Sunday, June 20, 2010

Flags: State of California

Part II of the three states in three weeks series

When Lisa's brother moved to California for graduate school, I asked him if he would have to swear allegiance to the Bear Flag Republic. Apparently, the answer is yes. Now that he's finished his degree and is moving on, though, he says that they had his fingers crossed behind his back during the oath. Good news for him - that bear looks serious.

The Bear Flag was the symbol of the 1846 revolt of settlers in the old province of Alta California against the Mexican government. At right is a photograph of a reproduction of the original Bear Flag, on display in the museum at Alcatraz. The rebels attempted to form a government in Sonoma, but then the US Army showed up and asserted control of the area (the United States was at war with Mexico at the time, though the news had not reached Sonoma before the revolt was underway). California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state in 1850, having never been organized as a territory. The state seal includes an image of the Greek goddess Athena, who burst forth, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, as an allusion to their direct admission to the Union.

I'm a big fan of the Bear Flag, and it seems that Californians are too, displaying it proudly throughout the state. And why not? Bears mean business. Ironically, the same settlers who make the California grizzly (Ursus arctos californicus, also known as the California golden bear) the symbol of their rebellion, and later their state, later exterminated it. The last California grizzly was shot in 1922. Thus, California has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the Union (known to me, anyway) whose official state mammal is extinct.

California miscellany:

1 comment:

Dave Wiemer said...

Great entry. Love that flag.