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What Is the History of Ohio's State Flag?

By R. Bargar
Updated May 17, 2024
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Designed in 1901, Ohio’s state flag was officially adopted by the state legislature on 9 May 1902. A description of the design of the flag and explanation of its symbolism were incorporated in Chapter 5, section 5.01 of the Ohio Revised Code 100 years after its adoption. The state flag of Ohio is unique among all the United States' flags due to its shape. Rather than being rectangular, like the flags of all the other states, Ohio’s flag is shaped like a pennant with a concave, swallowtail end. It is sometimes referred to as Ohio’s burgee due to this distinctive shape.

Ohio’s state flag was created by John Eisenmann to represent the state during the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901. It flew over the Ohio Building during this World’s Fair and symbolized the essence of the state. Eisenmann, an architect who designed the Cleveland Arcade, based the flag on one used during the U.S. Civil War by the Ohio cavalry. Although simple and bold in appearance, each design element is rich in symbolism representing the geography and history of the state.

The blue triangular union of the flag represents the hills and valleys found in Ohio. Inside this triangle are 17 white, five-pointed stars. The 13 to the left surrounding the large circle represent the original 13 colonies. Those to the right of the circle symbolize the next four states to join the union. Ohio joined the U.S. as the seventeenth state in 1803.

A large red circle outlined with white is found inside the triangular blue union of Ohio’s state flag. This circle represents the first letter of the state’s name. It is also meant to symbolize the fruit of the state tree, the buckeye. The three red stripes and two white stripes symbolize the land and water routes through the state. Each detail of the flag was meant to emphasize the importance of Ohio to the United States as a center of agriculture, manufacturing and transportation.

In addition to describing Ohio's state flag, Chapter 5 of the Ohio Revised Code also contains sections detailing the display and maintenance of the flag and the proper way to fold it. The flag can be flown from all state and public buildings during daylight hours and during the night if properly lit. When flown along with the United States' flag, Ohio’s state flag must be smaller in size than and located below the U.S. flag. Old flags may be repaired. Proper disposal methods of flags beyond repair are also detailed.

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Discussion Comments
By anon349328 — On Sep 24, 2013

Curiously, the previous four comments read like they were all written by the same person having pedantic debate with him or herself with each comment offering a judgment on their concurrence or lack of concurrence with the State of Ohio's adoption of the flag's design in 1902.

Izzy, apparently is not "sold" on the design, nor does he think it is particularly "creative." I am certain that Ohio will reconsider if Izzy will submit examples of flag that he feels are creative and compelling as well as his thoughts on what might be appropriate for the state's flag.

I have decided to accept the flag in its present design without comment.

By jmc88 — On May 19, 2012

@jcraig - You are absolutely correct and the best way to describe this particular state flag is how it is bold.

The flag itself is different and not afraid to be criticized for being different or borrowing designs from the country's flag.

In this regard the flag has become the perfect symbol for the state of Ohio as it is easily recognizable among Ohioans and is definitely unique among all other state flags.

I really wish that other state would follow suite in their state flag designs as there are way too many that are way to un-creative for my tastes.

By jcraig — On May 18, 2012

@Izzy78 - Actually there is a lot more symbolism to the flag than what just meets the eye.

During the Civil War the state of Ohio sent more troops to fight for the Union than any other state and that was a figure that was bragged about amongst Ohioans for years after the war.

In the few decades that followe dafter the Civil War states began to look to their participation in the Civil War as a source of pride and decided to incorporate these attributes into their state flags.

For the state of Ohio it was easy to pick the design that they did simply because of their participation in the Civil War and what their participation means in the country's history.

I feel like the design merely shown the pride Ohio had to be a member of the Union and that the shape just happened to fall that way and they did not feel like it would be an issue to keep the design as a state flag.

By Izzy78 — On May 17, 2012

@stl156 - You may feel that way and appreciate the uniqueness of the flag, but to be honest I am not too sold on the design they picked for the flag.

I understand that there is much symbolism in the flag, but I really feel the design is a bit uncreative when it is similar looking to the American flag in its stars and stripes.

I will say the different shape of the flag does add a unique touch to the state flag, but besides being a bit of a gimmick to be seen as unique, it is a bit unimaginative and really does not make the state of Ohio stand out as opposed to other states.

I really have to wonder why they decided to go with the design they did. I know that it had to do a bit with the history of Ohio in the Civil War, but really the design itself is a bit uncreative with little symbolism when one thinks hard about it.

By stl156 — On May 16, 2012

I have to say as far as state's flags go I am so glad that the state of Ohio decided to pick a flag that was very unique and stood out among the other state flags.

I really feel that too many times a state will choose a state flag that does not give enough uniqueness to the state and become and appropriate symbol for the people fo the state to rally behind. This is definitely not the case with the Ohio state flag and I feel that this is due to its unique design.

There are not other state flags like it, in its shape or in its design and I feel like this flag appropriately depicts the state of Ohio's place in history in America.

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