This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (U.S.)

Philadelphia County

Last modified: 2022-01-08 by rick wyatt
Keywords: philadelphia | pennsylvania | azure | philadelphia county |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

[Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] 3:5 image(s) by permission o  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.


According to Philadelphia's 1895 ordinance of adoption:

The Civic Flag, or Standard of the City, shall be as follows: Material shall be American made bunting or silk of the colors designated 10 feet in length and 6 feet in width, or in proportion thereto. The same shall be parted vertically (per pale) in three equal parts, the first and third to be azure blue, and the second or middle, pale golden yellow. Upon the latter pale shall be emblazoned the City Arms, as borne upon the City Seal.

In heraldic terminology the coat of arms can be described: "For a shield: Azure a fess between a plow in chief and a sailing ship in base, all Or; For a crest: A right hand and arm holding a pair of scales proper; For supporters: Dexter, the female figure of ‘Peace' holding a scroll charged with an anchor, and sinister the female figure of ‘Plenty' upholds a cornucopia. For a motto: PHILADELPHIA MANETO (Let Brotherly Love Prevail).

In lay terms, Philadelphia's flag is divided into three equal vertical stripes of blue, yellow, and blue. In the center of the yellow stripe are the city's arms, a blue shield divided in the center by a horizontal band, with a plow above and a sailing ship below, all in golden yellow. Above the shield is a right hand and arm upon a heraldic wreath, holding a pair of scales, in natural colors. Allegorical figures flank the shield: Peace on the left and Plenty on the right. Peace holds a scroll showing an anchor and Plenty holds a cornucopia. On a scroll below is PHILADELPHIA MANETO. The seal of Philadelphia, which contains the coat of arms, was established by the Ordinance of Councils of 14 February 1874.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


The plow and sailing ship also appear on Pennsylvania's arms, and together these two symbols reflect the early commercial interests of the city—agriculture and maritime commerce. Originally, William Penn had adopted the plow as a symbol for the crest of the coat of arms of Chester County, which was under his administration. The ship derives from the seal of the Society of Traders, organized in London to promote the settlement of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is home to the world's largest fresh-water port and has a shipbuilding industry and government navy yard.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


Dr. Henry C. McCook.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

More about the Flag

The original City Flag of Philadelphia consisted of the arms of the city on blue. This was replaced in 1895 by the present design. The designer, the Reverend Henry C. McCook of the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, took the yellow and blue colors from the arms and arranged them vertically blue, yellow and blue with the arms centered on the yellow stripe. The City Council adopted the design that year.

The seal/arms were adopted in 1874.
Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997


(1) The City Flag or Standard shall be of bunting or silk material in the above colors and shall be 10 feet long and 6 feet wide, or in similar proportion. The flag shall be divided vertically in 3 equal parts, of which the first and third shall be azure blue and the middle pale golden yellow. Upon the later shall be blazoned the City arms, as upon the City seal.
(2) The City Ensign or Merchant Flag shall be similar to the City Flag or Standard except that instead of the entire City Arms there shall be blazoned upon the central pale the crest of the City Arms, surrounded by 13 five-pointed azure stars, in a circle whose diameter is four-fifths of the width of the pale. The length or fly shall be 6 feet, the depth or hoist 4 feet 6 inches or in similar proportion.
(3) The City pennant shall be a triangular piece of yellow bunting 5 feet long by 4 feet wide, or in similar proportion. In the center shall be a blue triangular field 2 feet wide and 3 feet long, upon which shall be the crest of the City Arms and a circle of 13 five-pointed stars.
(4) The City Streamer shall be made of the above materials and colors and shall be 2 feet wide and 15 feet long, or in similar proportion. The blue shall be next to the staff, and shall be one-fourth the length of the streamer and shall have in its center the City Crest.
(5) The City Flag or Standard shall be displayed from public buildings on suitable public occasions.
The manufacturer of the nylon flags used by the city officially lists it as 'UN Blue', the same color used in the United Nations Flag". I quizzed him about use of the seal and not surprisingly he said "The seal is only practically used on the flags in the Mayor's Office and courtrooms. Flags that are flown outdoors do not carry the seal because of costs."

Ron Iannacone, 29 March 2005

Clear photographic evidence exists to document the color of the flag. The photos at and certainly seem to confirm the report of the very light shade of blue as the correct one.
Ned Smith, 15 April 2008

Philadelphia City Ensign

[Philadelphia City Ensign] 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.

The ordinance of 1895 also established a "City Ensign or Merchant Flag" to be used by City vessels on the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. This Ensign is the same as the City Flag with the addition of 13 five-pointed azure blue stars arranged in a circle around the arms.
Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

As in the case of Pittsburgh, which officially adopted a civic flag four years later, Philadelphia adopted a city ensign, city pennant, and city streamer along with a civic flag. They closely resemble their Pittsburgh counterparts.

The city ensign (merchant flag) is the same as the city flag, except in place of the coat of arms is just its crest (the arm holding the balance upon a heraldic wreath) surrounded by thirteen fivepointed azure blue stars, and its proportions are 2:3. The city pennant has a triangular field of golden yellow and in the center is a blue triangle bearing the city crest surrounded by thirteen five-pointed stars, all in golden yellow; its proportions are 4:5. The city streamer is a golden yellow field 2 feet in width and 15 in length. A blue section next to the hoist is one-fourth the length of the flag and in its center is the city crest in golden yellow. 
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Philadelphia Flag without Seal

[Philadelphia Flag without Seal] image by Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

The Flag Bulletin, Vol. IV, No. 1 [#13] (Fall 1964) says (pg. 9) that "... In some cases the flag is flown privately without the seal. Although not mentioned in official ordinances establishing the seal or flag, the azure blue and yellow colors commemorate the original Swedish settlement in the area ..."
Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

Philadelphia city flags without the coat of arms are quite common downtown. Being a downtown Philadelphia resident, the only place I know of that flies a flag with the coat of arms is City Hall.
Lane Startin, 30 November 1999


[Municipal seal] image located by Paul Baines, 7 January 2022

Early City Flag

[Philadelphia early flag] image located by Steve Schmaker, 19 March 2012

From City Flag cards by Allen and Ginter's Tobacco, 1888 N6 City Flags PHILADELPHIA
Seems to match the description of the original Philadelphia Flag except the field is white instead of blue.
Steve Shumaker, 19 March 2012

World's Fair 1876 Flags

[US Centennial World Fair]
image located by Bill Garrison, 23 January 2008
Source: eBay posting.

This pair of 1876 Centennial flags show the nations that participated in the Centennial Exhibition of the United States in 1876. I was told these were listed in the Smithsonian Textile Collection but I have not verified this. They measure approximately 25" by 17".
e-Bay posting, 23 January 2008

[US Centennial World Fair] image located by Bill Garrison, 23 September 2011

An antique 1876 Philadelphia centennial Exhibition parade flag with original stick was posted on e-Bay. The description read: "Centennial Union - it proclaimed liberty in 1776 let it proclaim peace and unity in 1876".

The great eagle carrying a banner of e pluribus unumin its mouth and the Liberty Bell with various flags in the center including united States, England, France, etc. Marked copyrighted to the bottom left of the Liberty Bell. Inside the border, there are 13 red stars for the original 13 colonies / states. On the outside of the border are 38 stars (part of the stars are lacking on the right side). The flag alone measures around 26.5 inches long in its current state and around 18 inches tall.
Bill Garrison, 23 September 2011

See also: World Fairs

Flag display in Washington Square

Washington Square houses the tomb of the unknown soldier of the Revolutionary Wars. There are two rows of six flags there, all pre-revolutionary, I think.
Herman De Wael, 19 October 2010

Apparently, these are meant to represent the thirteen colonies and the nation they formed. A photo can be seen at
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 19 October 2010

I have located several photos online. From what I can make out, the flags include: 1) Maryland 3rd Regiment 2) South Carolina State 3) New Hampshire 2nd Regiment 4) Morgan's Rifles 5) New York State 6) Guildford Courthouse 7) obscured, possibly Rhode Island on one side of the plaza. On the other side: 1) New England/Bunker Hill 2) Connecticut State? 3) Fort Moultrie 4) New Jersey State 5) Philadelphia Light Horse 6) Dansey Regimental Color 7) obscured, possibly Grand Union or Betsy Ross.
Dave Pawson, 19 October 2010