Rally round the flag

A 2004 survey by the North American Vexillological Association ranked the Wichita flag as the 6th best design out of 150 cities.  July 23rd, marks the 85th anniversary of one of our city’s coolest symbols.

Wichita city leaders held a contest in 1937 to design a flag. The American Legion spearheaded the contest and the Rotary Club donated a cash prize. A group of artists made up the judging pool, and more than 100 submissions were received.

Charles Cecil McAlister was selected as the winner and awarded $40 for his design. McAlister was a local artist who ran a mural art studio on south Broadway.

Cecil McAlister
Courtesy wichitahistory.org

On June 14, 1937, Mayor T. Walker Weaver announced the winning design and adopted it as the official flag of Wichita on June 14, 1937. 

Mary J. Harper, known as the Betsy Ross of Wichita, was hired to bring the new flag to life.  The complicated pattern took her a day to complete.

That flag was raised at City Hall on July 23, 1937.

McAlister was born in Wichita on August 3, 1890 to Charles and Daisy McAllister.  

Cecil McAlister worked at the Western Sign Works Company.  He moved to Chicago to study art in 1918.  

He married Maude Gertrude Moonshower on December 30, 1919, in Grant, Indiana.  The new couple returned to Wichita in 1920.  McAlister opened the Wichita Sign Company that year. 

During the depression he was forced to close the store so he worked from his studio, C. C. McAlister Farm & Studio on south Broadway. 

It once sat below the south ramp of the South Broadway bridge until a new bridge was built in 2013.

McAlister continued to paint signs and murals for most of his life.  He was also a member of the Sunflower Masonic Lodge, Wichita Consistory and Midian Shrine Temple.

Maude died in 1964 and Charles died in January 1969. They are interred at Wichita Cemetery Park.

The symbolism of the flag is a little debatable.  

Wikipedia says, “The blue sun in the center represents happiness and contentment. The Native American symbol for permanent ‘home’ is stitched on the blue sun. The three red and white rays that alternate from the off-center blue sun represent the path of freedom to come and go as one pleases”.

Another version that I found says, “The Hogan in the middle of the flag is an American Indian symbol that represents a permanent home – in this case, Wichita city. The white circle is a manifestation of the sun whereas the white stripes that radiate from the circle are a symbol of courage. Lastly, the red and white stripes together represent honor and virtue.”

In a statement to the Eagle in 1937, McAlister said, “These stripes running in and out of red and white are symbols of rays of light or ways to come and go, open and free to all.”

McAlister’s flag didn’t spark much interest until about 2015.  Local pride swelled as the flag began to take over Wichita. And now, “flag swag” can be found all over Wichita.

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