The history and mystery of the Indianapolis flag

Stars, circles, and stripes — what’s the story behind Indy’s official flag?

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The Indianapolis flag was designed by Roger E. Gohl.

Photo via public domain

Anyone who went to elementary school in the US probably remembers the story of Betsy Ross (although the accuracy of the tale has been questioned in recent years). But who among us can relay the history of the Indianapolis flag?

Spoiler alert: The flag you see hoisted by local businesses and government bodies isn’t Indy’s first flag. The original was designed in 1911 and reworked in 1915 when it failed to make an impact. But it still proved unpopular, partially due to its unintentional visual resemblance to variations of the Confederate flag. Yikes.

So in 1962, the city sponsored a contest to create a new flag, attracting entrants with a prize of $50 and lunch with the mayor. The judges received 75 submissions, among which was a striking and simple design by 18-year-old art student Roger Gohl, who was eventually selected as the winner.

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The star in the center of Indianapolis’s flag represents the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Photo by IndyTaylor via Wikimedia Commons

Only, the flag we see everywhere today wasn’t Gohl’s original design. His flag was asymmetrical, with the intersection of the lines — which represent Market and Meridian streets intersecting with Monument Circle — offset on the left side of the flag instead of in the middle. Nobody knows why the lines were centered or who did it (dun dun dun).

Mystery design tweaks notwithstanding, Indy’s flag has gone on to be not only recognizable but critically-acclaimed. In 2004, the North American Vexillological Association (read: flag scholars and enthusiasts) ranked Indianapolis’s flag the No. 8 best out of 150 American city flags.

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