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Should Chicago Add A 5th Star To Its Iconic Flag?

By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 3, 2017 5:43PM

Flickr / Kevin Corazza

It's the city's most vexing vexillological question: to add a star or not to add?

Few cities love their local flag like Chicagoans. In other parts of the country, city flags are a marker of officialdom—if you see one, chances are you're at a government building. In Chicago, the flag—which celebrates its 100th birthday on Tuesday—is an emblem of civic pride, tattooed on skin, slathered across Chrome bags, stamped on a pint glass at the corner bar.

Perhaps because it's so uniquely front of mind, the debate whether to add a fifth star rears its controversial head from time to time. The four stars, as you likely know, represent four watershed moments in Chicago history: Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the Century of Progress Exposition. So any potential addition would have to represent a certified Big Deal—or perhaps a very cheeky oppositional counterweight. (Before you dismiss a tinkering out of hand, note that the original flag had only two stars, until the 1930s.)

So on the occasion of its centennial, lets consider what—if anything—would merit a new addition. Past fifth-star designation proposals have included noble ideas, like one in honor of the late mayor Harold Washington, and dumb-as-a-suitcase-full-of-rocks ones like, had they been set in Chicago, the 2016 Olympic Games. Considering that spectrum, here's a few options we wouldn't be surprised to see:

- The Chicago Spire Pit
- Hot Doug's
- The Cubs' World Series win
- A (post-dated) Bears Super Bowl win
- Dibs
- Oprah closes Harpo
- Trump run out of Chicago

OK, OK, jokes aside, there have been some major Chicago-related events in the last several decades that arguably merit real consideration. Or older historical moments that continue to loom in the local consciousness. Or perhaps we can expand the conversation beyond isolated moments to encompass definitional attributes.

- Inauguration of Barack Obama
- The Great Migration and post-War immigration
- 1968 Democratic National Convention
- The Chicago Labor Movement
- The Department of Justice Report
- Arthur Vazquez leads Howell House
- The completion of (then) Sears Tower
- Gwendolyn Brooks' Pulitzer Prize win
- An arts & culture umbrella (architecture, music, theatre, et al.)

It's pretty tempting to say don't mess with symmetrical perfection. Indeed, Chicago's flag was once chosen as the second best of 150 American city flags by the North American Vexillological Association (behind only Washington, D.C.), so the adoration is far from mere homer-ism. But when you consider just how much of Chicago's outsize legacy doesn't presently fall within between its iconic bars, its a discussion worth having.

So, would you support a fifth star? If so, in representation of what? Share your thoughts in the comments or at