A look at the symbolism behind and brief history of the elusive Los Angeles City Flag.
The City Flag of Los Angeles
According to the records, the Los Angeles City Flag, sometimes called the Fiesta Flag, was championed by La Fiesta Association, Ltd., an organization headed up by Isidore B. Dockweiler that seems to have been founded to help plan and execute plans for the city’s 150th birthday.
John M. Purcell, author of American City Flags lists Roy E. Silent and E.S. Jones (dubious names at best) as the designers of the flag, but it’s not clear if this pair were members of La Fiesta Association or simply designers for hire. In fact, this duo doesn’t show up in any other documentation about the flag — but such documentation is, admittedly, slight.
Mysterious contributors aside, the flag’s initial design was submitted to the City Council for consideration on June 9, 1931. The flag was then quickly and rather unceremoniously adopted as the Official Flag of Los Angeles by the City Council as Ordinance 70,000 at a meeting on July 15, 1931, just in time for the city’s 150th birthday. The notification of this vote was printed in the August 4, 1931 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
The City of Los Angeles Flag has two parts — the Official Seal of Los Angeles and a tricolor field of green, orange (well, gold, really), and red.
The Seal of the City of Los Angeles
The Seal of the City of Los Angeles is comprised of a circle divided into four quadrants, each containing iconography relating to the various ruling bodies that have overseen stewardship of the city. Clockwise from upper left these are:
- The Stars and Stripes — a rendition of the Coat of Arms of the United States from the Great Seal of the United States
- California Republic Bear — an image that was used for nine months in 1846
- Castle and a Lion — representing the Coat of Arms of Spain
- Eagle, Snake, and Cactus — a representation of the Coat of Arms of Mexico
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You can also see these symbols along the northbound 110 Freeway, at the tops of the four tunnels that pass through Solano Canyon (known as the Figueroa Tunnels).
In addition to these four symbols in the seal’s center, around the outer edge of the seal at the top, left, and right sides there are, respectively, depictions grapes, olives, and oranges — an homage to the three main agricultural crops that have been grown in Los Angeles.
Finally, the entire seal is surrounded by a 77-bead rosary, signifying the role the Spanish missionaries played in the founding of the city.
The Colors of the Los Angeles City Flag
The field of the Los Angeles City Flag continues this tribute to the city’s agricultural roots. The colors represent, from left to right, olive trees (green), orange groves (orange/gold), and vineyards (red).
Supposedly, this trio of colors also pays homage to the flags of the countries that one controlled the land that is now Los Angeles — Mexico (green and red) and Spain (red and gold). This isn’t explicitly stated in any official documents (actually, not much about the flag is stated in any official documents), but this feels more like an afterthought than an intention.
As for the symmetrical zig-zag pattern, a style known in the business of heraldry as “dancetty,” there’s no explanation.
Finding the Los Angeles City Flag
The interesting thing about the City of Los Angeles Flag — it’s really hard to find it flying in the city. You can see it flying at both City Hall and South City Hall on the 1st Street side of the buildings. Sometimes you can find it flying at some of the larger city parks throughout the city, and the downtown library usually has the flag on display. But other than that, it’s not all that common.
You’d think that in the City of Los Angeles, you’d see this flag flying from every staff at every city building. The only place I’ve seen it flying regularly is at Rio de Los Angeles State Park.
The Los Angeles City Flag was first hoisted at City Hall in 1937 as seen in this this video from the USC Digital Collection featuring Frank L. Shaw, the 34th Mayor of Los Angeles (and first to be recalled), raising the flag in front of City Hall.
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