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Five-Star Flag?

By Benjy Lipsman in Miscellaneous on Apr 10, 2007 3:14PM


Some of us are still recovering from last week's Four Questions, but our readers have an insatiable thirst for answers. One recently posed an interesting question to us concerning Chicago's Olympic bid and the city's flag.

As all Chicagoans no doubt know, the city's flag includes three white bars, two blue bars and four six-sided stars. The three white bars signify the North, West and South sides of the city, while the blue bars represent Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River, and the South Branch of the Chicago River and the Great Canal.

Each of the four stars represents a major event in the city's history: the Fort Dearborn Massacre, the Great Chicago Fire, the Columbian Exposition of 1893, and 1933's Century of Progress.

Additionally, each of the stars' six sides also symbolize something. The first represents virtues: religion, education, aesthetics, justice, beneficence, and civic pride. The second represents the flags that have flown over the area: France, Great Britain, Virginia, the Northwest Territory, Indiana Territory, and Illinois. The third, bragging rights: World's Third Largest City, Chicago's Latin Motto (Urbs in horto — City in a garden), Chicago's "I Will" Motto, Great Central Marketplace, Wonder City, and Convention City. The fourth: transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity. Yeah, we're not sure what salubrity is either....

2007_04_news_5star_chicago.jpgWith the possibility that Chicago might host the 2016 Olympics, the question was posed as to whether Chicago would add a fifth star to the flag to commemorate such an occasion? While we haven't had the time to hound City Hall yet to try for a definitive answer, we don't think we'd be going out on a limb to think that such an event would be at least on par with the Columbian Expo or the Century of Progress, thus deserving of its own star.

Twice before, the flag had seen its number of stars grow, so the city's flag is a living flag. When first unveiled in 1917, the city's flag included just two stars — the ones representing the Century of Progress and the Fort Dearborn Massacre were added in 1933 and 1939 respectively.

Would that forever alter the flag as we know it? The one ranked the second most popular flag, according to the North American Vexillological Association? Adding a fifth star wouldn't really change the overall design that we've all come to know and love any more than adding the last two stars to the Stars and Stripes for Hawaii and Alaska.

We would also have fun choosing what the six points on the newest star would represent. Since the star's already sports-related, we'd suggest: White Sox, Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears and ... well, how about Ditka?

Of most real consideration, however, would be the new flag's roll out. Countless flags across the city, from flagpoles, to police car decals, to letterhead and brochures would need to change. Would they do it all at once, or gradually? This would all be at taxpayers' expense, of course — but at what cost? And don't forget our friends at Gapers Block, who would need to update their logo, too!

Of course, all of this becomes moot if Chicago doesn't win the 2016 games anyway. When we're awarded the games, we promise to walk the corridors of City Hall until we find out just who is in charge of the flag.

Photo by Ursus Maritimus.