Why Ohio's State Flag Stands Out



If you're searching for "what us state does not have a rectangular flag," the answer is Ohio. The state of Ohio's flag stands out not just within the United States but among state flags worldwide because it breaks the mold of the conventional rectangular shape. Instead, Ohio's state flag, known as a "burgee," sports a striking swallowtail design, making it truly one-of-a-kind.

Ohio's unique flag design distinguishes it from the other 49 states. While most states adhere to the standard rectangular flag format, Ohio dared to be different. This bold choice reflects the state's rich history and vibrant pride.

Introducing myself, I'm Harrison Watson, the COO of Flag Lady USA, with a passion for all things flags. My experience in flag manufacturing and design gives me unique insight into Ohio's non-rectangular flag, ensuring each detail in this article is both accurate and engaging.

Clear infographic showing Ohio as the only state with a non-rectangular flag, illustrating the burgee shape with a side-by-side comparison to a traditional rectangular flag of another state - what us state does not have a rectangular flag infographic comparison-2-items-formal

The Unique Design of Ohio's State Flag

Symbolism and Meaning

Ohio's state flag is unlike any other in the United States. Designed by John Eisenmann, it is the only state flag that is not rectangular. Instead, it has a swallowtail burgee shape. This unique design was first introduced at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 and officially adopted on May 9, 1902.

Eisenmann's design is rich in symbolism:

  • Red Disk: The red circle at the hoist end represents the seed of the buckeye, Ohio's official state tree.
  • White "O": Surrounding the red disk is a white "O," which stands for Ohio.
  • 17 Stars: These stars signify Ohio's admission as the 17th state in the Union. Thirteen stars are arranged around the circle to represent the original colonies, while four additional stars are placed to the right.
  • Hills and Valleys: The triangles in the design symbolize Ohio's diverse landscape of hills and valleys.
  • Waterways and Roads: The red and white stripes represent Ohio's waterways and roads, highlighting the state's extensive network of transportation routes.

Ohio Flag - what us state does not have a rectangular flag

Eisenmann may have drawn inspiration from the guidon carried by the U.S. cavalry, which also features a similar swallowtail shape. The flag's design also incorporates elements from the Stars and Stripes to honor the national flag of the United States.

This combination of historical and natural elements makes Ohio's flag a unique and meaningful symbol of the state's identity.

What US State Does Not Have a Rectangular Flag?

Historical Context

Ohio is the only state in the U.S. that does not have a rectangular flag. Instead, Ohio's flag is a unique swallowtail burgee. This non-rectangular design sets it apart from the flags of the other 49 states.

Before Ohio had an official flag, it relied on regimental colors and the Stars and Stripes for its state and military representation. In the early 1850s, Ohio showed interest in adopting a state flag. A proposal was made by Quartermaster General David L. Wood and Adjutant General Henry B. Carrington, who designed a flag featuring the state seal on a white field. However, this design was set aside in favor of the national flag during a speech by future U.S. President James A. Garfield in 1861.

Design Inspiration

The design of Ohio's flag was heavily influenced by John Eisenmann, an architect who was commissioned to design the Ohio Building for the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. Eisenmann wanted a unique flag to fly over the building, so he created the distinctive swallowtail shape. This design may have been inspired by the U.S. cavalry guidon, a triangular flag used during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.

Eisenmann's flag design was not immediately adopted. It wasn't until 1902, when State Representative William S. McKinnon introduced a bill, that Eisenmann's design became Ohio's official state flag. This made Ohio the 20th state to adopt an official flag, but the only one with a non-rectangular shape.

The flag's unique shape and design elements, such as the triangular canton and the red, white, and blue colors, were inspired by both military and nautical traditions. These elements, combined with the symbolism of Ohio's natural features and history, make the flag a distinctive emblem of the state.

Ohio's flag stands out not just because of its shape, but also due to its rich historical context and the inspiration drawn from various sources. This blend of influences and the flag's unique design make it a significant symbol of Ohio's identity and pride.

The Ohio Burgee: A Closer Look

Official Specifications

Ohio's state flag, the Ohio Burgee, is a unique piece of design. Unlike any other state flag in the U.S., it features a triangular canton instead of the more common rectangular shape. This triangle contains the flag's most striking elements: a prominent red disc on a white "O," symbolizing both the state's name and its nickname, the Buckeye State.

The flag's design is codified in the Ohio Revised Code, section 5.01. It specifies the flag's proportional dimensions and its colors—red, white, and blue—representing the state's waterways, roads, hills, and valleys. The flag also includes 17 white stars, indicating Ohio's position as the 17th state admitted to the Union.

Usage and Influence

The Ohio Burgee's unique shape and design have inspired various municipal flags and logos within the state. For example, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Cincinnati Bengals have incorporated elements of the state flag into their team logos, showcasing their Ohio pride.

The flag is also a prominent feature during events and ceremonies. The Ohio State University Marching Band proudly flies the Ohio Burgee during football games, adding to the festive spirit and state pride.

Ohio has even adopted an official salute to the flag, and there is a specific folding procedure that gives it 17 folds, symbolizing Ohio's admission as the 17th state. This folding method is detailed in the Ohio Revised Code and is a point of pride for many Ohioans.

The Ohio Burgee is more than just a flag; it's a symbol deeply woven into the fabric of Ohio's identity. Whether seen at a sports event, in a municipal logo, or during a ceremonial salute, it stands as a testament to the state's rich history and unique character.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ohio's State Flag

Why is Ohio's flag not rectangular?

Ohio's flag is unique because it is the only U.S. state flag that is not rectangular. Its designer, John Eisenmann, created this distinctive shape for the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. He wanted Ohio's flag to stand out, so he chose a swallowtail burgee design. This shape may have been inspired by the U.S. cavalry guidon, making it a memorable and symbolic choice for Ohio.

What do the stars on Ohio's flag represent?

The stars on Ohio's flag carry significant meaning. Surrounding the red-and-white circle, you will find 13 stars, representing the original 13 colonies. Additionally, there are four more stars to the right, which, when combined, total 17 stars. This number symbolizes Ohio's admission to the Union as the 17th state.

How is Ohio's flag folded?

Ohio's flag has a special folding procedure that is both unique and symbolic. The flag is folded 17 times, representing Ohio's place as the 17th state in the Union. The Ohio General Assembly has detailed this method in the Ohio Revised Code. This folding process is often taught in Boy Scout projects, making it a meaningful activity for young Ohioans.


Ohio's state flag stands out among the 50 states because of its unique non-rectangular shape. Designed by John Eisenmann for the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, it became official in 1902. The flag's swallowtail burgee design is unlike any other state flag, making it a point of pride for Ohioans.

The flag's rich symbolism includes a red disk representing the buckeye seed, a white "O" for Ohio, and 17 stars signifying Ohio's admission as the 17th state. These elements combine to tell a story of Ohio's history and natural beauty, from its hills and valleys to its waterways and roads.

At Flag Lady USA, we celebrate this unique state flag and its deep connection to Ohio's identity. Our collection of Ohio flags and related products allows you to showcase your state pride in various ways. Whether you're a history buff, a sports fan, or simply proud to be from Ohio, our flags can help you express that pride.

Explore our Ohio flags collection and find the perfect flag to display your love for the Buckeye State.

Ohio's flag is more than just a piece of fabric; it's a symbol of the state's rich heritage and unique identity. Display it with pride and let it remind you of all that Ohio represents.