On Ohio’s State Flag

Ohio’s flag, adopted in 1902, is often known as the Ohio Burgee for its swallow tail design—which has most often been employed in the design of maritime signal flags. The Ohio Burgee is the only non-rectangular flag in the United States.

John Eisenmann, a Cleveland architect, was selected to design the Ohio State exhibition hall for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901. Eisenmann also designed what would become the Ohio Burgee only a year later, as a flag to represent the Ohio Pan-American Exposition Commission, not the entire state. But in 1902, after the Governor, George K. Nash, had visited the exposition and been presented with one of the flags, State Representative William McKinnon introduced House Bill 213 creating Eisenmann’s design the official state flag.

Eisenmann’s design was so literally so “outside the box”, not being of the standard state-seal-on-a-sheet design the press actually went overseas to find precedents for the design – the layout being compared to Cuba’s flag or the flag of the Philippines, while the red and white annulus was chastised for its easy comparison to the Japanese flag.

Though still sometimes considered unpopular and not often flown by Ohioans, the Burgee remains one of the most unique flags in the Union.