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Flag of California

From Academic Kids

The modern Bear Flag of California. Image provided by Classroom Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
The modern Bear Flag of California. Image provided by Classroom Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)

The flag of California was first flown during the Bear Flag Revolt and was adopted by the California state legislature in 1911. The flag of the U.S. state of California is sometimes called the Bear Flag.

It was raised for the first time in Sonoma, California on June 18, 1846, by the "Bear Flaggers" led by William B. Ide who said he wished to "bring freedom to the Spaniards". He was made President of the short-lived California Republic. California had been for thirteen years under Mexican rule as the department of Alta California, whose Spanish-speaking population of 4,000 was outnumbered by Americans.

The modern flag is white with a wide red strip along the bottom. There is a red star in the upper left corner and a grizzly bear facing left.

In the original flag the bear was smaller and near the top, looking somewhat like a pig, and had no ground to stand on (see below). The modern flag has a larger bear in the center and is standing on green grass. The bear depicted is a California grizzly or golden bear, a grizzly subspecies that is now extinct. The five-point star is a nod to the Republic of Texas, and the bear represents strength.

The original Bear Flag and the republic it symbolized had a brief career. On July 9, 1846, Commodore John Drake Sloat of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron first raised the 28-star American flag at Monterey, the capital of Alta California, and claimed the territory for the United States. This revived the earliest claims on California by his namesake, Sir Francis Drake (in 1579), and made good American colonial claims on the lands from the Atlantic to the Pacific, "from sea to sea" in the 1600s.

Missing image
Firstbearflag.jpg
The first Bear Flag, photographed in 1890.

Two days later U.S. Navy Lt. Joseph Warren Revere arrived in Sonoma and hauled down the Bear Flag, running up in its place the Stars and Stripes. Revere handed the Bear Flag to Midshipman John E. Montgomery, who, because the flag snagged a few times as it was lowered, would later write in a letter to his mother "Cuffy came down growling"--"Cuffy" being his nickname for the bear on the flag.

The original Bear Flag was preserved in San Francisco until it perished in the fire that followed the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

There is a statue in the town square of Sonoma, California depicting the raising of the flag.

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