CHICAGO — David Morris believes Illinois' current flag is "ugly," features "nothing Illinoisan about it" and "does nothing to advance the state's brand."
The Dunning resident recently designed a new flag — partly inspired by the popularity and makeup of Chicago's flag — that he hopes will be accepted by the state's government in time for Illinois' 2018 bicentennial.
His idea already has the backing of state Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Jefferson Park), who plans to introduce a bill early next year.
"The case he makes certainly makes sense to me," Martwick told DNAinfo Chicago. "I don’t have a personal attachment to the state flag. Maybe some people do; I don’t. There really is no significance to the flag, and the fact he has an idea of making a flag that’s more related to the history of the state of Illinois sounds good to me. Why wouldn’t we pursue it?"
Martwick wants to replace the current Illinois flag that's been around since July 1, 1970. The white flag is dominated by the state seal, which includes a bald eagle, an olive branch and a shield with the Stars and Stripes. The eagle carries in its beak a banner with the motto “State Sovereignty, National Union."
Morris, who's hoping to be finished wth his Ph.D. in history at Notre Dame this year and quests to become a professor or library administrator, has had an affinity for flags since he was a 7-year-old. He first thought of the design last year while serving an academic fellowship in Rome. He was surrounded by artists and graphic designers, and began thinking that Illinois' flag wasn't well designed or artistically pleasing.
"The emphasis on flags stems from the public's growing sophistication concerning good design and how it should be brought into public spaces," Morris said. "You see how Chicago's flag has become much more prominent now in marketing and civic displays, and you see the flag of Illinois, and how lackluster it is by comparison."
Morris' Illinois flag is a 3-by-2 rectangle with a dark blue vertical stripe filled with three five-pointed stars; the coat of arms of the city of Lincoln in England (representing the origin of President Abraham Lincoln's family name); a white field cut into four parts by a red cross; and a gold fleur-de-lis in the center.
In Morris' comprehensive idea submission to Martwick and state Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), he describes the symbolism of each part of the design.
Dark blue stripe: Symbolizes Lake Michigan and the principal rivers of Illinois, including the Chicago River.
Three stars: Represent Northern, Central and Southern Illinois. The five points of the stars represent the five entities that Illinois belonged to before it became its own territory and then state: France, Britain, Virginia, the Northwest Territory and Indiana.
The four white fields mark four milestones: The entrance into the Union in 1818; the foundation of Chicago in 1833; President Lincoln’s election in 1860; and Illinois becoming the first state in the country to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, in 1865.
The presence of red: Represents the blood of the native peoples of Illinois, particularly during and after the Black Hawk War of 1832.
The presence of gold: Represents the prairie and the agricultural wealth of Illinois. The fleur-de-lis itself commemorates the role played by French and Francophone people in the settlement of Illinois, including Louis Jolliet, Jacques Marquette, Robert de La Salle and Chicago's first settler, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable.
"I tried to assume the perspective of someone from downstate," Morris said. "I wanted to fashion a symbol that really speaks to things that all of us can take pride in as Illinoisans, whether you're from Little Egypt or Champaign-Urbana. Illinois has a wonderfully fascinating history, and with all of our ongoing problems and the divisiveness of our politics nowadays, it's so important to remind everyone of what we hold in common."
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