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District of Columbia (U.S.)

Last modified: 2002-11-02 by rick wyatt
Keywords: district of columbia | united states | washington dc |
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by Mark Sensen, 13 November 1995

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Description of the Flag

The Flag of the District of Columbia, (Washington, DC, USA) consisting of a white field with two red stripes, and having three red stars in the center, was adopted in 1938. It was designed by Arthur DuBose, the chief of the U. S. Army Institute of Heraldry and is based upon the family coat-of-arms of George Washington. No changes have been made to this 60-year old design.

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 US 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 US flag.
Nick Artimovich, 23 January 1997

Prior D.C. flag

by Dave Martucci, 1 June 1997

The flag of the District of Columbia is based on the coat of arms of George Washington. The correct heraldic blazon is "argent, two bars gules, in chief, three mullets of the second." "Argent" means white or silver; "gules" means red (heraldic terms are based on anglo-norman french); "mullets" are a 5-pointed star (actually they represent spurs); "in chief" means at the top of the shield.

Since Washington is the namesake of the city, his emblem seemed proper to them. Prior to the adoption of this flag in 1936, the DC flag was blue, swallow tailed, with the crest from the DC military arms and a hatchet; also references to George.

BTW, DC isn't the only "Washington" that uses the Washington arms as a part of their flag. My hometown, Washington, Maine, incorporates the same design in its official flag.

Dave Martucci, 30 May 1997

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