News & Politics

A Brief History of How DC’s Flag Became a Phenomenon

From license plates to tattoos, this thing is everywhere.


Early Misfire

National Geographic lists a banner used by the DC Militia—now the National Guard—as Washington’s unofficial flag.


A Flag Is Born

Illustrator Charles A.R. Dunn sketches an idea inspired by the Washington-family coat of arms.


It’s Official

Congress appoints a commission to pick a flag for the city. Dunn’s design wins.


Up the Pole

The red-and-white flag flies in front of the District Building (later the Wilson Building) for the first time.


Playing Tag

District license plates ditch their image of the Capitol in favor of the DC banner. The design remains similar today.


Highly Vexillological

A North American Vexillological Association survey names DC’s emblem the best city flag in the US. The runner-up? Chicago’s.



The beer company DC Brau introduces the Public, a pale ale featuring the flag on its eye-catching can.


Make That 51

Congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton successfully spearheads legislation requiring the armed services to include the DC flag whenever those of the 50 states are displayed.


Skin in the Game

DC-flag tattoos, long a local counterculture staple, reach their peak when Tom Sherwood, Kojo Nnamdi, and Mary Cheh get inked with the local stars and bars.


Capital Pride

Flag worship reaches new heights with this Capitol Hill roof.

This article appeared in the July 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before earning a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post,, and, among others. He lives in Bloomingdale.