The Only U.S. State Whose Flag Is Not a Rectangle

Guess which state wanted its flag to stand out!

State Flags of the United StatesJoseph Sohm/Shutterstock

If someone asks you to describe the American flag, it’s most likely a no-brainer; the stars and stripes appear all over the United States. But when it comes to state flags, even some of the most vocal state pride proponents may not be able to describe their state flags off the top of their head. Maybe you can correctly identify its main coloring, or remember a catchy slogan that it displays. But one thing you can be certain of is its familiar rectangular shape—if you live in 49 out of the 50 states, that is. There’s one state that uses a totally unique, non-rectangular shape for its flag. Do you know which state it is? Here are some more cool facts about every single state.

To help jog your memory, this is what the flag looks like. Its shape is called a “burgee” (a swallowtail burgee, to be specific) and starts wider on the left, getting narrower on the right side. Instead of a straight edge on the right, it has two points. It’s red, white, and blue in color, with five red-and-white stripes on the right side. The left side has a dark blue triangle, in the center of which is a red-and-white circle surrounded by 17 white stars.

The number of stars is perhaps the biggest clue; this state was the 17th to be added to the Union. Now do you know which it is?

State Flag of OhioJoseph Sohm/Shutterstock

The answer is Ohio! In 1901, an architect named John Eisenmann was designing the Ohio Building for the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. He thought there should be a flag flying atop it and, since there was no official Ohio flag, he decided to design one himself. Wanting to make it unique, he chose the swallowtail shape (which may have been inspired by a U.S. cavalry pennant).

As for the rest of the flag’s symbolism, the circle in the center evokes the “O” for Ohio, in addition to slightly resembling a buckeye seed (since Ohio is “the Buckeye State”). The 13 stars surrounding the circle pay homage to the original 13 colonies, and the four stars to the right of it bring the number up to 17, representing Ohio’s admission to the Union as the 17th state.

Now that you’ve already got one of the answers, test your knowledge of all 50 state flags with our quiz!

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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.