Issue 16 

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December 2003                                                       Vol. VIII,  No. 2, Issue 16


Two City Flags Wave Over Grand Rapids

    Grand Rapids, Michigan's second largest city, is probably best known for furniture and President Gerald Ford. Although Gerald Ford only rose to prominence in the last half of the twentieth century, furniture has been associated with Grand Rapids since shortly after Detroit trader Louis Campau established his trading post in 1826 on the banks of the Grand River near Lake Michigan. By the time the city was incorporated on April 2, 1850, it was already home to one factory and a number of smaller shops which produced home furnishings.

    Grand Rapids' official flag was adopted by the City Council July 26, 1915. The flag consists of the city seal in blue on a white background. There is a blue vertical bar at the hoist and fly.

    The seal was designed by City Clerk Aaron B. Turner and adopted by the City Council June 25, 1850. The seal is ringed by a double set of beading. In the center is a bald eagle in flight facing left. On the eagle's breast is the US shield. Rays of light radiate from the eagle and beneath it is the date 1850. The eagle is framed by the scale of justice which is suspended from a hand reaching down from the clouds. Between the two sets of beading are the words "City of Grand Rapids Mich." above the eagle and the city motto Motu Viget, meaning "strength from activity," beneath. Originally, Michigan was abbreviated simply as "M." However, this was modified in 1857 to the current inscription. 

    City records indicate that this flag replaced an earlier one adopted March 8, 1896, which was red, white and blue and bore the inscription "Furniture City." This flag was officially rescinded July 25, 1915.

    Although Grand Rapids adopted a flag very early in its history, it is rarely seen outside the city hall. Instead, the city flies a "banner" with the city logo at municipal facilities. The logo also adorns street signs, vehicles, and stationary.

    The logo was designed in 1982 by artist and Grand Rapids native Joseph Kinnebrew. The logo is a yellow disk representing the setting sun. This alludes to Grand Rapids' position on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The 1969 sculpture by Alexander Calder, La Grande Vitesse, which is the focal point of the plaza between City and County Buildings, is depicted in the right half of the circle in "Calder Red." An undulating blue line representing the Grand River cuts the bottom third of the disk from the top. It begins on the left as simply a wavy line, but then follows the bottom line of the sculpture until it ends at the right edge.

    The banner consists of the logo centered on a plain blue background with no inscriptions or other devices. (DB)


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