Flag was first raised on June 14, 1846, at
Sonoma by a group of American settlers revolting
against the rule of Mexico. The original flag
was painted by William Todd.
John Bidwell recorded many of the events
surrounding the "Bear Flag Revolt" and about the
raising of the Bear Flag he wrote, "Another man
left at Sonoma was William L. Todd who painted,
on a piece of brown cotton, a yard and a half or
so in length, with old red or brown paint that
he happened to find, what he intended to be a
representation of a grizzly bear. This was
raised to the top of the staff, some seventy
feet from the ground. Native Californians
looking up at it were heard to say ‘Coche,’ the
common name among them for pig or shoat."
Unfortunately, the original Bear Flag, held by
the Society of California Pioneers perished in
the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.
current California State Flag, adopted by the
state legislature in 1911, is based on the
original Bear Flag raised by pioneering
Americans over Sonoma in 1846. The star was
taken from the lone star of Texas. The Bear was
representative of the numerous Grizzly Bears in
the state and the words "California Republic"
testify to the fiesty American pioneers who
settled in the territory. However, now the
identity of the animal depicted on the flag is
not likely to be mistaken for a "coche."The original Bear Flag and the republic it symbolized had a brief career, from about June 14 until July 9. On July 7, 1846 Commodore John Drake Sloat of the United States Navy's Pacific Squadron first raised the 28-star American flag at Monterey, the capital of Alta California, and claimed the territory for the United States. This revived the earliest claims on California by his namesake, Sir Francis Drake (in 1579), and made good American colonial claims on the lands from the Atlantic to the Pacific, "from sea to sea" in the 1600s.
Two days later, on July 9, 1846, Navy Lt. Joseph Warren Revere arrived in Sonoma and hauled down the Bear Flag, running up in its place the Stars and Stripes. The Bear Flag was given to young John E. Montgomery (son of Commander John B. Montgomery of the USS Portsmouth), who, would later write in a letter to his mother "Cuffy came down growling"—"Cuffy" being his nickname for the bear on the flag.
The Bear Flag given to young Montgomery returned with the USS Portsmouth to the east coast of the U.S. in 1848, but in 1855 was returned to California. The flag was given to California's two senators John B. Weller and William M. Gwin. This flag was donated to the Society of California Pioneers on September 8, 1855 and was preserved at the Society's Pioneer Halls in San Francisco until it was destroyed on April 18, 1906 in the fires that followed the great San Francisco earthquake. Today, a replica hangs on display in the Sonoma Barracks, or El Presidio de Sonoma. There is also a statue in the plaza of Sonoma, California commemorating the raising of the flag, the Bear Flag Monument.