California’s Flag and its Story

The first flags in what is now the American state of California were those of the European colonial empires of the Spanish and Russians that explored and traded there. California became part of Mexico when that country gained independence in 1821. Alta California remained a northern province of Mexico until 1846 when the short lived California Republic was established. The flag during this period consisted of a white field with a single red star and the outline of a grizzly bear, formerly indigenous to the state, at the top left.

The words California Republic appeared below those symbols and a red horizontal stripe at the bottom of the flag. California was ceded to the United States from Mexico in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. California was admitted as the 31st state in 1850. The following year, in 1851, a 31st star was added to the national flag. California continued to see changes in the national flag until the present 50 star flag.
The state flag of California was inspired by the flag of the California Republic and includes a similar single red star and a red stripe along the bottom. A grizzly bear appears in the center with the words California Republic below.


The bear on the current flag was modeled after the last wild California grizzly bear named Monarch. Monarch was captured in 1889 and spent time in San Francisco zoos until his death in 1911, the same year the current state flag was adopted. The bear was mounted and is preserved at the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to hit the like button.