How to fold state flags

September 20, 2006

As a lifelong Boy Scout and Scouter, I have lived with flag etiquette so long as I can remember. One of the key parts of flag etiquette with the U.S. flag is the proper folding, done to allow the flag to unfurl neatly when hoisted on a lanyard. (I have earlier discussed the meaning of folding the flag, or rather, the lack of meaning, here, here, and here.)

Several people wrote to ask about etiquette for folding state flags. Whenever I’ve been involved in ceremonies involving state flags, we have used the same fold prescribed for the U.S. flag, for the same reason — it allows the flags to neatly unfurl when they are posted. I have found several sites that urge a different fold for state flags, to preserve some uniqueness of the U.S. flag folding, but of course, that rather avoids the fact that the method used for the U.S. flag is just old ship tradition.

It seemed likely to me that some state had a special fold, however — and sure enough, I’ve found one. Ohio’s flag is not a rectangle, but is instead a tapered banner with two tails. In 2005, as an Eagle Scout project, Ohio Scout Alex Weinstock from Ohio’s Junction City Troop 260 devised a folding method for Ohio’s flag that ends with with 17 folds — appropriate to Ohio’s being the 17th state admitted to the union.

The fold is not easy — flag professionals call it “tricky.” (See a diagram here, from the Muskingumm Valley Council, BSA, in .pdf.)

Ohio’s flag is the only one of the state flags that is not a rectangle. So far as I have found, it is the only one with any suggested method of folding that differs from the method used for the U.S. flag — but my searches may have missed an odd law here or there.

If you know of other special folding methods, please leave a note in comments, or e-mail me.

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