First designed in 1907 by resident and then-City Controller, David Heineman, the flag pays tribute to major historical periods in the city, as well as to the Great Fire of 1805. The flag’s four quadrants represent the different nations that held the city since it’s founding.
According to the Detroit Historical Museum, "The lower left features the fleur-de-lis to represent France, who founded Detroit in 1701. The upper right includes the gold lions of Great Britain, who controlled the city from 1760-1796. The upper left and the lower right sections represent the United States, the thirteen stripes and thirteen stars stand for the thirteen original colonies. "
The seal in the center of the flag was originally inspired by, but did not match, the City of Detroit Seal. It was adopted with Heineman's original design in 1948, but modified in 1972 to more accurately reflect the official seal of the City of Detroit.
I, Roman S. Gribbs, Mayor of the City of Detroit, proclaim April 20, 1972 as DAVID E. HEINEMAN RECOGNIITION DAY in tribute to the memory of a man who ranks as one of the most outstanding figures in Detroit’s history. Roman S. Gribbs, Mayor of Detroit 1970-1974