Last modified: 2014-09-06 by rick wyatt
Keywords: district of columbia | united states | washington dc |
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image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 12 June 2008
On June 16, 1938, Congress passed Public Law 650 authorizing a flag commission "to procure a design for a distinctive flag for the District of Columbia." The commission consisted of the following:
"The proportions of the design are prescribed in terms of the hoist, or vertical height, of the flag as follows: the upper white portion shall be 3/10 of the hoist; the two horizontal bars are each 2/10 of the hoist; the white are between the bars 1/10 of the hoist; and the base, or lowest white space, is 2/10 of the hoist. The three five-pointed stars have a diameter of 2/10 of the hoist and are spaced equidistant in the fly, or horizontal, dimension of the flag."Source: Government of the District of Columbia, untitled monograph, 1963, pp. 21-23.
image by Steve Stringfellow
The National Geographic magazine of 1937 shows this flag. The description in the magazine is as follows:
"In the absence of any official flag for the District of Columbia, the District Militia devised the one reproduced here, and until such time as it shall be replaced by law, it will be the flag of the District of Columbia, just as formerly the one with the hatchet has that status."
Steve Stringfellow, 13 August 2002
The device on the center (the Capitol dome in front of a rising sun) is still the crest used on coats of arms of units of the District of Columbia Army National Guard. It is, therefore, still flag relevant since it appears on the regimental and battalion colors of such units.
Joe McMillan, 14 August 2002
image by Dave Martucci, 1 June 1997
Flag as shown in National Geographic Magazine (1917)
image located by Steve Shumaker, 19 March 2012
I came across a supposed flag for the Washington, District of Columbia listed as "1888 N6 City Flags WASHINGTON **AA-1793**" on eBay (www.ebay.com/itm/120608252214).
Checking our page, I find that there was no official flag for the District of Columbia prior to the current flag's adoption in 1938. Previous to that the District Militia's flag was informally used. Looking into the District's history on Wikipedia, several entities formerly existed in the District prior to 1871: City of Alexandria, the County of Alexandria, Georgetown, the City of Washington, and the County of Washington. The Virginia part, the City of Alexandria and the County of Alexandria returned in 1846. source: Wikipedia. So my first though is that the flag represented the pre-1871 City of Washington, but a second look at the Washington, DC city seal adopted in 1871 says otherwise. (About DC) The seal on the flag seem to be a (more life like) variant of the seal show on Wikipedia.
As a side note, a 1876 reported version of this seal has the Statue of Freedom instead of a George Washington statue.
Steve Shumaker, 19 March 2012
It remains a federal district, separate from the 50 states, just as it was when it was established in the late 1700's. (About 40 square miles were given back to the State of Virginia in the 1840's because they thought that there would never be enough bureaucrats to fill the original 100 square miles. Boy were they wrong!) The District has obtained a certain amount of "home rule" since the 1960's which means that the citizens may elect a Mayor and a City Council, however they have no voting representative in the U.S. Congress.
Nick Artimovich, 20 January 1998
George Washington's arms were two horizontal bars on a white field, with three red mullets (5-pointed spur rowels) in the chief. The design is seen on the side of DC official vehicles, on the license plates, etc, and was adopted as the flag of Washington, DC, in 1938. (Ironically, one of the largest examples of this flag flies on Pennsylvania Avenue and is incorrect in that the bottom "white stripe" is missing!) In the 19th century there was a belief that these design elements of G. Washington's arms were the direct antecedent of the U.S. flag. If that were true, then the U.S. flag should be called the "Bars and Mullets" not the "Stars and Stripes."
Technically, the mullets should have holes in the center where they spun on the spur, however I think heraldry has deleted the holes as unnecessary. This means that mullets end up looking exactly like five-pointed stars, which is why folks made the connection between George Washington's arms and the U.S. flag.
Nick Artimovich, 23 January 1997