The California flag has perhaps one of the most interesting histories of any state flag in the Union. The original version of the California flag was first flown in the year 1846 during the Bear Flag Revolt. Because of the obvious Bear in the middle of the California flag, the California flag has also been called the Bear Flag.
The California flag was first designed by William L. Todd, the nephew of Mary Todd – wife of Abraham Lincoln. According to reports, the star on the California flag was actually influenced by the 1836 California Lone Star Flag. The original California flag was actually designed in blackberry juice, and the bear on the California flag was designed to be a symbol of strength and unyielding resistance.
The first version of the California flag represented California for only a brief time – from June 14th to July 9th, 1846. On July 7th, 1846 Commodore John Drake Sloat of the US Navyfirst raised the 28-star American flag at the capital of California, thus claiming the territory for the United States. Two days later, on July 9, 1846, Joseph Warren Revere of the United States Navy hauled down the California Bear Flag in Sonoma, and replaced it with the American Stars and Stripes. The California Bear Flag was then given to a young man by the name of John E. Montgomery, who later wrote in a letter to his mother, “Cuffy came down growling”. “Cuffy” was Montgomery’s nickname for the bear on the California flag.
The original California flag was eventually returned to California in 1855 when it was given to California Senators William M. Gwin and John B Weller. The original California Flag was preserved at the Pioneer Halls in San Francisco until it was destroyed on April 18, 1906 in the fires that followed the great San Francisco earthquake.