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Modesto, California (U.S.)

Stanislaus County

Last modified: 2023-09-09 by rick wyatt
Keywords: modesto | california | stanislaus county |
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[Flag of Modesto] image by Masao Okazaki, 9 August 2023

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Description of the flag

The City of Modesto (204,933 inhabitants, est. 2013), located in San Joaquin Valley, is the county seat of Stanislaus County. Modesto is mostly known as the birth town of filmmaker George Lucas (b. 1944); the town was portrayed in the movie "American Graffitii" (1973), which was, however, actually not shot in Modesto. The town is the the home of E & J Gallo Winery. Established in 1933 by Ernest Gallo (1909-2007) and Julio Gallo (1910-1993), the company is the largest family-owned winery in the USA and the first exporter of Californian wines.

Modesto owes its odd name to the modesty of its founder, William C. Raslton (1826-1875, also founder of the Bank of California), who refused the town to be named after him and was declared "muy modesto" by a Spanish-speaking worker at the naming ceremony. - Official website

Modesto came up with a flag in the late 80s but was never officially adopted. Now the city's Culture Commission has decided it wants a new official flag flying over the city's main street downtown. The city council is expected to give the go-ahead to the proposal next month with the contest open from October to the end of December. The flag would be especially significant as the city approaches its 150th anniversary in 2020. Proposal's submitters should remember the North American Vexillological Association's six principles of flag design.

The original flag is white with an orange border, the word "modesto" half orange (top) and red (bottom), surmounted by fruits, all over the Modesto Arch, inscribed with "City of Modesto" (top part) and the town's motto "Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health" (lower part). The representation is quite faithful to the actual monument, where the writing in the upper part is simply "Modesto". - Capital Public Radio, 22 August 2016

Unique, both loved and reviled, the Modesto Arch might well have been emblazoned with the winning city slogan, "Nobody's Got Modesto's Goat." Cooler heads prevailed, and the second place winner was used instead and has been with the good citizens of Modesto ever since - "Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health." One of the stories heard often is that Eleanor McClatchy, publisher of "The Modesto Bee", so disliked the arch that she banned its picture from being used in the newspaper. Built in 1912, the arch spanned the entrance to the city for many years, and, other than a short move so Ninth Street could be widened, and a recent refurbishment, there has never been a real threat to dismantle the city's most famous landmark.

The announcement of the flag contest stirred a reaction from the designer of the original flag. When Julian Lopez Jr. heard Modesto may hold a design contest for the city's first official flag, his response was: "We already have a city flag." And Lopez – who retired from the city in 2009 as a planning assistant – should know. The City Council named his design in 1988 as the winner in a city flag competition. And his flag flew at City Hall and elsewhere in Modesto for years. Former City Clerk and Auditor Norrine Coyle said the flag was displayed during council meetings in the 1980s and 1990s. Former Mayor Carol Whiteside – who was on the council that picked Lopez's design – recalls taking the flag with her as part of a delegation to Khmelnitskiy, Ukraine, one of Modesto's sister cities. She said Modesto also brought its flag to the League of California Cities' annual conference, which featured a parade of flags. [...]
Lopez, 62, said his flag flew for years at Modesto's old City Hall at 10th and H streets, but he said it no longer was flown when the city moved into Tenth Street Place, the city-county administration center that opened in November 1999.

Still, a city report from Community and Economic Development Director Cindy Birdsill about the new contest said the winning flag would become Modesto's first official city flag. "The City of Modesto has never been represented by an official flag," according to the report. "In the early 1990s, a competition for a flag design was held among City employees, but, the winning flag design was not adopted by the City Council." Besides being wrong about the year, Lopez said, the contest was open to all. He said the contestants who came in second and third as well as those who received honorable mentions were not city employees. Birdsill, who has been with the city for about a year, said she and her staff were not aware of the history of the Lopez-designed flag. She added that city records show that the council did not adopt the flag as Modesto's official city flag. The council received a presentation about the flag and accepted it during a December 1988 meeting, according to information provided by the City Clerk's office.[...]
If Modesto holds a second contest, Lopez said, he might enter it. [...] - The Modesto Bee, 25 August 2016
Ivan Sache, 26 August 2016

[Flag of Modesto] image by Masao Okazaki, 27 May 2021

This is the flag as originally designed by city employee Julian Lopez Jr for a 1988 flag contest. The current flag shown at the top of this page has changed details and an orange rim rather than a gold rim.
Masao Okazaki, 27 May 2021

The seal

[City seal] image located by Paul Bassinson, 18 May 2019


Police Department

[Police Department] image located by Dave Fowler, 19 August 2021