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Unique historical symbol representing the American state

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The Ohio flag is a special symbol of pride for the people of the U.S. state of Ohio. It has unique colours and meanings that represent the state’s history and beauty.

In this article, readers will learn about the flag’s interesting history and what it stands for.

What is the Ohio flag?

What is the Ohio flag?

The Ohio flag is a unique and distinctive symbol that represents the state of Ohio, a Midwestern state in the United States. It consists of a swallowtail design with five alternating horizontal stripes of red and white. The flag is known for its striking and recognisable features.

Officially referred to as the Ohio Burgee, the Ohio flag is unique in that it is the only state flag in the Union that is not rectangular. Symbolising the state’s historical significance and natural qualities, the design was adopted in 1902.

The Ohio flag is used in various official and ceremonial capacities within the state. The flag is flown at various government buildings, schools, and institutions across Ohio. It is a symbol of state pride and identity.  In 2002, the Ohio General Assembly adopted a salute to the flag, which is recited after the Pledge of Allegiance.

During football games, the Ohio State University Marching Band’s “JI-Row”, which represents the percussion section, often flies the Ohio flag.

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The Columbus Blue Jackets, a National Hockey League team headquartered in Ohio’s capital, have integrated aspects of the state flag into their emblem. Similarly, the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League have a supporter flag inspired by the state flag of Ohio. These sports teams have adopted the design and symbolism of the state flag as part of their identity.

Several Ohio towns and counties have adopted flags based on the Ohio burgee. Adams County, Marysville, and Mentor, for example, have flags that replace the central annulus with a seal and may change the arrangement of stars in the triangular union.

In 2002, the Ohio General Assembly adopted a salute to the flag, which is recited after the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ohio flag history

Ohio flag history

For almost a hundred years after Ohio became a state, it did not have an official flag. During this time, the state’s militia used flags based on the American flag but with the addition of a large eagle, the regiment’s number, and the required number of stars above.

In the early 1850s, Ohio started thinking about having its state flag, like many other states at the time. In 1860, Quartermaster General David L. Wood and Adjutant General Henry B. Carrington came up with a flag that featured the state seal on a white field. They hoisted it above the Ohio State Arsenal in Columbus, hoping it would become the state flag. However, it was James A. Garfield, a future U.S. President, who convinced them to stick with the national flag as Ohio’s official flag.

The turning point came in 1901 when architect John Eisenmann designed a unique flag for the Ohio Building at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. This wool flag did not officially represent the state, but the Ohio Pan-American Exposition Commission. Governor George K. Nash received one of these flags during his visit to the exposition.

Eisenmann’s flag colours featured a distinctive triangular shape with a forked or swallow-tailed end, much like a cavalry guidon. In 1902, the state representative, William S. McKinnon, proposed House Bill 213, making Eisenmann’s design the official flag of Ohio. It became law on May 9, 1902, making Ohio the 20th state in the United States to have its flag.

Initially, Ohio’s flag was not used very often as many believed that the Stars and Stripes should be the primary flag for patriotic displays. However, over time, Ohioans embraced their unique flag, and it gained popularity among residents, businesses, and even the state itself.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, a National Hockey League team headquartered in Ohio’s capital, have integrated aspects of the state flag into their emblem. Similarly, the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League have a supporter flag inspired by the state flag of Ohio. These sports teams have adopted the design and symbolism of the state flag as part of their identity.

Several Ohio towns and counties have adopted flags based on the Ohio burgee. Adams County, Marysville and Mentor, for example, have flags that replace the central annulus with a seal and may change the arrangement of stars in the triangular union. These flags pay homage to the state flag while including distinctive characteristics representing their respective towns.

In 2002, Ohio’s General Assembly introduced a salute to the flag, which is recited after the Pledge of Allegiance as a mark of respect and loyalty. Additionally, Ohio has a specific procedure for folding its flag, which involves 17 folds to symbolise Ohio as the seventeenth state to join the Union.

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Ohio flag meaning

Ohio flag meaning

Each component of the Ohio flag was carefully picked to symbolise the history, geography, and character of the state, giving it a wealth of symbolic meaning. Now let us examine the significance and meaning of the Ohio flag.

  1. Burgee shape: The Ohio flag is unique among U.S. state flags because of its burgee shape. It is a triangular swallowtail flag with a distinctive forked or swallow-tailed end. This unusual shape sets it apart from the rectangular flags of other states and contributes to its identity.
  1. Seventeen stars: In the blue triangular canton of the flag, there are 17 five-pointed white stars. These stars hold a dual symbolism:
  • Thirteen of the stars encircle a red disc with a white circular “O”. These 13 stars represent the original thirteen states of the United States.
  • The remaining four stars, positioned at the peak of the triangle, signify that Ohio was the 17th state admitted to the Union. This placement emphasises Ohio’s unique status among the states.
  1. The Circular “O”: The circular “O” in the flag’s centre represents the letter “O” in “Ohio.” It also suggests the state’s nickname, “the Buckeye”. The buckeye tree is Ohio’s state tree and its nut resembles a buck’s eye, hence the nickname.
  2. The triangular field: The blue triangular field where the stars are placed represents the state’s hills and valleys. Ohio’s geography is characterised by rolling hills and fertile valleys, making this symbolism particularly apt.
  1. Annulus (Circular design): The red and white annulus that surrounds the circular “O” holds multiple meanings:
  • It represents Ohio’s original territory in the Northwest Territory.
  • The annulus also resembles a buckeye nut, further connecting it to the state’s nickname and identity.
  1. Mirror symmetry and uniqueness: The flag’s design, with its mirror symmetry, allows it to be flown or hung in various orientations without affecting its legibility. This design feature makes the Ohio flag stand out, especially among other rectangular state flags.

Ohio flag colours

Ohio flag colours

The colours of the Ohio flag are important in their symbolism and depiction of the state’s identity. Let’s take a deeper look at the colours used in the Ohio flag

The colours of the Ohio flag are red, white and blue.

Red: The colour red in the Ohio flag represents the state’s natural features, particularly its rich soil and fertile land. Ohio’s agricultural heritage and bountiful harvests are symbolised by this vibrant red colour.

White: The white on the flag symbolises Ohio’s waterways, including its rivers and lakes. Ohio’s strategic location along major water routes has historically contributed to its economic and industrial growth. The white colour emphasises the importance of water transportation in the state’s history.

Blue: The blue in the flag represents Ohio’s diverse topography, which includes hills and valleys. The varying shades of blue signify the state’s geographical features, highlighting its scenic landscapes and terrain.

White Stars on Blue Canton: The 17 white stars in the blue triangular canton of the flag hold dual symbolism. Thirteen of these stars encircle a red disc with a white circular “O,” representing the original thirteen states of the United States. The remaining four stars at the peak of the triangle signify Ohio as the 17th state admitted to the Union.

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