California's Flag History

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" 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. However, now the identity of the animal depicted on the flag is not likely to be mistaken for a "coche".

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.

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:

Link here to the California State Historical Society for facts, figures, and history of California.