Today marks the 100th anniversary of Chicago’s famous city flag. With its distinct light blue and white stripes and red six-point stars, the flag is commonly found throughout the city. Designed by vexillographer Wallace Rice and adopted by the city council in 1917, municipal flag of Chicago is a simple yet striking symbol beloved by Chicagoans throughout the years.
Chicagoans aren’t the only ones who find the flag to be aesthetically pleasing. In 2004, the North American Vexillogical Association ranked it as the second best municipal flag in the United States (with Washington D.C.’s flag taking the top spot). But there’s a lot of symbolism behind the flag. The white stripes represent the North, West, and South sides of the city, the blue stripes symbolize Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, and the red stars represent important places and events in Chicago history: Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the World's Columbian Exposition, and the Century of Progress Exposition.
Symbols are important to Chicagoans, and the city’s municipal flag is no exception. The city also has its own municipal device, a Y-shaped symbol that is often found on older buildings. And our love for our symbols—particularly our flag—hasn’t gone unnoticed. In a story from 2010, the popular podcast 99% Invisible explores city flags and why Chicago’s is so important. Chicago’s flag is a symbol that brings people together and fosters camaraderie. The love goes so deep that many people have gotten the flag permanently inked onto their bodies.
So today, when you take a walk during your lunch break, keep a look out for the flag, and be sure to wish it a happy birthday.