Flag of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio
Use Civil flag
Adopted 1940 (unofficially in 1896)
Designed by Emil Rothengatter[1]

The flag of Cincinnati is the municipal banner of the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the United States. The design was selected in an 1896 contest.[1] It was formally adopted on June 15, 1940.[2][3]


A Cincinnati flag flies above Sawyer Point.

The Cincinnati city flag is defined by city ordinance:

The flag of Cincinnati shall be rectangular in shape. It shall have a white groundwork. In the center shall be a red letter "C". Extending horizontally from either side of the letter "C" shall be three wavy parallel lines of navy blue. Within the letter "C" shall be the seal of the city of Cincinnati in blue. Extending upward from a point at the top of the letter "C" and spaced equally from its center line shall be a cluster of five buckeye leaves in red. The proportional dimensions of the flag and of its various parts shall be according to the official design thereof on file in the council chamber of the city of Cincinnati.
C.M.C. §104-3[4]

The blue waves represent the Ohio River, upon which the city was founded. The red "C" in the center stands for Cincinnati and a red buckeye leaf rests atop the letter to symbolize the State of Ohio. The center of the C features most of the Seal of Cincinnati, including the winged rod (commerce), serpents (wisdom), scales (justice), and a sword (authority and power). The motto on the flag, Juncta Juvant, is derived from a Latin phrase meaning "Unity Assists".[2]


On November 23, 1895, The Cincinnati Times-Star ran an editorial proposing a contest to choose a flag for the city, offering a $50 prize.[3][5] Mayor John A. Caldwell appointed a Flag Commission to judge submissions.[1] At least 50 designs were submitted by local artists, but only four won conditional approval. Many designs were rejected for being too elaborate or for symbolizing the Queen City with a crown, a device the mayor considered inappropriate for a U.S. city.[6] On January 24, 1896, the commission awarded the $50 to "Zero of Burnet Woods", Emil Rothengatter (1848–1939), for the design that is in use today.[3][7][8] A German immigrant, Rothengatter was an influential designer of circus posters during the heyday of that genre.[9]

The Enquirer, the Times-Star's commercial and political rival, registered vehement opposition to the proposed flag. Editorials and interviewees protested that any local flag would compete with the Stars and Stripes and even replace it in some contexts. However, Mayor Caldwell was careful to describe the flag as a mere logo to advertise the city.[10] There was also concern that Cincinnati would be unable to protect the flag's design from misuse. Cleveland had recently adopted a municipal flag, only to see it immediately trademarked by a cigar manufacturer; the Enquirer warned that a brewery intended to do likewise in Cincinnati. It was unknown whether a municipal government could secure a copyright for its flag.[1][11] For its part, the Cleveland Plain Dealer dismissed the flag as a "garter".[12]

A fact that went unreported in the Enquirer was that, on the day of the flag's selection, the Times-Star editor, Rep. Charles Phelps Taft, had Congress grant the city exclusive rights to the design.[3] Nevertheless, the city council (known then as the Board of Legislature) voted down a measure that would have made the flag official.[5] There was still some measure of support for the flag: within the month, Reds manager Frank Bancroft ordered a set for League Park.[13] By 1902, one author noted that the flag had in fact become quite popular.[5] It would not be formally adopted until June 15, 1940,[2][3] as City Ordinance 181-1940. The ordinance was originally codified as C.O. 104-2,[14] then renumbered as C.M.C. 104-3 on January 1, 1972.[4]

In a 2004 poll on the North American Vexillological Association website, Cincinnati's flag was voted the 22nd best design among 150 U.S. city flags and the best city flag in Ohio.[15][16]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "One Flag: Good Enough For All". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 53 (25). January 25, 1896. p. 4 via ProQuest Historical Newspapers. (subscription required (help)). Mayor Caldwell ... consented, in his private capacity, to select a committee to pass upon designs of a flag submitted by local artists. This committee yesterday informed His Honor that the best of the designs was one submitted by Emil Rothingatter [sic]. It shows the arms of the city in a big C, with three waving strips leading off on each side. ... It is not known how it is proposed to make this the official flag of Cincinnati. The Mayor might have much difficulty in finding some provision of the law that gives him power to so proclaim it. ... Cleveland ... became a laughing stock when an enterprising cigar-maker immediately pre-empted the design as a trade mark. It has been suggested that this laughable sequel could be avoided in the case of Cincinnati by copyrighting the design. There is a question, however, as to whether a municipality can avail itself of the copyright law. If an individual took it upon himself to go through with the formalities ... That, of course, would destroy any local pride ... in the flag.
  2. 1 2 3 "Flagpole". Fountain Square. Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Purcell, John M.; Croft, James A.; Monahan, Rich (2003). American City Flags: 150 Flags from Akron to Yonkers (PDF). 1. North American Vexillological Association. pp. 77–78. ISBN 0974772801.
  4. 1 2 Sec. 104-3. Official City Flag, Cincinnati Municipal Code
  5. 1 2 3 Shotwell, John Brough (1902). A history of the schools of Cincinnati. The School Life Company. p. 606 via Google Books. In 1897 the Times Star Co., by offering a prize of $50, had Mayor Caldwell receive designs for a city flag. ... The flag was never officially adopted, being voted down in the Board of Legislature as undemocratic. Nevertheless, the flag is popular and is universally used.
  6. "City Hall Pick-ups". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 52 (356). December 20, 1895. p. 12. (subscription required (help)). Of the 5[illegible] designs submitted only four met with partial approal, and no one of them will be adopted unless satisfactory alterations are made. ... Then, again, nearly every design examined was surmounted with a crown. This is not what is wanted, and none of the designs with that insignia will be considered, for, to quote Mayor Caldwell, 'we do not want to be represented as a kingdom, but as a republic.'
  7. "Flag Committee Reports To-day". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 53 (24). January 24, 1896. p. 9. (subscription required (help)). It is understood that Emil Rothengotter [sic], a designer in the employ of the Russell-Morgan Printing Company, will get the prize of $50 offered by the city for the most appropriate design.
  8. Wilson, Hugh, ed. (March 4, 1896). "Cincinnati Has a New Flag". The Abbeville Press and Banner. Abbeville, South Carolina. p. 7 via Library of Congress. The flag is to be pure white, while the ground or foundation of the design is to be red, with waving stripes of blue running through it. In the center of the design is the seal of Cincinnati, while at the top is a bunch of buckeye leaves, symbolic of Ohio. The successful competitor is Emil Rothengatter, fifty years old, who was born in Germany.
  9. Goddard, Dan R. (January 25, 2006). "Drawings bring circus to life". San Antonio Express-News. Hearst Corporation. Featuring original watercolors by one of the best-known circus artists, Emil Rothengatter, "The Art of the Circus" is on view through July 16 at the Witte Museum. ... By 1880, he was in Cincinnati, then the center of poster printing, and was commissioned by circus owner James A. Bailey to record the birth of the first elephant in captivity – an assignment that led to his being hired by the primary publisher of circus posters of the era, Stobridge Lithographic Co. His clean, crisp designs with large, flat planes of color and finely drawn figures have become distinctive to circus posters.
  10. "Against It Are Citizens Generally". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 53 (28). January 28, 1896. p. 8. (subscription required (help)).
  11. "That Flag May Yet Find a Place Such as the Mayor Says It Was Designed For". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 53 (29). January 29, 1896. p. 8 via ProQuest Historical Newspapers. (subscription required (help)). It is said that the flag ... may suffer much the same ridiculous fate as befell the flag adopted by Cleveland. That city adopted a design, and an enterprising cigar dealer immediately had it registered in Washington as his trade mark. It is given out that a local brewing arm will do the same thing with the design approved by the Mayor. ... This brief statement furnishes a thought which is in the mind of every one who is opposed to a city flag and cares for no other flag or emblem than the Stars and Stripes. Day by day the agitation against the official adoption of the advertising sign selected by a committee of five and indorsed [sic] by the Mayor ... is growing more pronounced.
  12. "In brief". The Salt Lake Herald. 26 (182). Salt Lake City, Utah: The Herald Publishing Company. February 2, 1896. p. 4.
  13. "Gossip of the Diamond". The Evening Times. 1 (155). Washington, D.C.: Washington Times Company. January 31, 1896. p. 3.
  14. Charter, Administrative Code and Code of Ordinances of the city of Cincinnati as in effect March 1, 1945. City of Cincinnati. p. 75 via HathiTrust.
  15. "2004 American City Flags Survey". North American Vexillological Association. 2005. Archived from the original on April 17, 2013.
  16. Radel, Cliff (October 24, 2004). "Queen City's grand old flag best in Ohio; Louisville is tops in Ky.". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Gannett Company. The Queen City's standard with the red C, white background and blue wavy stripes also ranks No. 22 in a survey ranking the flags of 150 American cities.

Further reading

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