The flag of Chicago consists of two blue horizontal stripes or bars on a field of white, each stripe one-sixth the height of the full flag, and placed slightly less than one-sixth of the way from the top and bottom. Between the two blue stripes are four red, six-pointed stars arranged in a horizontal row.
The three white background areas of the flag represent, from top to bottom, the North, West, and South sides of the city. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River. The bottom blue stripe represents the South Branch of the river and the "Great Canal", over the Chicago Portage. The lighter blue on the flag is variously called sky blue or pale blue; in a 1917 article of a speech by Rice, it was called "the color of water".
'Kitty Kelly holding Flag of Chicago' from the Chicago Tribune, 1921. Note the two stars on the flag at the time.
There are four red six-pointed stars on the center white stripe. Six-pointed stars are used because five-pointed stars represent sovereign states, and because the star as designed was not found on any other known flags as of 1917. From left to right:
The first star represents and honors the lives lost at the Fort Dearborn Massacre, that occurred on August 15, 1812. It was added to the flag in 1939. Its six points symbolize transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity.
The second star stands for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and is original to the 1917 design of the flag. Its six points represent the virtues of religion, education, aesthetics, justice, beneficence, and civic pride.
The fourth star represents the Century of Progress Exposition (1933–34), and was added in 1933. Its points refer to bragging rights: the United States' second largest city (became third largest in a 1990 census when passed by Los Angeles); Chicago's Latin motto, Urbs in horto ("City in a garden"); Chicago's "I Will" motto; the Great Central Marketplace; Wonder City; and Convention City.
The four stars combined are referred to as two tragedies and two triumphs. Additional stars have been proposed, with varying degrees of seriousness. The following reasons have been suggested for possible additions of a fifth star:
Flag of Chicago (2015)
A fifth star could represent Chicago’s contribution to the nuclear age, an idea first suggested in a 1940s letter published by the Chicago Tribune and later championed by Mayor Daley in the 1960s.
The 1992 Chicago Flood was suggested as an additional natural disaster deserving of a star, in line with the existing star for the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. Another fifth star was in the works from a group of Chicago real estate professionals to represent Chicago's entrepreneurial spirit in the early 1990s.
Other sports-related suggestions include recognizing the Chicago Bulls’ dominance of the NBA in the 1990s and a proposal for a fifth star if the Chicago Cubs should ever win the World Series, which did not happen between their long drought of series wins in 1908, up to 2016.
Sketches for the flag from a contest from 1892
Twenty-three other icons that were commissioned representing different city departments that could be placed on the flag for that department.
In 1915, Mayor William Hale Thompson appointed a municipal flag commission, chaired by Alderman James A. Kearnes. Among the commission members were wealthy industrialist Charles Deering and impressionist painter Lawton S. Parker. Parker asked lecturer and poet Wallace Rice to develop the rules for an open public competition for the best flag design. Over a thousand entries were received.
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