Since You Asked: Long may Oregon's beaver flag wave

Could you please have your gurus give us the reason that there are two different emblems on the Oregon state flag. Also when did this happen? It's fascinating how many people were born in Oregon and don't know that the two sides are different; also are there any other states that have two different logos on their flag?

— Roger B., Medford

Vexillologists confirmed for us that Oregon is in fact the only state that has a different design on the two sides of its state flag, at least since 1979 when New Jersey removed from the rear of its flag the word "Fuhgeddaboudit," that state's official motto (ahem!).

Among nations, Oregon's only two-sided flag equal is Paraguay. You're swelling with pride, yes?

The front of Oregon's flag (or the rear, depending on whether you're a fan of the OSU Beavers) shows a heart-shaped shield with an eagle on top, surrounded by 33 stars, for the Union's 33 states in 1859, when Oregon became a state.

The image on the shield shows the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean with trees, mountains and a covered wagon. A plow, wheat and pick-ax represent farming and mining. On the ocean, a British ship is leaving and a U.S. ship is arriving, representing trade. (Problem with this last bit is the British ship is a Man-of-War, made for fightin' not for tradin'. So another explanation we found is that it symbolizes America's rise in power.)

The eagle represents the United States. On a banner are the words "The Union," representing support for the United States.

The flag is emblazoned with the words "State of Oregon" above the picture and the date of statehood, 1859, below.

The opposite side of the flag shows a beaver, the state animal.

All our information says the flag was adopted in 1925, but we're unsure if the original design included the beaver, which became the state animal in 1969 (the state statute on the flag design , ORS 186.010, was last amended in 1959). Our state flag bears a gold fringe in parades and "dress" occasions.

As for why two different sides, well, we're perplexed. Used to be many flags, particularly standards for military groups, were two-sided. But because they're more expensive to make, two-sided designs fell out of favor. Oregon didn't get that memo, apparently.

If anyone knows the two-sided flag's history and reasoning, fill us in and we'll share it with the world.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to

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