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California (U.S.)

Last modified: 2013-12-04 by rick wyatt
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[California flag] image by Devin Cook, 27 February 2013



Counties of California


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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.

On February 3, 1911, California Governor Hiram Johnson made the flag the official State Flag of California, although the original had been around since 1846. That year, Californian rebels led what became known as the "Bear Flag Revolt" in the early years of the Mexican-American Wars (1846-1848) and designed a flag for their cause. It was designed by William Todd, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's wife, and the Todd Flag (us-ca46.html) was first flown in Sonoma, California. Legend says it was made from a piece of cotton cloth and flannel borrowed from a ladies petticoat or man's long underwear, but we'll never know, because the original was destroyed in 1906, during the San Francisco earthquake and fire.
Pete Loeser, 31 January 2011


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 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: [Picture in published version of code.]
Joe McMillan, 9 February 2000

From www.netstate.com/states/symb/statutes/ca_code.htm:

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.
Ned Smith, 23 September 2007


California Mission Bear Flag

[California Mission Bear flag] image 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

[California Monterey red star flag] image by Pete Loeser, 17 February 2009

I thought this flag interesting because it explains where the red star on the California Republic Bear flag and John Sutter's flag and may have come from. This image is based on a museum photo from the Southwest Museum in Pasadena.
Pete Loeser, 17 Fefbruary 2009


Governor's Flag

[Governor of California's flag] image 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

A clearer photograph of the actual flag can be found at the California Military Museum website. The Governor's Flag, which accompanies the Chef Executive at all official state occasions, is of blue silk, trimmed with gold fringe. The Flag received official status by Chapter 963 of the Statues of 1957.  The Governor's seal can be seen on this web page - it consists basically of the California state flag.
Michael Smuda, 18 November 2003

The emblem on the governor's flag is a modified version of the design of the California State Seal (minus the wording around the rim), not of the governor's seal of office. At a Google-cached version of a no-longer available website of the governor's office we can read: "If you look closely at the Governor's Flag and the Great Seal, you can find several differences. In the Governor's Flag, a cornucopia next to the grizzly bear at the feet of the Goddess Minerva and the sun with its rays have been added to the images of the Great Seal. Missing in the Governor's Flag are a miner's rocker and several sailing ships."
    In addition, I believe the field is actually medium-dark blue (see image at the semiofficial website, http://www.militarymuseum.org/GovFlag.html ). Perhaps the television lighting distorted the color somewhat. Also, note that the stars shown on the Military Museum image indicate gray shading. This is simply a representation of the effect of how embroidered stars are made. Both the governor's website mentioned above and Whitney Smith's Flag Book of the United States describes the stars as white.
    The field as officially "Yale blue." The text defining it can be found in California Statute section 429. Yale University's website has a page on the history of the university color, which says the Pantone equivalent is currently PMS 289. Other websites variously call PMS 285 or 286 "Yale blue." The law specifies it as Standard Color Card Cable No. 70086. In any case, the Yale page makes clear that it is a very dark blue. The connection with Yale is that when the University of California was deciding its colors in the 1860s-70s, it was decided that gold would represent the state's principal natural resource and blue would honor Yale, the alma mater of most of the new university's founders.
Joe McMillan, 19 November 2003


State Military Crest

image 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