The History of the California State Flag
California’s State Flag was born of a rebellion. The 1846 Sonoma uprising even took its name, “The Bear Flag Revolt,” from its first flag. Within a short time, the struggle for independence was over and California became a part of the United States. The original Bear Flag went into obscurity, leaving many alternative or fantastic designs to replace it. The original flag was placed in a museum collection but was later lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.Fortunately, an accurate copy of the Bear Flag was made and now resides in Sonoma.
For over 50-years California was flag-less, without an official state emblem. By the turn of the 20th Century, many in the Golden State began to advocate for an official state flag. The Native Sons of the Golden West lobbied the California Legislature to use their marching banner as the basis for an official flag. In 1911, the California Legislature passed a bill that settled on a basic design, a red star and strip, grizzly bear and wording. Though the basic elements were agreed upon, no one single design was specified. As a result, many different versions of the “official flag” were flown for the next 40-years.
Present Day Flag
The iconic flag we see today was made the official State Flag by legislation and government code. Its basic standardized elements were a red star and stripe taken from our nation’s flag; the grizzly bear, which had come to symbolize the Golden State over the years; and the legend “California Republic” that repeated the wording (minus a period) from the original 1846 Bear Flag. Also, as a result of this process, which made the California grizzly bear the main element of the flag, the Legislature passed a separate bill making the grizzly the State Animal in 1953