Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Our dorky California state flag

The bear looked remarkably like a large red pig

That original flag was lost in the San Francisco earthquake. - Image by Rick Geary
That original flag was lost in the San Francisco earthquake.

Matt: For such a hip state, how did California get such a dorky flag? Why is the bear staring at the star? What is he thinking? What is that red thing at the bottom? How would we go about changing the flag to something better? — Peedee, Vista

Changing the flag would involve years of heavy dealings with the California legislature. Reliable medical studies prove that the average citizen’s life expectancy is shortened by one day for every day spent jousting with Sacramento. A large Surgeon General’s warning should be posted at the city limits. They can’t even elect a speaker; imagine the pouting and tantrums a new flag would inspire. If this were happening in Alabama, we’d laugh about it. But it’s not, so it just makes me grumpy. Instead of a flag change, why don’t we suggest the pols institute a daily break for graham crackers, milk, and 30 minutes with their heads on their desks.

Our state’s flag came from the town of Sonoma about 150 years ago. They do wine better than flags, I guess. Or maybe they did too much wine before they did the flag. Anyway, in the spring of 1846, California was still part of the Republic of Mexico. When the U.S. couldn’t manage to buy the place in 1845, they switched to Plan B and declared war in May of ’46. The closest Mexico came to having a real garrison in California was at the town of Sonoma, and American immigrants in the area were very nervous. On June 14, 23 local civilians (plus soldier Kit Carson) walked into the fort and took over. Mexican commander Vallejo saw a U.S. war victory as inevitable and was not inclined to resist even this small band. That same day, a hastily constructed banner, the so-called Bear Flag, replaced the Mexican flag at Sonoma, and the raiding party declared California an independent republic.

That original flag was lost in the San Francisco earthquake, so written reports and drawings are all we have. It was assembled from donated scraps of fabric — a “brown domestic” for the background and a piece of four-inch-wide red flannel from a woman’s petticoat that had come cross-country by wagon train. The raiding party decided the symbols should be “a bear en passant with one star.” They chose the California grizzly to symbolize a tenacious fighting spirit. The star and the red stripe were borrowed as a link to the U.S. flag. A Sunday painter named William Todd was recruited to apply the star and the bear in the only color available to them at the time, “Venetian red,” on the beige background and to letter “California Republic” underneath. Descriptions of Todd’s work suggest the bear looked remarkably like a large red pig. And Todd himself admits he misspelled “Republic” and had to correct it by writing over the offending letter.

The California Republic lasted less than a month; the U.S. flag was raised over the garrison early in July. In 1911 a designer reworked the original Bear Flag more artistically, perhaps after taking a brief spelling test, and it became our official banner. What’s the bear thinking? That’s easy. “I’m extinct, dammit! I’m extinct!” No wonder he’s snarling.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

North Park – the prime quartier

30th Street parking, Georgia Street bridge, PSA crash, water tower, North Park Main Street
Next Article

Ocean Beach trash altruist

Cameron Reid covers Niagara and Narragansett, Sunset Cliffs to Abbott.
That original flag was lost in the San Francisco earthquake. - Image by Rick Geary
That original flag was lost in the San Francisco earthquake.

Matt: For such a hip state, how did California get such a dorky flag? Why is the bear staring at the star? What is he thinking? What is that red thing at the bottom? How would we go about changing the flag to something better? — Peedee, Vista

Changing the flag would involve years of heavy dealings with the California legislature. Reliable medical studies prove that the average citizen’s life expectancy is shortened by one day for every day spent jousting with Sacramento. A large Surgeon General’s warning should be posted at the city limits. They can’t even elect a speaker; imagine the pouting and tantrums a new flag would inspire. If this were happening in Alabama, we’d laugh about it. But it’s not, so it just makes me grumpy. Instead of a flag change, why don’t we suggest the pols institute a daily break for graham crackers, milk, and 30 minutes with their heads on their desks.

Our state’s flag came from the town of Sonoma about 150 years ago. They do wine better than flags, I guess. Or maybe they did too much wine before they did the flag. Anyway, in the spring of 1846, California was still part of the Republic of Mexico. When the U.S. couldn’t manage to buy the place in 1845, they switched to Plan B and declared war in May of ’46. The closest Mexico came to having a real garrison in California was at the town of Sonoma, and American immigrants in the area were very nervous. On June 14, 23 local civilians (plus soldier Kit Carson) walked into the fort and took over. Mexican commander Vallejo saw a U.S. war victory as inevitable and was not inclined to resist even this small band. That same day, a hastily constructed banner, the so-called Bear Flag, replaced the Mexican flag at Sonoma, and the raiding party declared California an independent republic.

That original flag was lost in the San Francisco earthquake, so written reports and drawings are all we have. It was assembled from donated scraps of fabric — a “brown domestic” for the background and a piece of four-inch-wide red flannel from a woman’s petticoat that had come cross-country by wagon train. The raiding party decided the symbols should be “a bear en passant with one star.” They chose the California grizzly to symbolize a tenacious fighting spirit. The star and the red stripe were borrowed as a link to the U.S. flag. A Sunday painter named William Todd was recruited to apply the star and the bear in the only color available to them at the time, “Venetian red,” on the beige background and to letter “California Republic” underneath. Descriptions of Todd’s work suggest the bear looked remarkably like a large red pig. And Todd himself admits he misspelled “Republic” and had to correct it by writing over the offending letter.

The California Republic lasted less than a month; the U.S. flag was raised over the garrison early in July. In 1911 a designer reworked the original Bear Flag more artistically, perhaps after taking a brief spelling test, and it became our official banner. What’s the bear thinking? That’s easy. “I’m extinct, dammit! I’m extinct!” No wonder he’s snarling.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Tahona Bar takes it to the street

Perks include cemetery view dining, and cocktails out of a VW bus
Next Article

What a teachers union has done to Gompers

29 teachers laid off in June, re-hired in July
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close