Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Flag of Detroit

David Emil Heineman created the flag of Detroit in 1907. Heineman was an attorney and prominent civic leader, born in Detroit in 1865. He also helped appropriate funding for the Belle Isle Aquarium and Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. The flag was first flown was on June 12, 1908 at a celebration for the Detroit Tigers. It was not officially adopted by the city until 1948. 

The flag commemorates the countries that have controlled the city since its founding, divided into four sections. The lower left features a white background and five gold fleur-de-lis to represent France, who founded Detroit in 1701. The upper right has three gold lions of Great Britain on a field of red. The British controlled the city from 1760-1796 and during the War of 1812, from 1812-1813. The upper left and the lower right sections represent the United States, the 13 stripes and 13 stars to represent the 13 original colonies and American control of the city before and following the War of 1812. 

The city seal, designed by J.O. Lewis in 1827, in the middle of the flag, represents the Great Fire that destroyed the city in 1805. Two women stand in the foreground while on the left, the city burns in the background and a woman weeps over the destruction. The woman on the right consoles her by gesturing to a new city that will rise in its place. Two Latin mottos read “Speramus Meliora” (“We hope for better things) and “Resurget Cineribus” (“It will rise from the ashes"), penned by Father Gabriel Richard.



Original sketch of the Flag of Detroit, 1907

Flag of Detroit postcard, 1950s

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