Milwaukee, Wisconsin, City Flag History

May 16th, 2016

Milwaukee became a chartered city in 1846 – two years before Wisconsin was admitted into the Union. It was not until 1897 that a contest was held by the Milwaukee Journal attempt to obtain a flag design for the city. A winning entry was chosen that featured a cream field, an oak branch, and the words “Steady Progress”. The mayor at the time praised the design, but he lost his bid for re-election and the flag was never put into use.


Milwaukee First Flag


The issue of a city flag was put aside until the early 1950s when another contest was held to choose a flag design. That contest was initiated after the leaders of the city realized that it was one of three other cities with populations of 500,000 or more that did not have a city flag. Although there was a winner, the design was not used. Instead, one of the aldermen of the city, Fred Steffan, created a flag design using elements of the best entries in the contest. That flag was adopted as the city flag in 1954.


Milwaukee Flag


According to legend, the gear in the center of the flag represents industry, the bear symbolizes the city’s history, the Indian head symbolizes the city’s Native American origins, the barley stalk represents the city’s brewing history, and the ship represents its status as a port city. The photo of the city hall represents government. The other buildings around the city hall include a church, factory, and the county stadium. The flag also includes a tiny replica of the battle flag of the Milwaukee regiment that fought in the Civil War.


There have been several attempts to redesign the city flag over the years, but those designs were rejected. A poll was conducted by the North American Vexillogical Association in 2004 on city flag designs. Milwaukees city flag rated as the fourth worst of all major cities. It was not until 2015 that another flag contest was launched. That contest is scheduled to end in June, 2016. We will update this blog post once a winner is chosen.


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