Antique California State Bear Flag | Early and Rare | Circa 1893-1920

Antique California State Bear Flag
Antique California State Bear Flag
3. Antique California State Flag (1893-1920).jpg
4. Antique California State Flag (1893-1920).jpg
5. 3 Large Distressed Silver.JPG
6. Medium Frames.JPG
7. Large Frames.JPG
Antique California State Bear Flag
Antique California State Bear Flag
3. Antique California State Flag (1893-1920).jpg
4. Antique California State Flag (1893-1920).jpg
5. 3 Large Distressed Silver.JPG
6. Medium Frames.JPG
7. Large Frames.JPG

Antique California State Bear Flag | Early and Rare | Circa 1893-1920

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Price: Call 618-553-2291, or email info@bonsellamericana.com
Frame Size (H x L): 33.5” x 46”
Flag Size (H x L): 22.5” x 35”  

Offered is an early California Republic state flag, dating to between 1893 and 1920.  Finding early state flags is difficult, as states did not begin adopting their own flags until the close of the 19th century and the close of World War I.  This flag may flown at the Columbian Exposition in 1893.  Alternatively, it may have been made for later events, such as the Pan American Expo in Buffalo in 1901, the Louisiana Purchase Fair in St. Louis in 1904, or the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Fair in Seattle in 1909.  As yet other alternatives, this flag may have been made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of California in 1900, or the official adoption of the California state flag in 1911.  Whatever the case, this is the earliest California state flag we have offered, and one of the earliest that we have ever encountered.

The most striking visual feature of this flag is its bear.  The bear has been lithographed into place and an unidentified maker’s mark is included on the lower left corner of the bear’s shadow.  The bear is highly detailed (e.g., the fur coat and claws), yet simultaneously crude and antiquated.  In contrast, in modern California state flags, the bear is plain in his appearance and proportions.  Further, the red star faces downwards with a single point.  In contrast, in modern California state flags, the star faces upwards.       

The original bear flag was designed in Sonoma, California in 1846 by a small group of ranchers and adventurers, including William L. Todd, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln.  In what was then Mexican California, they captured the city of Sonoma from the Mexican Government.  The Republic of California was formed, and the group designed its flag with a star, bear, a red stripe, and "California Republic" printed across its field.  The inspiration for the star was the 1836 California Lone Star flag, and the inspiration for the bear was its image of strength.   

In a letter written by Mr. Todd, he noted that the red stripe was made with a strip of flannel taken from a petticoat worn across the mountains, that the bear and star was painted with linseed oil and venetian red, and that “California Republic” was written in ink.  Shortly after the first bear flag was designed and used, it was replaced with the US flag.  The first bear flag was eventually preserved at the Society's Pioneer Halls in San Francisco until it was destroyed, in 1906, in the fires following the great San Francisco earthquake. 

The Bear Flag became the official state flag in 1911.  Its bear is based on an actual bear named "Monarch," who was displayed at the Golden Gate Park.  Following his life, Monarch was mounted and is now on display at the California Academy of Sciences.         

Conservation Process: This flag was hand sewn to cotton fabric, and both were hand sewn to a mounting board.  To prevent the black dye in the cotton fabric from seeping into the flag, it was first washed in a standard wash and then in a dye setting wash.  The flag is positioned behind Conservation Clear Acrylic (standard) or behind Optium Museum Acrylic (per request).

Frame: This offering is in our Large Distressed Silver Frame.  However, it can be reframed using any one of our Medium or Large Frames, which are shown in the final two images.  The pricing associated with the different framing options may vary.  Reframing of an offering may delay shipment by up to two weeks.    

Condition Report: This flag has a series of stained holes along its hoist edge.  The holes were used to attach the flag to a staff with nails.  There are also a series of stains through the main body of the flag, and most noticeably near the fly edge.  This flag was likely rolled while in storage with the hoist edge being protected and the fly edge being closer to the surrounding environment (hence the increased damage and staining thereof).  This flag includes a smaller tear at its upper right and a small hole at is center right near the fly edge.  Many of our clients prefer these signs of age and use.

Collectability Level: The Best – Perfect for Advanced Collectors  
Date of Origin: 1893-1920  

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