It occurs to me that many of this journal’s regular readers are not from Chicago and do not live nearby. I want to share some local history about the design of the Chicago flag. These facts are well known to anyone who grew up here, so will apologize in advance to my Chicago readers. For the rest of you, though, I think this is cool stuff.
The flag’s two blue bars are a memorial to two men instrumental in the development of Chicago blues: Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Though neither was born in or near Chicago, their impact on Chicago blues is such that they have been memorialized in Chicago for all time.
Each of the four stars across the middle of the flag represents a pivotal moment or factor in the city’s growth and identity. The first star commemorates the opening of Wrigley Field (originally called Weeghman Park) in 1914. The second star recalls the invention of Chicago deep-dish style pizza at Pizzeria Uno in 1943. The red color is often thought to represent either tomato sauce or pepperoni, but these are probably urban legends.
The third of the four stars is, oddly enough, the most recently added star. It was added to the flag in 1985 so that we might never forget the Bears’ Super Bowl victory that year. A clue to the significance of the fourth and final star lies in the fact that it is a six-pointed star. It is a snowflake, and its shape represents the hexagonal crystal structure of snow, so the entire array of stars collectively represents the omnipresent risk of excessive snowfall, and the red color is meant to emphasize the seriousness of that risk.
Bonus Trivia — The name “Chicago” is derived from a French rendering of the Native American word shikaakwa, translated as “village of many restaurants”. The first written reference to the city by that name comes from the memoirs of explorer Robert de LaSalle in 1679: “…We stopped for the night on the north side of Cheecawgo [sic], where we enjoyed the antics of a small tribe of Indians, whose ability to turn a phrase and improvisational antics were most amusing, though the price of their liquor was such that our imbibing was kept to a minimum…”