5 Facts Every Californian Should Know about Their State Flag

by Simon Villeneuve      May 05, 2016

What do you know about the California State flag? You may know that that there’s an entire clothing brand whose products prominently feature the state flag called California Republic Clothes, or that the flag’s design famously features a brown bear and a red star. But you probably didn’t know that the bear has a name.

Here are five fascinating facts about the California State Flag that every Californian should know.

1. The design was inspired by Mexican revolt

In 1846, California was still part of Mexico. An uprising against Mexican rule began in June of the that year. During this first revolt, rebels were able to seize Monterey just south of San Francisco and declared California "a free and sovereign state". The rebellion, which lasted for a month, failed to secure independence for California, but it did inspire the design of The Bear Flag.

2. The California flag is also known as The Bear Flag

The original Grizzly Bear Flag was named and designed in anticipation of ending oppressive Mexican rule over the Free and Sovereign State of California. In June 1846 in Sonoma, California, The Bear Flag was flown for the first time by men who quickly became known as the “Bear Flaggers,” named for their role during the Bear Flag Revolt in Sonoma. The Bear Flag was flown for one month in the revolt against Mexico, before being replaced by the national stars and stripes flag. It wouldn’t be until 1911 that the grizzly bear design would be adopted as a part of the official California state flag.

3. The bear’s name is Monarch

During the California-Mexico revolt, California had the idea to, “Put an emblem on the flag that would scare the Mexican authorities, that these people were serious," said William Trinkle, founder of the Bear Flag Museum. And apparently that emblem was a bear. “You couldn't ride on a horse for a mile without seeing ten grizzly bears,” said Trinkle.

In the early to mid 1800s, Grizzly bears were extremely common in the state of California. Now, not so much. The brown grizzly is actually extinct to California. The bear flag flew for just under a month, and once the settlers found out the U.S. had declared war with Mexico, they swapped out the bear flag for the stars and stripes. But the Californians’ fascination with the grizzly bear continued. A southern California news website told the story this way:

But in 1889, an up-and-coming newspaper mogul decided to bring the bear back into the spotlight. William Randolph Hearst, in one his very first publicity stunts, wanted to bring a live California Grizzly Bear to San Francisco.

Once he had the bear, it was time for the glamour. Hearst put the bear on display in Golden Gate Park and named him Monarch.

There you have it! The bear’s name is Monarch. Sadly, Monarch died in 1911 and his skeleton was taken to the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, his pelt stuffed and put on display at the California Academy of Sciences. That same year, though, California finally adopted a state flag, which included a grizzly bear modeled after Monarch.

Currently, the stuffed version of Monarch is mounted and preserved at the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park.

4. The red star was inspired by Texas

While Monarch the California Grizzly is a symbol of great strength, the star on the flag began in the 1836 California Lone Star Flag, representing freedom, according to the California Military Department.

5. NAVA ranked California flag 13th most beautiful

In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) surveyed its members on the designs of the 72 U.S. state, U.S. territorial, and Canadian provincial flags and ranked the flag of California #13th.

In 2014, Thrillist, a popular online publication ranked the California State Flag #8 most beautiful state flag, stating that it’s a “top 10 status on any flag list.”

Make it yours

When you make a Patriot Wood California Wood Flag part of your home, you’ll provide a conversation piece that all your friends will rave about.

Unlike most California Wood Flags makers, we use raised elements for the bear and star, which provided a distinctive visual. Rich and beautiful brown paint was used for the lettering "CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC" yet for the bear, we decided to stain the wood with a dark walnut shade. This beautifully brought out the grain of the cedar wood giving the flag a clearly unique look.

“The flag is fantastic! Looks great on my wall.” –Alexander, Menlo Park, CA

We currently offer three different sizes of the flag. To purchase, visit the California Wood Flag product page.