Monday, June 13, 2016

1955 - "New City of Milwaukee Flag Presented to the Common Council"

I promised that we would put the long, strange saga of Milwaukee's flag to rest soon, and we will. But before we do, I would like to share these photos of the flag's unveiling, taken by a Milwaukee Sentinel photographer on January 25, 1955.

The new City of Milwaukee flag was presented to the Common Council Tuesday. The 5x3 foot flag, which will hang on the Council Dias behind the council president's chair, was designed by former Ald. Fred W. Steffan. City activities are illustrated by designs of the City Hall, a giant ship, the County Stadium and Arena, a church, a spike of wheat and smoke stacks and a huge gear. Ald. Fred P. Meyers introduced the Council resolution which led to the designing of the flag.    Sentinel photo.
We don't know the men on either side, but the gentleman in the middle is Fred Steffan himself, who designed the flag from pieces submitted as part of a design competition.

When the photo was published on the first page of the second section of the Sentinel on January 26, 1955, it had been cropped to remove everything except the flag itself. Mr. Steffan, for his part, was retained as a small inset.

I'm not sure that I'd call this particular version a "flag". With the pole along the top and gold fringe along the other three sides, I think "banner" might be more appropriate.

That same photo session resulted in a larger group shot.

The additional men in the background are unidentified; the caption on the back reads "In case this larger group is used, Ferris is to supply names." Ferris him- or herself is similarly unidentified, and presumably known to the Sentinel staff.

Looking at this second photo, I'm struck by how white and male the assemblage is. This symbol of the city, meant to unite and inspire all her citizens, seems to have been determined entirely by an extremely homogeneous group. Certainly shows how far we've come.

Tomorrow, the winner of the People's Flag of Milwaukee contest will be announced, and the city may take a significant step towards replacing its current flag. Today, we can learn a little bit more about its adoption sixty-one years ago.

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