 people that perished from the fire.
Unbeknownst to many people, the Chicago flag originally began with two red stars in 1917; one representing Fort Dearborn and the other representing the Great Fire of 1871. But then, in the 1930s, two more red stars were added to celebrate two very important events that took place in the city: The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933/34.
The flag of Chicago was designed by Canadian-born author Wallace Rice (1859-1939) of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1917. His original design had two red stars aligned to the left. Wallace hoped that by doing so room could be left for the addition of red stars in future in order to commemorate landmark events in the city. And the City Council did exactly that in the 1930s, when two red stars were added to the flag.
In 1963, Indianapolis adopted its current flag. At the center of the flag is a white star which has been fixed in a red circular field. The dark blue background has been divided into four quadrants with a white circle at the middle which contains the star. The four lines which divides the flag into four equal parts depicts intersection of the Washington and Meridian streets. This is line with the city’s slogan “Crossroads of America”.
The current flag was designed by a student of the John Herron Art Institute named Roger E. Gohl. Before settling on his design, the city adopted two different flags. The first one was designed by William Johnson and was used between 1911 and 1915. It was later changed to the Harry B. Dynes-designed flag before being replaced by the current one in 1963.
Since then, the flag has been used at a number of public and private events. United Soccer League team the Indy Eleven proudly portrays the features of the flag in its logo.
Aside from its cultural diversity, Cincinnati also prides herself with her neatly-designed civil flag. Shaped in a rectangular form, the flag has the letter “C” at the center. It is written in red and stands for the name of the city, which is often called the “Paris of America”.
On the left and right sides of the letter are three wavy blue parallel lines which depicts the famous Ohio River. A five-pointed buckeye leaves, also in red, is neatly placed on top of the letter. This represents the Ohio state in which the city is located.
Inside the red-colored alphabet is the city’s seal which bears the motto “Juncta Juvant”, a Latin phrase which means “together we assist” or “strength in unity” in English.
This unique symbol was designed by German immigrant Emil Rothengatter (1848–1939) who worked at Russell Morgan Lithographing Company as a foreman. This came after a design competition was held by then mayor of the city John A. Caldwell in the 1890s. Despite being popular in the city, the flag was officially adopted in 1940. It has since been used at every official event. This gorgeous flag might be the reason why the city is nicknamed “The Queen City of the West”.
Did you know…?
- Fans of Major League Soccer side FC Cincinnati started using the orange and blue version of the flag in 2016.
The combination of green, yellow and blue colors is one of the reasons why Portland’s flag is very popular in the United States. It has four blue lines from all the four sides. The lines form a hypocycloid at the middle. The blue stripes, according to research, shows the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The blue lines are bordered by a yellow line which meets to form an “L” shape. This color showcases the city’s commercial activities. The designs rest on a green background which shows the rich vegetation of the city, which is nicknamed “Rose City”.
Adopted in 2002, the current flag is the fourth used by the city. Douglas Lynch, a graphic designer from the United States, has been credited for coming up with this incredible piece of work.
Wichita’s flag depicts the difficulties that the city went through during the early stages of the 20th century. The city was highly affected by the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s, as well as the Second World War.
It is for this reason that the Cecil McAlister-designed flag, which was adopted in 1937, shows contentment, freedom, and happiness. It also assures the numerous Wichitas that they have a place that they can call a home.
The flag is made up of white and red rays which alternates from the center. This shows the fleeting road of freedom. At the center of the flag is a blue sun which portrays contentment and happiness. On the sun is a Zia symbol which shows the spirit of the city. It reassures its citizens that they have finally found a home in the city.
The idea of having a flag was conceived after the depression. Authorities of the city claimed that they needed something more visuals to motivate them. In 1937, a design contest was held in the city with the winner walking home with a cash prize of $40. McAlister, a local designer, won the contest.
Some interesting facts about the flag of Wichita
- Mary J. Harper, a local seamstress, has been credited for producing the city’s first flag.
- Mayor T. Walker Weaver commissioned the flag in 1937.
At number seven on WHE Most Famous U.S. City Flags of 2023 is another city from the east coast. We all know Boston for its numerous sports teams, but there’s more to the city than sports. Known as the “City of Champions”, Boston, which is by far the largest city in Massachusetts, has one of the most popular flags in the country. Its sky-blue background showcases the numerous waterbodies in the city.
At the middle of the “Continental blue” field is the city’s seal which contains the motto “Sicut Patribus Sit Deus Nobis” (which translates as “God be with us as He was with our fathers”). It was first used in 1913 to mark the Columbus Day. The city continued to use it for three years before it was formally adopted in 1917.
It might not be the best designed flag in the country, but its blend of colors makes it very heartwarming. It always gives some form of calmness whenever it is waved at public events.
St. Louis, Missouri
The flag of St. Louis is one of the numerous symbols to feature the fleur-de-lis (a special lily mostly used for decorating designs) symbol. Adopted in 1964, the flag was designed by Theodore Sizer, a professor at Yale University. It shows a red field with three wavy lines extending from the center right, left bottom corner, and left top corner. The lines appear in blue color with white borders at each side. It symbolizes the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The meeting place of the lines is the location of the fleur-de-lis which sits in a yellow circle. The circle symbolizes the Louisiana Purchase in which the United States acquired the Louisiana territory from the French government in 1803.
The flag succeeds two other ones which were used at different times between 1904 and 1964. Since its introduction, the current flag has been seen at many official events. It’s also hoisted in front of many public institutions in the city. Its eye-catching design earned it a spot on NAVA’s list of best designed flag in the United States. It was ranked at number five.
San Francisco, California
WHE’s list of Most Famous U.S. City Flags of 2023 won’t be complete without mentioning the flag of San Francisco, California. San Francisco is not only known for its famous Golden Gate Bridge, but also its unique well-designed flag. The flag portrays a phoenix which is believed to be rising from fire flames. This symbolizes the city’s recovery from a number of natural disasters including the infamous earthquake in 1906 which destroyed more than 80% of the city and killed over 3,000 people.
The phoenix appears on a white background. Below the flame is a ribbon with the inscription “Oro en paz. Fierro en guerra” meaning “Gold in Peace and Iron in War”. This perhaps explains the gold border lines at the edges of the flag. The motto is partly linked to the Spanish–American War.
It was designed by John M. Gamble, an American artist, and was adopted in 1940.
The Flag of Baltimore is highly influenced by the city’s rich history. It contains the iconic gold and black colors of the Calvert family who are believed to be the founders of the Maryland State. At the center of the flag is the famous Battle Monument. This historic symbol commemorates the city’s officials and soldiers who fought the British during the 1814 Battle of Baltimore.
The flag was adopted in 1915 as a replacement for the previous one which was designed in 1899. The current flag was designed by four indigenes named Hester Dorsey Richardson, Judge Henry Stockbridge, Wilbur F. Coyle, and Carroll Lucas.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts on the Importance of City Flags
City flags are important symbols of the communities they represent. They have a significant impact on the way people view and identify with their cities. A well-designed and meaningful flag can inspire civic pride and identity, while a poorly designed or forgettable flag can have the opposite effect.
The top 10 US city flags that stand out are excellent examples of successful flag design. Each flag has a unique design and symbolism that tells a compelling story about the city it represents. These flags are recognizable, memorable, and inspire civic pride. As we look to the future of city flag design, we can expect to see more successful flags that represent the unique heritage and identity of their communities.