Last modified: 2002-09-28 by rick wyatt
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by Thanh-Tam Le, 17 May 1999
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.
Three red and three white rays alternate from an off-center blue sun. The rays are the path of freedom to come and go as one pleases. The blue disc represents happiness, contentment. Stitched on the blue sun is an Indian symbol for hogan or permanent home. It's a white circle with four sets of three parallel rays emanating from the circle's principal axis.
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