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Wichita, Kansas (U.S.)

Sedgwick County

Last modified: 2018-07-31 by rick wyatt
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[Wichita, Kansas flag] 2:3 image(s) by permission of David B. Martucci
image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright.



See also:


Current Flag

Text and image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright. Image(s) from American City Flags by permission of David B. Martucci.

Design

The field of Wichita’s flag would be described in heraldry as “Gyronny of six, Gules and Argent”, that is, alternating red and white rays that expand from the center to the field’s borders. On a field of 2 by 3 units, the rays emanate from a point .875 units from the hoist. The hoist segment is white, the remaining rays alternate in color. The hoist and fly rays are 2 units at their widest; the upper and lower hoist rays, 1.33 units; and the upper and lower fly rays, 1.67 units. A blue disk of 1 unit in diameter, fimbriated in white, overlays the center. A Native American sun sign in white fills the disk. The sun sign differs slightly from those on the New Mexico state flag and the Albuquerque and Madison city flags: the arms comprise three rays rather than four (the central ray is slightly longer than the others) and it contains a small white disk in its center.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Symbolism

The symbolism is explained by the designer:
The white circle around the field of blue in the center and containing the Indian design for the sun, symbolizes a ‘hogan’, or permanent home. Superimposed on the field of blue is the white sun. The blue indicates happiness and faithfulness in a town of happy people and permanent homes. Radiating from the circular field of blue are red and white stripes. The red means virtue and honor, the white stands for courageous virtues. The stripes lining the red and white background are symbols of rays of light and ways to come and go, open and free to all—hence, the red, white, and blue.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Selection

Bert Wells, the city manager, asked the American Legion to develop a contest for a new city flag. A committee was appointed by the Legion, consisting of Paul Henrion, head of the Civic Flag Committee of the Legion, chairman; H. M. Van Auken, secretary of the chamber of commerce; Glen Thomas, a local architect; John Rydjord, Wichita University professor; and W. H. Allen, publisher of the Wichita Beacon. Six prizes totaling $85 were supplied by the Wichita Rotary Club, ranging from $40 for the first place to $2 for sixth place. Judging was done by R. T. Aitchison, Charles M. Capps, and William Dickinson, who had been appointed by the American Legion and the Wichita Art Association.
Flag adopted: 14 June 1937 (official).
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Designer

Cecil McAlister, a resident of the city, took first place in the American Legion contest.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

More about the Flag

An interesting footnote to the flag’s adoption followed. McAlister’s original design shows WICHITA in white on the fly’s red segment, appearing to emerge from the center as the letters grow steadily larger toward the fly’s edge. The first flags sewn, however (by Mrs. Mary J. Harper), did not have the city’s name on them. On 25 March 1940, at the suggestion of Mrs. W. E. Haines of Haines Tile and Mantel Co., the city commission adopted a resolution to add the city’s name to the flag, perhaps unaware that it had been part of the original design. The resolution, however, went into the “pending” file, and was never acted upon, even though there were periodic calls for the name to be added in later years. The reluctance of the city government—in opposition to an overwhelming trend among U.S. cities to place the name of the city on its flag—leads the vexillologist to wonder if there is a wise flag designer in the Wichita city hall who has never been persuaded to tamper with success!
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

It's red, white and blue and sixty years old. It's also rarer than hen's teeth and recognized by very few Wichitans. It's the official flag of the City of Wichita. So few copies of the flag have ever been made and flown that most Wichitans have never seen it. Acting on a 1940 amendment to the design would help by adding the word "Wichita" to the flag.

In a day when artists charge thousands of dollars to "develop a concept" for company logos, the 1937 prize money doesn't sound like much. A total of $85 was doled out among six top vote getters, but in hard economic times it was worth the effort. Artist Cecil McAlister was one of a large group of people vying for the $40 first prize in May, 1937. They submitted a hundred different designs to a panel of three other artists to judge. They selected McAlister's design, one based on Indian symbolism. It was accepted by proclamation on June 14, 1937, Flag Day.

The winning design was a complex sewing challenge for west-side seamstress Mary J. Harper. Wichita's Betsy Ross, as she was then styled, spent an entire day piecing together the design of Indian emblems from red, white and blue silk. She made a total of six flags originally

The first one flew from the City Hall flagstaff at 204 S. Main on July 23, 1937. None of the originals is known to survive, but their descendants fly outside Century II and City Hall everyday. Take a closer look next time at McAlister's award-winning and inspired design.
Charlie Whitworth, 4 February 1999


1940 Proposal for Flag Change

[Wichita, Kansas flag] image by Thanh-Tam Le and António Martins-Tuválkin, 10 June 2008

In 1940 an amendment was offered to make the flag more easily known. Mrs. W.F. Haines suggested adding the word "Wichita" in white letters over the largest red ray. To date it has never been acted upon.
Charlie Whitworth, 4 February 1999