Chicago flag


My uniform patch of the Chicago flag

Everyone recognizes the Chicago flag, but not all Chicagoans know what our beautiful Chicago flag represents. Once I was eating lunch with my friend Mike when some tourists from France saw the patch of the Chicago flag on our uniforms. They wanted to know what the symbols on the flag meant. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what the three white stripes represented back then. Mike explained all the symbols to the French tourists, much to their satisfaction. They were genuinely impressed that they had finally met a Chicagoan who actually knew what the Chicago flag represented. The French tourists left the restaurant and Mike and I continued eating lunch. When we asked for the check, the waitress told us that the French tourists had paid for our meal. Talk about the value of a little knowledge!

So, the three white stripes represent the three sides of Chicago: south side, north side, and west side. Notably, there is no east side of Chicago. That’s Lake Michigan! The two blue stripes represent the two bodies that help define Chicago: the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. However, I have also heard that the two blue stripes represent the two branches of the Chicago River. Don’t you just hate when there are two competing explanations? Each red star represents an important historical event of Chicago history: the 1812 Fort Dearborn Massacre, the 1871 Chicago Fire, the 1893 World’s Fair, and the 1933 World’s Fair.

In our era of politically correctness, the Fort Dearborn Massacre has been renamed The Battle of Fort Dearborn. It’s only a matter of time before this “encounter” gets softened even more. What’s next? The Fort Dearborn Cultural Exchange?

Now that you know the meaning of the Chicago flag, help share your knowledge of the city of Chicago and the Chicago flag to any tourist–whether from a foreign country or another state of the USA–who visits.

David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.
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