About the I Will Flag
The blue stripes illustrate the importance of water to Cook County. The top stripe represents the North Shore Canal, the Skokie River/ Lagoons, the Des Plaines River, and the North Branch of the Chicago River while the bottom stripe reflects the Grand Calumet River, the Illinois River, Salt Creek, and the South Branch of the Chicago River. The central stripe indicates the main stem of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. The Y shape mimics the merging of these bodies of water at Wolf Point. Not only are these bodies of water beautiful, treasured resources, they are an essential piece of this county’s history. By facilitating trade between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, our waterways made Cook County the national center of commerce it is today. Additionally, this imagery is used on the popular Municipal Device, more commonly known as the Y symbol, and is seen in logos and art around Cook County. The Y symbol can even be found on the original county seal, which is engraved outside the entrance of the Cook County Building at 118 N. Clark St. in Chicago.
The green stripes symbolize nature and the Forest Preserves. The placement of the green stripes depict a river bank like seen at the Des Plaines River Trail and North Branch Trail. Originating in 1914 with the establishment of the Forest Preserve District, the Forest Preserves serve as an integral connection to the natural world for the people of Cook County and a vital nature sanctuary, all while being surrounded by a bustling metropolis. The forest, nature walks, river trails, prairies, and even the Botanical Gardens and Brookfield Zoo are all protected by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. This kind of commitment to nature is not seen in any other urban area. Our deep connection to the natural environment is something unique to Cook County.
The white background of the flag represents innovation and commerce. The color white depicts a blank canvas, a freshness of what is yet to come and the human eye views the color white as brilliant. Cook County is a national economic leader marked by major industries and significant advancements in technology, healthcare, architecture, and countless other pivotal fields. Cook County’s major role in railroad, interstate, water, and air transportation is essential to the economic development of local communities, Illinois, and the entire United States.
The red stars have several important meanings. The stars represent six foundational moments that represent who we are through the founding of Cook County, our commitment to health care through the founding of Cook County Hospitals Stroger and Provident, defeating disparities through the founding of Cook County Department of Public Health, preserving national lands through the founding of the Forest Preserve, family and juvenile justice reform through the founding of the first in the nation Arthur J Audy Home for justice-system involved youth, and local partnerships by harkening back to the old flag’s circle of stars. The seven points of the star represent different parts of Cook County: North, Northwest, West, Southwest, South, the City of Chicago, and the Forest Preserve District. The stars bring all the points together, symbolizing our unity and a common mission. The color holds particular significance. Red has historically been the color of social change, something Cook County is no stranger to. Red is strong and bold, as are those who continue to fight for equality. Some key moments in Cook County’s history include creating the first juvenile court in the world, welcoming over 200,000 Jewish immigrants after WWII, hosting the first Special Olympics, the founding of the first recognized gay rights organization in America, equal housing marches organized by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., recent protests for Black Lives Matter, and even electing historic County officials like Commissioner John Jones and Judge Mary Bartelme. The people of Cook County continue to be united in the fight for equality.
The flag gets its name from a historic statue by artist Charles Holloway, who was the first-place winner in an 1891 contest that challenged artists to come up with “a figure typical of Chicago’s spirit” to represent the city – sort of like an Uncle Sam. Holloway’s entry of a goddess figure suited for battle came out on top. Reflecting her defiant attitude, she wore a breastplate that read “I Will.” The “I Will” name embraces the fighting spirit and go-getter attitude of the people of Cook County.
Drew Duffy (he/him/his) Student Designer
Graphic Designer Cook County Bureau of Administration