Monday, January 20, 2003

Ask A Stupid Question

Society of the Cincinnati flag flies high

By Mike Pulfer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Question: "There are three flags flying over Fountain Square. One is the stars and stripes, and one the flag of Cincinnati. What is the third flag? It is not the flag (or pennant) of the State of Ohio."

Answer: The third flag is the Society of the Cincinnati flag, says Bunny Arszman, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, which oversees Fountain Square. It has blue and white stripes and a dark blue square in the upper left corner, with a circle of 13 stars around an eagle.

The society, if you were wondering, was created as a veterans' organization by Gen. George Washington's senior officers shortly after the Revolutionary War. They had compared themselves to Roman patrician Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who had been called out of retirement on his farm to defend Rome in 458 and 439 B.C.

"The Cincinnati" is a plural form used to embrace numerous soldiers and former soldiers, says Emily Schulz, spokeswoman for the society's national offices in Washington, D.C. "Members often call themselves `the Cincinnati'."

But history class is not over. Please remain in your seats.

In 1789, shortly after the founding of Fort Washington here, Gen. Washington sent Gen. Arthur St. Clair to Losantiville, the struggling settlement at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers. As governor of the newly formed Northwest Territory, it was his job to deal with Indians. Historians believe Gen. St. Clair didn't like the name Losantiville (village opposite the mouth of the river) and changed it to Cincinnati, to honor the society and the war veterans, Ms. Arszman says.

The flag colors represent the alliance of the Americans (blue) and the French (white) during the Revolution. As in the case of the American flag, design changes evolved over the years, and much was left to the imagination of individual flag makers. The flag was standardized in 1905.

In addition to Fountain Square, the society flag flies at Sawyer Point Park as a reminder of our city's heritage.

The bell has rung. You are free to go.

If you have a stupid question, send it to Ask a Stupid Question, Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax: 768-8330; e-mail

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