Antique California Parade Flag | A Rare and Early Bear Flag | Circa 1900-1930

Antique California Flag
2. Antique California Flag.jpg
Antique California Flag
2. Antique California Flag.jpg

Antique California Parade Flag | A Rare and Early Bear Flag | Circa 1900-1930


Frame Size (H x L): 9.25” x 10.5”
Flag Size (H x L): 4.25” x 5.75”  

Offered is an early California Republic state flag, dating to between 1900 and 1930.  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 have been made for 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 an early and desirable California state flag.

The most striking visual feature of this flag is its bear.  The bear is highly detailed (e.g., its fur coat, claws, and tongue), 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 is quite large and generally aligned with the bear.  In contrast, in modern California state flags, the star is much smaller and spaced upwards and away from the bear.       

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 suede.  The flag is positioned behind Tru Vue Museum Glass. 

Frame: This offering is in a modern frame.  The frame is black with a gold rim.       

Condition Report: This flag includes some yellow toning and some small holes.  It otherwise is in excellent condition and presents nicely.  

Collectability Level: The Great – Perfect for Rising Collectors  
Date of Origin: 1900-1930  

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