History of the California flag

Most of us probably don’t have our state flags memorized, but it’s worth studying up: Our flag’s design reflects centuries of history.

SAC California flag

Adopted in 1911, our flag’s history is much older.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Table of Contents

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a flag is a whole textbook.

Our state flag is a record of California history that experts read like a secret code. Every part carries some meaning, from hoist to fly end.

The colors

Like the US flag, California’s red stripe and star (and the bear’s tongue) symbolize courage, while the white field symbolizes purity. With the green under the bear’s feet, our flag shares a color scheme with Mexico’s. In that flag, green represents hope and victory.

The canton

A flag’s canton is its upper lefthand corner, where the fifty stars are in the US flag. California has just one star.

If that reminds you of Texas’s Lone Star flag, you’re on the money: both states gained independence from Mexico and briefly became independent republics. As Texas gained statehood just five years before California, we took inspiration from the Lone Star State.

The bear

California grizzly bears symbolized the state’s strength and sovereignty during the Bear Flag Revolt, and it’s appeared on every iteration of the state flag.

In case you didn’t know, the grizzly on our flag has a name: Monarch.

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