The Bear on the California State Flag


The California state flag is something of an oddity even among the peculiar field of its fellows. It’s not the only one with a star; not even the only one with a single star. It’s not the only one with an animal: Several other states feature an eagle or two on their flags; Michigan has a pair of deer flanking its seal, Pennsylvania has a pair of horses, Missouri has a pair of bears itself. But that’s clearly symbolism derived from heraldry, and therefore those flags can get away with it by a simple nod to historical precedent. It’s not even that it doesn’t have any blue in it; neither do those of New Mexico, Alabama, nor Maryland, and they seem to be fine with it.

No, the California state flag has a whopping big bear taking up most of its face, meandering toward a single star in the upper hoist side, striding over a red stripe on the bottom of the flag. It’s definitely a bold choice. The only other flags that approach it are probably the Wyoming flag, with an outlined bison containing the state seal, and the Oregon flag, with a single large beaver sitting quietly on the obverse side, and even those are stylized, clearly harmless, and representative beasts, not looking for trouble. Not so the California bear.

In 1846, California was a Mexican territory, and there was the threat that Mexico and the United States of America were going to go to war. A group of settlers in the area decided that if it came to that, they were going to go with America. In fact, they decided not to wait, and went ahead and seized the city of Sonoma themselves.

Of course, they needed a flag to represent the new Republic of California, so they asked one of the settlers, one William “I’m Abraham Lincoln’s Wife’s Nephew” Todd to design it. He took a scrap of brown cloth and some brownish paint (or blackberry juice) and painted a crude representation of a bear heading toward a star. The bear represented strength and power as the biggest, baddest predator on the continent, and the star was reminiscent of Texas’s Lone Star. The combination was entirely meant to strike fear into the Mexican government, and to impress them with the seriousness of the situation.

This was the rough settler equivalent of declaring your house an independent state, then electing a shark mayor and inviting people to debate it via fisticuffs, which made it a little anticlimactic when the settlers found out within a month that the United States and Mexico were already at war. At that point, they replaced the Bear Flag with the Stars and Stripes, and California became an official state a few years later. In 1911, they adopted an updated version of the flag as the state flag.


The new flag needed a bear front and center, and hopefully one that looked more like a bear and less like a suckling pig this time. The designers wanted to use an actual bear as reference, but the California golden bear was almost extinct in the area. Luckily, twelve years prior, William Randolph Hearst had begun performing his famous publicity stunts, and one of his first was to bring a live California golden grizzly to San Francisco.

He sent Allen Kelly, a reporter with no hunting experience, to fetch one, and, to everyone’s astonishment, after several months and several close calls, he succeeded. At 1200 pounds, Monarch was the largest bear ever kept in captivity; some sources (well, Hearst) claimed that 20,000 people showed up to see him brought in.

After a few years, though, the novelty wore thin, and Monarch died in 1911. His skeleton was mounted and donated to the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and his pelt was stuffed and donated to the California Academy of Sciences. It was here that the illustrators were able to make detailed sketches and convert the image to the mighty representation now adorning the state flag.

Some state flags are clearly just placeholders until something interesting happens. Fortunately, California seems to have had that covered for over a hundred years.

Does your own state flag have as interesting a history? Keep an eye out for future explorations; perhaps you’ll find out soon!

History of the Colorado State Flag

ColoradoThe Colorado State Flag was added to the state on June 5th, 1911, and developed by Andrew Carlisle Johnson. A large letter “C” in the color red is two thirds the distance across the flag. The middle part of the “C” is gold and the foundation of the flag has three stripes, the middle stripe is white and the outside stripes are blue.The colors that were chosen for the flag are to highlight the natural elements that can be found in the state. The blue stripes represent Colorado’s blue skies. The white stripe is for the mountains that are covered in snow. The gold in the center of the “C” highlights the many sunshiny days and the red symbolizes the soil.

Controversy occurred in 1929 regarding the colors used and in 1964 a disagreement occurred over the size of the letter. These issues were solved by the General Assembly. offers a wide selection of Colorado State Flags for sale.

History of the Massachusetts State Flag

yhst-45748600749679_2256_43636358As we rebuild after the Boston Marathon bombings, we told you about the history of Boston’s City Flag. Now, here’s some history of the Massachusetts State Flag.

All 50 U.S. states have a flag to represent its history, foundation and what it stands for. A variation of the current Massachusetts flag had been used as an unofficial representative since 1776. During the Civil War, the Massachusetts volunteer regiments carried a version of the current Massachusetts state flag with a white background and a blue shield along with the National Colors. Flags are strong story tellers that allow countries, states and citizens to inform everyone about the past that brought them to the present.

The first state flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was officially adopted in 1908. However, it was used unofficially throughout the American Revolution. The 1908 state flag was very similar to the one that currently represents Massachusetts today. One side of the flag displayed the state’s coat of arms on top of a white background, while the other side featured a blue shield with a green pine tree on it, which symbolized the significance of wood value emphasized by Massachusetts settlers. The 1908 state flag was revised on June 2, 1971 to feature the coat of arms on both sides. This is the current version of the state’s flag.Symbolism
Each symbol featured on the Massachusetts state flag has a meaning. All the symbols combined together tells a story about the founding of the state. The state flag has a white rectangular background with a centerpiece of the Massachusetts coat of arms in the center of a blue shield, an arm above it holding a broadsword, and a ribbon with the state’s motto — adopted in 1885 — written on it.The blue shield symbolizes the Blue Hills that stands in Canton and Milton, Massachusetts. The coat of arms centered on the blue shield features an image of a golden Algonquian Native American wearing a long shirt and moccasins. He is holding a golden bow in his right hand and a golden arrow pointing down in his left hand, which symbolizes peace. In the upper right hand corner next to the Native American’s head is a five-pointed white star that represents Massachusetts as being one of the 13 colonies of the Unites States of America.Above the blue shield that holds the coat of arms is the state’s military crest, which is a gold and blue wreath that holds the golden bent right arm of Myles Standish, grasping a golden broadsword. The arm symbolizes the Goliad symbol, which conveys the philosophy that those represented would prefer to lose their right arm than ever abide under tyranny, while the upward stance of the broadsword’s blade tells the story of how liberty was won through the American Revolution.

The blue ribbon that outlines both sides of the shield and curves around the bottom has the state’s motto written in Latin in golden letters: “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem,” meaning, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts state flag is important to state government and its people. Typically, the flag is flown over all state buildings directly under the United States flag.

Buy a Massachusetts State Flag from

Boston’s Flag Waves Strong

yhst-45748600749679_2256_66942419In the wake of last week’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing, it seemed fitting to tell you a bit about Boston City Flag History.

The city flag of Boston, Massachusetts was first proposed in 1913 by the Columbus Day Committee. Although introduced on January, 16, 1914 into the City Council, it was not officially adopted until January 30, 1917. The ordinance of its adoption gives the specifications for the colors and size of the flag, as well as where the flag is to be flown.

According to the ordinance, the flag is to be made of silk. It is to be five feet in length and three and one-half feet in width. If other sizes are made they are to be made at a ratio of 7:10. The colors of the flag are to be Continental Blue and Continental Buff. These colors were chosen because they were the uniform colors of the soldiers from Boston during the Revolutionary War and are the city colors. If fringe is on the flag, it is to be the Continental Buff color. In the center of the flag, the City Seal is to be embroidered. The flag is to be flown at City Hall and the Boston Commons area, as well as various other spots in the city. The ordinance also allows that the flag may be made as bunting to be used for decorating for patriotic holidays.

The City Seal was designed by John R. Penniman, a famous flag painter in New England, in 1823. It depicts a view of the city, including ships in the harbor and the Massachusetts State House. Below the scene is written, “Bostonia Condita A.D. 1630” in dark blue. In the top of the circle that surrounds the scene is written, “Sicut Patribus Sit Deus Nobis”. Translated from the Latin this means, “God be with us as He was with our fathers”. “Civitatis Regimine Donata A.D. 1822” is written in the bottom of the circle. These inscriptions are also in dark blue.

Although the ordinance gives these specifications, there are some differences in the flags that are now used. It is noted that most of the flags are more of a sky blue and gold color, rather than the Continental Blue and Continental Buff colors given in the ordinance. However, some flags can be found made with the darker blue. Also available from various vendors are flags made from a durable nylon rather than the silk called for in the ordinance. There is also a slight difference in the City Seal used on the flag and the one that is considered the official emblem of Boston. Despite these alterations from the original specifications, the flag is still a unique and well-recognized symbol of a beloved city that is full of the history of how our great country began and won its freedom.

A little about Hawaii’s state flag…

Displaying eight alternating stripes of red, white and blue, symbolic of the eight islands that comprise Hawaii (HawaiiOahuKauaiKahoolaweLānaiMauiMolokai and Niihau), the state flag of Hawaii pays homage to its historical relationship with its protectorate Great Britain by featuring the Union Jack in the upper left corner. The flag was adopted for official state use in 1959. July 31st is Ka Hae Hawaii Day, the Hawaiian Flag Day, which has been celebrated annually since 1990. proudly sells Hawaii State Flags in a variety of sizes for both indoor and outdoor use. We supply Hawaii State Flags to businesses, schools, government offices and residents of Hawaii.