The California State Flag
The Bear Flag was first raised on June 14, 1846, at Sonoma by a group of American settlers revolting against the rule of Mexico. The original flag was painted by William Todd.
Pioneer John Bidwell recorded many of the events surrounding the "Bear Flag Revolt" and about the raising of the Bear Flag he wrote,
"Another man left at Sonoma was William L. Todd who painted, on a piece of brown cotton, a yard and a half or so in length, with old red or brown paint that he happened to find, what he intended to be a representation of a grizzly bear. This was raised to the top of the staff, some seventy feet from the ground. Native Californians looking up at it were heard to say "Coche[sic]," the common name among them for pig or shoat."
Unfortunately, the original Bear Flag, held by the Society of California Pioneers perished in the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.
The current California State Flag, adopted by the state legislature in 1911, is based on the original Bear Flag raised by pioneering Americans over Sonoma in 1846. The star was taken from the lone star of Texas. The Bear was representative of the numerous Grizzly Bears in the state and the words "California Republic" testify to the feisty American pioneers who settled in the territory.
Today the identity of the animal depicted on the flag is not likely to be mistaken for a "coche."
California Flag Law
The following information was excerpted from the Government Code of the California Codes, section 420-429.8.
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 Textile Color 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:
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NOTICE OF INCOMPLETE TEXT: The Bear Flag appears in the hard-copy publication of the chaptered bill. See Chapter 1140, page 2639, Statutes of 1953.
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This shall be the official State Flag of all state, county, city and town agencies. The flags now issued or in use shall continue in service until replacement is required.
Source: California State Legislature, Laws and Constitution, (http://www.legislature.ca.gov/research_and_publications/laws_and_constitution/laws_and_constitution.html), June 30, 2007.
California Bear Flag: 1846 California bear flag from the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.
Bear Flags of Sonoma: Various bear flags discussed with commentary hosted by Sonoma Valley Internet service provider. Web site to commemorate 150th Anniversary of the raising of the bear flag.
California Pear Flag: Snopes.com makes the case that the design of the California state flag was a mistake.
The Bear Flag Museum: The Bear Flag Museum is the inspiration of William J. ("Bill") Trinkle, a California attorney and member of the North American Vexillological Association ("NAVA") since 1994. NAVA is a group devoted to the serious study of flags from a multidisciplinary view.
California (U.S.): FOTW "Flags of the World" Web Site.
State Flags: Complete list of state flags with links to large pictures and images suitable for coloring.
Flag Terminology: The parts of a flag and terms associated with its design.
Visit Our Flag Shop: Purchase all kinds of flags and banners, lapel pins, 50 state flag sets, decals, patches, college banners at the Flag Shop.
Purchase California State Flags: You may purchase quality state flags from the United States Flag Store.
Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California 1846 by Dale L. Walker. Hardcover: 320 pages. Publisher: Forge Books; 1st edition (July 2, 1999).
Flags of the Fifty States and their Incredible Histories: A complete guide to America's most powerful symbols by Randy Howe.
How Proudly They Wave: Flags of the Fifty States: This book, by Rita D. Haban, is geared toward younger readers.
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