Flag of the City of Chicago

5 Stripes, 4 Stars


Numbered in top-to-bottom order, as they appear on the flag

THREE WHITE STRIPES:  Represent the sides of the city

1. North Side
3. West Side
5. South Side


2. Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River
4. The South Branch of the river and the Great Canal, over the Chicago Portage.


There are four red six-pointed stars on the center white stripe. Six-pointed stars are used because five-pointed stars represent sovereign states (e.g. The United States of America), and because the star as designed was not found on any other known flags as of 1917, the year of the flag’s design.

The stars and their points represent, from left to right:

  1. Fort Dearborn
    1. Transportation
    2. Labor
    3. Commerce
    4. Finance
    5. Populousness
    6. Salubrity (favorable to or promoting health)
  2. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871
    1. Religion
    2. Education
    3. Aesthetics
    4. Justice
    5. Beneficence
    6. Civic pride
  3. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893: Its six points stand for political entities Chicago has belonged to and the flags that have flown over the area
    1. France, 1693
    2. Great Britain, 1763
    3. Virginia, 1778
    4. the Northwest Territory, 1789
    5. Indiana Territory, 1802
    6. Illinois (territory, 1809, and state, since 1818)
  4. The Century of Progress Exposition (1933–34)
    1. The United States’ second largest city (became third largest in a 1990 census when passed by Los Angeles)
    2. Chicago’s Latin motto, Urbs in horto (“City in a garden”)
    3. Chicago’s “I Will” motto
    4. The Great Central Marketplace
    5. Wonder City
    6. Convention City

Chicago’s Municipal Device & The Chicago River

An encircled ‘Y’ representing the three branches of the Chicago River

Three Parts of the Chicago River

The three parts of the river merge at Wolf Point, where Chicago’s Near North Side, Loop, and Near West Side community areas meet.

  1. North Branch: Enters the city of Chicago near the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Devon Avenue. At North Avenue, south of the North Avenue Bridge, the North Branch divides, the original course of the river makes a curve along the west side of Goose Island   – nicknamed, Ogden’s Island), whilst the North Branch Canal cuts off the bend, forming the island.
    • Bridge underpasses at
      1. The Cortland Street Drawbridge (at the Clybourn Corridor)
      2. The North Avenue Bridge
      3. The 1902 Cherry Avenue Bridge — constructed to carry the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway onto Goose Island
  2. Main Stem: Flows 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west from the its source, Lake Michigan
    • Bridge underpasses at
      1. The Outer Drive
      2. Columbus Drive
      3. Michigan Avenue
      4. Wabash Avenue
      5. State Street
      6. Dearborn Street
      7. Clark Street
      8. La Salle Street
      9. Wells Street
      10. Franklin Street
    • Buildings along the way
      1. NBC Tower
      2. The Tribune Tower
      3. The Wrigley Building
      4. Trump International Hotel and Tower
      5. 35 East Wacker
      6. 330 North Wabash
      7. Marina City
      8. The Reid, Murdoch & Co. Building
      9. The Merchandise Mart
      10. 333 Wacker Drive
  3. South Branch: The source of the South Branch is the confluence of the North Branch and Main stem at Wolf Point.
    • Bridge underpasses at
      1. Lake Street
      2. Randolph Street
      3. Washington Street
      4. Madison Street
      5. Monroe Street
      6. Adams Street
      7. Jackson Blvd
      8. Van Buren Street
      9. Congress Pkwy
      10. Harrison Street, then leaves the downtown Loop community area.
    • Buildings along the way
      1. Boeing Company World Headquarters
      2. The Civic Opera House
      3. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange
      4. Union Station
      5. Sears Tower

The municipal device can be found throughout Chicago’s Architecture. Sometimes, the device is displayed with the ‘Y’ turned upside-down to represent the civil engineering project which reversed the flow away from Lake Michigan.

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