Arlington County began using an Arlington House emblem during the 1960s. However, the Commonwealth’s Attorney at that time ruled that the County Board did not have the authority to adopt a seal. During these years, the County used a seal showing a drawing of Arlington House inside a circle, with the date 1801. Later, this date was removed due to disagreements over the date of Arlington’s founding. Read about the date controversy.
On September 11, 1982, the Arlington County Board adopted a resolution, which called for a “County-wide flag design competition” and created a Flag Selection Panel to conduct the competition. The resolution directed that the flag colors include “Arlington blue” (Pantone/PMS 307) and white and contain the words “Arlington County, Virginia” and the date “1920.” The contest was conducted during March 1983. Read the Flag Selection Panel's final report to the Arlington County Board.
On January 11, 1983, Gerald Baliles, the Commonwealth’s Attorney General, sent a letter stating that “… a county may design and display a county flag using the design of the county seal if the governing body desires to do so.” Read the letter.
The Panel received 110 entries. On April 20, 1983, the Arlington County Board selected a design submitted by Harvey J. Wilcox for the Arlington County flag. Mr. Wilcox worked at the Pentagon and sketched his initial flag ideas on napkins from the Pentagon cafeteria. You can view the original napkins (napkin 1 and napkin 2), which Mr. Wilcox sent to us in 2007, along with a letter.
The Board removed the “1920” date, due to the disagreement over the official founding date of Arlington County. Read about the date controversy.
The County Attorney had determined that, in order to have a County flag, the County Board must first adopt the emblem displayed as a County seal. On June 6, 1983, the Arlington County Board adopted a resolution proclaiming the County flag and seal to be the same design, thus adopting the Harvey Wilcox design as the official County seal. Read the County Board report and the resolution.
Subsequently, a graphic file was created that was in wide use through the Arlington County government.
Over the years, a number of defiled seals cropped up, as specific graphic standards for the seal were not put into place until 2004. Those standards are part of the graphic standards manual created for Arlington’s visual identity, which includes an Arlington logo.
The County Manager researched the original seal design and found that the existing graphic file did not reflect the Board’s original intent. For example, the Board had specified a particular color of “Arlington blue,” Pantone 307, which was not used.
A few changes were made to correct several problems with the existing graphic file that had made reproduction difficult, particularly at small sizes. The County Manager proposed a new graphic file in December 2006 and opened it for public comment for 60 days. Read a full discussion about the proposed changes. Following the public comment period, the County Manager proposed a revised graphic file -- reflecting comments received -- which was approved by the County Board on May 8, 2007. Read the press release.
With the adoption of this updated seal, the County will apply for trademark protection, which had not been possible with the previous graphic file. To avoid unnecessary cost, staff is asked to use existing printed materials, etc. and to use the new graphic file when producing/printing new materials. Since 2004, the number of incorrect uses has dropped dramatically, although tainted examples can still be easily found. Now, an effort is underway to set stronger graphic standards in place, to further protect Arlington’s ”great seal” of government, as well as to improve the seal’s graphic digital file.
View the history of Arlington's visual identity through the years.