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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (U.S.)

Philadelphia County

Last modified: 2012-11-26 by rick wyatt
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[Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] image by Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

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Description of the Flag

The original City Flag of Philadelphia consisted of the arms of the city on blue. This was replaced in 1895 by the present design. The designer, the Reverend Henry C. McCook of the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, took the yellow and blue colors from the arms and arranged them vertically blue, yellow and blue with the arms centered on the yellow stripe. The City Council adopted the design that year.

The seal/arms were adopted in 1874: azure, a fess or, in chief a plough, in base, a ship in full sail, both proper. In other words, a blue shield with a yellow stripe across the center and a plough above and a sailing ship below, both in proper colors. Crest: a nude right arm holding a pair of scales. Supporters: two female figures, on the right side (observer's left), dressed in white and purple robes, crowned with an olive wreath and holding a scroll charged with an anchor in her right hand; on the left side (observer's right) is Ceres, dressed in white and blue robes holding a cornucopia in her left hand. The motto on a scroll below is "Philadelphia Maneto" ("Let Brotherly Love Continue").
Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997


(1) The City Flag or Standard shall be of bunting or silk material in the above colors and shall be 10 feet long and 6 feet wide, or in similar proportion. The flag shall be divided vertically in 3 equal parts, of which the first and third shall be azure blue and the middle pale golden yellow. Upon the later shall be blazoned the City arms, as upon the City seal.
(2) The City Ensign or Merchant Flag shall be similar to the City Flag or Standard except that instead of the entire City Arms there shall be blazoned upon the central pale the crest of the City Arms, surrounded by 13 five-pointed azure stars, in a circle whose diameter is four-fifths of the width of the pale. The length or fly shall be 6 feet, the depth or hoist 4 feet 6 inches or in similar proportion.
(3) The City pennant shall be a triangular piece of yellow bunting 5 feet long by 4 feet wide, or in similar proportion. In the center shall be a blue triangular field 2 feet wide and 3 feet long, upon which shall be the crest of the City Arms and a circle of 13 five-pointed stars.
(4) The City Streamer shall be made of the above materials and colors and shall be 2 feet wide and 15 feet long, or in similar proportion. The blue shall be next to the staff, and shall be one-fourth the length of the streamer and shall have in its center the City Crest.
(5) The City Flag or Standard shall be displayed from public buildings on suitable public occasions.
The manufacturer of the nylon flags used by the city officially lists it as 'UN Blue', the same color used in the United Nations Flag". I quizzed him about use of the seal and not surprisingly he said "The seal is only practically used on the flags in the Mayor's Office and courtrooms. Flags that are flown outdoors do not carry the seal because of costs."

Ron Iannacone, 29 March 2005

Clear photographic evidence exists to document the color of the flag. The photos at and certainly seem to confirm the report of the very light shade of blue as the correct one.
Ned Smith, 15 April 2008

Philadelphia City Ensign

[Philadelphia City Ensign] image by Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

The ordinance of 1895 also established a "City Ensign or Merchant Flag" to be used by City vessels on the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. This Ensign is the same as the City Flag with the addition of 13 five-pointed azure blue stars arranged in a circle around the arms.
Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

Philadelphia Flag without Seal

[Philadelphia Flag without Seal] image by Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

The Flag Bulletin, Vol. IV, No. 1 [#13] (Fall 1964) says (pg. 9) that "... In some cases the flag is flown privately without the seal. Although not mentioned in official ordinances establishing the seal or flag, the azure blue and yellow colors commemorate the original Swedish settlement in the area ..."
Dave Martucci, 12 June 1997

Philadelphia city flags without the coat of arms are quite common downtown. Being a downtown Philadelphia resident, the only place I know of that flies a flag with the coat of arms is City Hall.
Lane Startin, 30 November 1999

Early City Flag

[Philadelphia early flag] image located by Steve Schmaker, 19 March 2012

From City Flag cards by Allen and Ginter's Tobacco, 1888 N6 City Flags PHILADELPHIA
Seems to match the description of the original Philadelphia Flag except the field is white instead of blue.
Steve Shumaker, 19 March 2012

Flag display in Washington Square

Washington Square houses the tomb of the unknown soldier of the Revolutionary Wars. There are two rows of six flags there, all pre-revolutionary, I think.
Herman De Wael, 19 October 2010

Apparently, these are meant to represent the thirteen colonies and the nation they formed. A photo can be seen at
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 19 October 2010

I have located several photos online. From what I can make out, the flags include: 1) Maryland 3rd Regiment 2) South Carolina State 3) New Hampshire 2nd Regiment 4) Morgan's Rifles 5) New York State 6) Guildford Courthouse 7) obscured, possibly Rhode Island on one side of the plaza. On the other side: 1) New England/Bunker Hill 2) Connecticut State? 3) Fort Moultrie 4) New Jersey State 5) Philadelphia Light Horse 6) Dansey Regimental Color 7) obscured, possibly Grand Union or Betsy Ross.
Dave Pawson, 19 October 2010