For over 100 years the District of Columbia went without an official flag. Before the flag we know today was approved in 1938, the District would often fly the flag of the D.C. militia, which shows the Capitol Dome with a rising sun behind it. But in 1917 a young designer and artist named Charles Dunn was working on engraving a number of flags for an issue of National Geographic. “While working on the flags of the different states of the United States, I became aware of a lack of good design in many of them. In fact, some were simply just the state seal in the center of a blue field. Of course, I noticed, too, that there was no District of Columbia Flag.”
Dunn says he was “particularly attracted” to Maryland’s flag due to its “beauty and distinction.” He was also inspired by its use of heraldry – the flag of Maryland being inspired by the coat of arms of Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. In 1924 he submitted a design based on the coat of arms of George Washington to the Evening Star newspaper. His initial design was the same as today’s save that the stars were blue instead of red.
It wasn’t until 1938 that a flag commission was created by Congress to hold a contest to find a flag for the District. Dunn submitted the flag that we know today and narrowly beat out a design endorsed by the Daughters of the American Revolution created by Mrs. George T. Hawkins. Her design featured 13 concentric stars surrounded by a circle of 48 stars with either the Capitol Dome or Washington’s coat of arms in the center. Thankfully, Dunn’s design won, and today it is recognized as the best-designed municipal flag in the United States by the North American Vexillological Association.
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