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What does the bear flag symbolize?

When it comes to American flags, most people only recognize the stars and stripes. However, each state has its own unique flag. One of the most recognizable state flags is the California flag, which features a grizzly bear and a red star. But have you ever wondered what this bear flag symbolizes? In this blog post, we’ll explore the history and symbolism behind the California flag and the grizzly bear.

The History of the California Flag

The California flag was first flown during the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846. At the time, California was under Mexican rule and American settlers living in the region were unhappy with the government’s treatment of non-Mexican residents. In June of 1846, a group of American settlers declared California an independent republic and raised a flag featuring a grizzly bear and a lone star. This flag became known as the Bear Flag and served as a symbol of independence for the short-lived California Republic.

When California became a state in 1850, the new state government adopted a flag that was based on the original Bear Flag design. The current design of the California flag has remained largely unchanged ever since.

The Symbolism Behind the Bear Flag

The California flag’s design features a grizzly bear and a red star. The bear represents strength and independence, while the star represents California’s status as the lone state to have become a state without first being a territory. However, the symbolism of the bear on the flag goes even deeper than just representing strength and independence.

Grizzly bears were once a common sight in California, and they were revered by Native American tribes living in the region. Many Native American tribes considered the grizzly bear to be a spiritual symbol of strength and power. This reverence for the grizzly bear likely played a role in the selection of the bear as a symbol on the California flag.

The Decline of the Grizzly Bear

Unfortunately, the grizzly bear population in California has been greatly reduced since the time of the Bear Flag Revolt. The grizzly bear was hunted extensively by settlers in California, and its habitat was destroyed by agriculture, mining, and other activities. Today, the grizzly bear is extinct in California and has not been seen in the state since the early 1900s.

Despite the fact that the grizzly bear is no longer found in California, it remains an important symbol on the state’s flag. The bear serves as a reminder of California’s wild and rugged past and the spirit of independence that helped to shape the state.


The California flag featuring a grizzly bear and a red star is an iconic symbol that represents the spirit of independence and strength that helped to shape California. While the grizzly bear is no longer found in the region, its image on the flag is a reminder of the state’s past and the important role that the bear played in the history of California. So the next time you see the California flag flying, take a moment to appreciate the history and symbolism behind this iconic state symbol.


Where did the Bear Flag come from?

The California State Flag, also known unofficially as the “Bear Flag,” is the oldest unofficial State Symbol. Its origin dates back to the Bear Flag Revolt that took place in the spring of 1846. This rebellion was initiated by a group of American settlers who had recently migrated to California, which at that time was part of Mexico. The intent of the American settlers was to liberate California from Mexican authority and declare the territory an independent republic.

On June 14, 1846, a group of about 30-40 American settlers, led by William B. Ide, stormed the town of Sonoma and overthrew the Mexican garrison stationed there. This marked the beginning of the Bear Flag Revolt, named after the crudely drawn grizzly bear that was featured on the flag that the rebels raised over Sonoma, along with a lone star and the words “California Republic.”

The Bear Flag itself was reportedly designed by William L. Todd, a relative of Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln. The flag featured a red stripe along the bottom, a white stripe along the top, and a crudely drawn grizzly bear in the center, standing on its hind legs as if ready to attack. The lone star above the bear represented the independence of California as a solitary republic.

However, the Bear Flag Republic was short-lived. In July 1846, US Navy Commodore John Sloat seized Monterey, the capital of Alta California, and raised the American flag. This event marked the end of the Bear Flag Revolt and the beginning of the US-Mexico War.

Although the Bear Flag Republic was short-lived, it is remembered as an important episode in California’s history. The bear on the flag became an unofficial symbol of California, and the flag itself was used as inspiration for the design of the official California State Flag in 1911.

What is a fun fact about the Bear Flag?

The Bear Flag is a significant part of California’s history and serves as an emblem of its revolutionary past. The flag is a symbol of the Bear Flag Revolt, an event that took place in 1846, where the California Republic was established.

One fun fact about the Bear Flag is that it was originally designed as a representation of a grizzly bear that was found in California’s natural wilderness. Interestingly, the bear on the flag wasn’t an accurate representation of a California grizzly bear. Still, rather it was most likely based on a drawing of a bear found in a magazine.

Another fascinating fact is that the Bear Flag only flew for a month during the revolt against Mexico, before it was 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.

The Bear Flag has also appeared in popular culture, such as in movies and TV shows. For instance, in the game Civilization V, the Bear Flag is used as the symbol for California in-game. Also, it appeared on the cover of Katy Perry’s album, “Prism,” as she is a native of California and wanted to pay homage to her roots in the state.

The Bear Flag is an essential part of California’s rich history, and it continues to be an integral symbol of the state and its culture. Despite its short-lived existence, it continues to represent the spirit of the Bear Flag Revolt, and it remains a relevant cultural reference in the modern world.

Where is the original bear flag?

The original Bear Flag was created in June 1846, during the Bear Flag Revolt, a brief and mostly forgotten rebellion that ultimately led to California’s annexation by the United States. The Bear Flag was raised at a prominent place in Sonoma by a small group of rebels, who declared California an independent republic.

However, the original Bear Flag went into obscurity, leaving many alternative or fantastic designs to replace it. It wasn’t until more than a century later that the flag began to receive more attention and even become the official state flag of California in 1911.

As for the whereabouts of the original flag, it is unfortunate to note that it was lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which devastated much of the city and surrounding areas. It is unclear what happened to the flag after the earthquake, but it is presumed that it was either destroyed or lost amidst the rubble and chaos.

Fortunately, an accurate copy of the Bear Flag was made shortly after its creation, and this replica now resides in an exhibit at the Sonoma Barracks, a historic site in Sonoma, California. Visitors to the site can get a glimpse of this important piece of Californian history and learn more about the Bear Flag Revolt and its role in shaping the state’s identity.

While the original Bear Flag may be lost to time, its legacy lives on through the replica and the enduring symbol it has become for California and its people.