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

From license plates to tattoos, this thing is everywhere.

1917

Early Misfire

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

1924

A Flag Is Born

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

1938

It’s Official

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

1964

Up the Pole

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

1984

Playing Tag

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

2004

Highly Vexillological

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

2011

Cheers

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

2012

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.

2015

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.

2018

Capital Pride

Flag worship reaches new heights with this Capitol Hill roof.

This article appeared in the July 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

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Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before moving to Syracuse to pursue a master’s in journalism. His work has also appeared on Syracuse.com, TheAtlantic.com, and Catholicnews.com. He lives in Eckington.