This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

California (U.S.)

Last modified: 2003-07-12 by rick wyatt
Keywords: california | bear | star | united states |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

[California flag] by Mario Fabretto, 24 February 1998


See also:

In 1851, a star was added, representing California, bringing the total number of stars on the U.S. flag to 31. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.

Legal Description

California Codes
Government Code
SECTION 420. The Bear Flag is the State Flag of California. As viewed with the hoist end of the flag to the left of the observer there appears in the upper left-hand corner of a white field a five-pointed red star with one point vertically upward and in the middle of the white field a brown grizzly bear walking toward the left with all four paws on a green grass plot, with head and eye turned slightly toward the observer; a red stripe forms the length of the flag at the bottom, and between the grass plot and the red stripe appear the words CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC.

Dimensions, excluding heading and unfinished flag ends: The hoist or flag width is two-thirds of the fly or flag length; the red stripe width is one-sixth of the hoist width. The state official flag hoist widths shall be two, three, four, five, six and eight feet. The diameter of an imaginary circle passing through the points of the star is one-tenth of the fly length; the distance of the star center from the hoist end is one-sixth of the fly length and the distance from the star center to the top of the flag is four-fifths of the star-center distance from the hoist end. The length of the bear diagonally from the nose tip to the rear of right hind paw is two-thirds of the hoist width; the height of the bear from shoulder tip vertically to a line touching the bottoms of the front paws is one-half the length of the bear; the location of the bear in the white field is such that the center of the eye is midway between the top and bottom of the white field and the midpoint of the bear's length is midway between the fly ends. The grass plot in length is eleven-twelfths of the hoist width and the plot ends are equidistant from the fly ends; the average width of the plot between the rear of the left front paw and the front of the right rear paw is one-tenth of the grass plot length. The height of the condensed gothic letters, as shown on the representation, is one-half of the red stripe width and they occupy a lineal space of two-thirds of the fly length with the beginning and ending letters of the words equidistant from the fly ends.

Colors: The following color references are those of the TextileColor Card Association of the United States, Inc., New York; the colors on the flag are to be substantially the same as these color references. White--of the white field, front of bear's eye, and on the bear's claws is White, cable number 70001. Red--of the red stripe, the star, and the bear's tongue is Old Glory, cable number 70180. Green--of the grass plot is Irish Green, cable number 70168. Brown--of the bear is Maple Sugar, cable number 70129. Dark brown--of the bear outline, paws, shading, fur undulations, iris of the eye, the 12 grass tufts in the grass plot, and the letters is Seal, cable number 70108. The general design and the details of the Bear Flag, excluding colors, shall correspond substantially with the following representation: [Picture in published version of code.]

Joe McMillan, 9 February 2000

1846 California Bear Flags

In 1996 California began the celebration of the Sesquicentennial of Statehood with event #0001, the Raising of the Bear Flag, in Sonoma. This was the first in a series of celebrations which commemorated the events which ultimately lead to Statehood for California.

As a part of those celebrations a web page was created, and as part of that I was asked to aide in identifying the various the various known 1846 California Bear Flags. This list brief list included all the flags which survived into the era of photography, The Todd Flag, The Storm Flag, and the Revere Guidon. We also included those flags which could be logically reconstructed from either drawings or descriptions. Also shown is the McChristian flag, and although probably post 1846, it is the only surviving flag associated with one of the 33 "Bear Flaggers." More definitive work on the subject is in progress, with plans to present it in the year 2000.

James J. Ferrigan III, 3 October 1998

California Mission Bear Flag

[California Mission Bear flag] by Rick Wyatt

The flag is a reconstruction of the flag believed to have been displayed during the first attempt to have California secede from Mexico. This was a "Californio" attempt. There is no surviving original. The flag is described in a manuscript held at the Babcroft Library in Berkeley California.

Harry Knill, the publisher of Bellerophon Books first brought this flag to light. The story associated with this flag depicted in the painting it is that officers sympathetic with the notion of independence for California took this Mexican Flag defaced with "Independencia de California" to the Padre at the Mission Santa Barbara. The good father refused, being against overthrowing the established order. It was later carried south and later was flown over the Mission San Buenaventura.

It is similar to other Mexican flags form 1836 used by both Texas and California in their attempts of assert local independence. Namely the Conservative Party in Texas, the Texas-Coahuila Militia in 1836, Los Angeles 1839 and Sutter's Fort 1846. It was apparently not uncommon for the Mexican tri-color without the eagle and serpent to have some other device substituted.

In 1836 Lt. Juan B. Alvarado vowed to end the territorial association of California with Mexico with "bullets or words". He hoisted a white flag with a single, centered, red 5 pt star in Monterey. This flag survives and is preserved in the library of the Southwest Museum in Pasadena, California. It may be the oldest surviving flag in the State of California. It is clearly based on American models.

James J. Ferrigan III, 21 March 1999

Sutter's Republic

[Sutter's Republic flag] by Rick Wyatt, 30 October 1998

I believe that the California flag was a modification of the Sutter flag. Sutter was a swiss man that created an independent state called New Helvetia under Mexican protectorate. The flag was white with red strip at bottom and green star in center (the colors of Mexico). When the american minority revolted against Mexico, the flag used was inspired by the Sutter one but a characteristic symbol (the bear) was added, and also the color of the star was changed (to red, or brown) and the name of the self-proclaimed "California Republic" was written below the star and bear. I don't know exactly how was ended the Republic of New Helvetia and its flag.
Jaume Ollé, 2 October 1998

For more on this subject, click here.

Governor's Flag

[Governor of California's flag] by Joe McMillan, 24 February 2000

Adopted 1957. California (or Yale) blue with a slightly modified version of the central device from the state seal in the middle and a white star in each corner. (California Government Code sections 428-429).
Joe McMillan, 24 February 2000

State Military Crest

by Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

The state military crest, which is the crest used in the coats of arms of units of the National Guard, as granted by the precursor organizations of what is now the Army Institute of Heraldry. The official Institute of Heraldry blazon is "The setting sun behind a grizzly bear passant on a grassy field proper."
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

"The" California Bear

In 1911 one of the Sonoma flags was used as the model for the state flag. The last known California Grizzly was the Bear named Monarch. He was captured by William Randolph Hearst and gifted to the City of San Francisco, where he was housed in a special enclosure in Golden Gate Park. After his death he was stuffed and mounted for display at the California Academy of science. In 1955 this stuffed bear served as the model for the current specifications for the California state Flag.

James J. Ferrigan III, 12 June 2000