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Link Bear Flag Chronology
June 3, 1846
U.S.S. Portsmouth, under the command of John Berrien Montgomery, arrived at San Francisco Bay.
June 14, 1846

At c. dawn [5 a.m.], Bear Flag Revolters arrive at Sonoma.

At c. 11a.m., some Bear Flaggers [Semple, Grigsby, Merritt, plus] took Vallejo, his brother Salvador, Jacob Leese and Victor Prudon from Sonoma, and headed toward Fremont.

June 14 - 17, 1846
Original Bear Flag created at Sonoma.
June 16, 1846
Before 10 a.m., William Todd arrived at the U.S.S. Portsmouth, with a message from Ide for Montgomery, though addressed to Stockton.Link
June 17, 1846

Report of  Lt. Misroon to Commander Montgomery of mission to Sonoma:   

   “In pursuance of your order of the 16t. Inst. to proceed to Sonoma....
     I have the honor to report, in obedience to that order, that I left the Ship on the day of receiving your instructions, and reached the town about Sunset, where I found about 25 men under arms, ... the whole party is only thirty five....  Ide ... also handed me a copy of a proclamation which he had issued....  By this proclamation you will also observe, that California is declared to be an Independent Republic — the insurgent party has hoisted a Flag with a white field, with a border or Stripe of red on its lower part, & having a Star & Bear upon it.
     Having completed the object for which I went to Sonoma I left the place today [the 17th] with the thanks of both parties, about Meridian [noon] & reached the Ship about Sunset;
[This may be [probably is] the earliest written description of the original Bear Flag]

June 19, 1846
Leidesdorff letter to Larkin:
     I think the “Proclamation” will call many to their “Banner” which is a white “field” with a red border, a large “star” and a “Grisley Bear,” such is the flag of young California
July 7, 1846
At c. 10:30 a.m., U.S. Flag raised at Monterey Customhouse on the order of Commodore Sloat by Passed Midshipman Edward Higgins and Midshipman William P. Toler.
July 9, 1846

Early morning [c. 4 a.m.], Lieut. Joseph W. Revere dispatched to Sonoma from the U.S.S. Portsmouth by boat.

     - John Elliot Montgomery,  the 16 year old son of Portsmouth commander John B. Montgomery, accompanied Revere.

At c. 8 a.m., the U.S. Flag raised in front of the Customshouse in Yerba Buena [soon to be called San Francisco] under order of Commander Montgomery by an unnamed quartermaster.

At c. 12:00 noon,  Revere’s party arrived at Sonoma.  A [“The”] Bear Flag was seen to be flying from the flag pole located in front of the Barracks located on the northeast corner of the Sonoma Plaza.  Revere lowered the Bear Flag from the pole and raised the U.S. Flag in its place.  Apparently, Revere gave the Bear Flag to one of the members of the Bear Flag party who was then present at Sonoma.  This member of the Bear Flag party or some other, original member of the Bear Flag party, then gave the lowered Bear Flag to J.E. Montgomery.  Young Montgomery then returned to the Portsmouth with the Bear Flag in his possession.

July 10, 1846

Larkin’s Report to Secretary of State James Buchanan after raising of the U.S. Flag at Monterey:  

    “By No. 48 the Department was informed the Foreigners on the Bay of San Francisco, had rose against the Government of California the last of June....
     Commodore John D. Sloat arrived here on the 1st of July, the Cyane & Levant he found at anchor, the Portsmouth at San Francisco, on the 7th instnat at seven o’clock in the morning, the Commodore sent to the house of Don Mariano Silva (the highest Military Commandant at the time in Town) Captain Melvine [William Mervine] of the Cyane with two or three Officers, demanding the surrender of the Town & Country by eight.   Sor Silva contested the latter, saying, he had no orders nor anything to give up, property, soldiers or flag (the Commandancia of this Port has had no flag these two months) at ten o’clock the forces were landed & they hoisted the American Flag;...
On his arrival here for some days he [Commodore Sloat] continually heard of distracting reports of the foreigners & Californians collecting people at Sn. Francisco & preparing to fight, the foreigners having hoisted a new flag with the ensignia of the Bear & one Star, white field & red border; in this state of affairs — and perhaps fearing some other foreign Officer might do it, he hoisted the U.S. flag in the Town, and I presume Captn. Montgomery, yesterday, done the same thing in San Francisco.

July 11, 1846
At c. sunrise, the U.S. Flag raised at Sutter’s Fort.
July 14, 1846
Thomas Fallon at San Jose received a U.S. Flag from Commodore Sloat and raised it on a pole before the juzgado in San Jose.
July 25, 1846

J.E. Montgomery wrote a letter to his mother with a drawing of the Bear Flag and a description of events in it.Link

"Flag of the Republic of California first raised June 14t. 1846 & hauled down July 9t. 1846 & replaced by the American Ensign. Cuffy came down growling"

"the party then hoisted a Flag of their own make & declared California an Independant [sic] Republic & chose a man named Wm. B. Ide, as their Captain. Their Flag consisted of a Star Union with a Grizzly bear in the center looking up at the star and under the Bear the words "Republic of California" on the lower border there was a red Stripe of Flannel the whole was composed of a piece of white cotton & Black berry juice there being no paint in the country. I have the original & only Flag of the California Republic in my possession & esteem it quite a prize."

September 25, 1846

Meeting in Sonoma establishing a committee to gather together all information related to "the bear-flag Party".    

      “A numerous meeting was held at the town of Sonoma ... by a portion of foreigners, who were engaged under the flag of the bear, in revolutionizing California, with an independent government.
      When the meeting was organized by calling J.B. Choles, Esq., to the chair, and appointing John H, Nesh, secretary.
      On motion of Dr. Robert Semple, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:--
      Resolved, That three persons be appointed to act as a committee to investigate and gather all the information in their reach, in relation to the action oi[sic] the bear-flag party, and report at a subsequent meeting.
      Resolved, That the committee have the power to call another meeting at such time and place as they may deem it necessary.
      Whereipon Dr. Robert Semple, Capt. John Grisby, and John H, Nesh, were unanimously appointed the committee to carry into full effect the said resolutions, on as early a day as practicable.
      Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Californian.
      When the meetting [sic], on motion, adjourned sine die
A true copy of the minutes.                                   JOHN H. NESH, Secretary.”

As published in The Californian, October 3, 1846, No. 8.  

October 20, 1846 dated (but not until November 8 or
later finished)

J.E. Montgomery wrote another letter to his mother which also contained a drawing of the Bear Flag and a description of events.

      I shall proceed to give you an account of the grand drama that has been acted in California since our anchoring in this Bay on the 1st of June last, to wit: On the 14th of June a revolution broke out on the part of the Americans & other Foreign residents against the Californian government & a party of 34 men surprised & took the interior town & fortress of Sonoma making Genl. Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo & his brother Don Salvador Vallejo & Col. Don Victor Prudon all distinguished Mexican army officers prisoners & hoisted a flag of their own manufacture of this fashion.  A white field with a red border on the lower edge a Grizzly bear in the center with a star in the upper corner the whole composed of [a] piece fo white cotton with a Stripe of red Flannel the white colloured with black berry juice Brick Dust & oil such was the first standard of liberty ever raised in California.

November 7, 1846

U.S.S. Warren entered San Francisco Bay and anchored off Sausalito in the afternoon.

November 13, 1846

J.E. Montgomery, accompanying his brother and party in the U.S.S. Warren left the Portsmouth, headed toward Sacramento.  They were never heard from again and presumed deceased.

November 25, 1846

R. Semple, Chm. Executive Committee letter to Montgomery at U.S.S. Portsmouth:

It has been signified to the Committee, that you are desirous of keeping the original Flag, first hoisted in the name of the “Republic of California,” which is now in your possession for the purpose of depositing it in the National Institute of the United States.
            Permit me, sir, on behalf of the Committee, to say that we are highly gratified with the kindness which you have manifested towards us, and your deportment as an officer and a gentleman has attracted our warm admiration, we take a pleasure in acceding to your wish, and here beg leave to say that we are glad to exchange it for the broad stripes and bright stars of our native land.


November 26, 1846

Montgomery letter to Semple (“Chairman of Ex Committee of the late Revolutionary Party in Up. California”) in response to 11/26 letter of Semple:

            I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday, written in behalf of
 Executive Committee of the late Revolutionary party in California, & returning my thanks to the Committee & to yourself individually as their Chairman for the expression of their kind & friendly sentiments & feelings towards me; & beg leave to state that the revolutionary Flag first hoisted at Sonoma on the 14th June last has never been in my possession, but belongs to my Clerk to whom it was given by one of the original party soon after the substitution of the U.S. Flag at that Post in July last.

            I would respectfully remark Sir, that the Committee have been misinformed in relation to my views respecting the future disposition of the Flag, as I have never expressed the desire to present it to the National Institute of the U. States.  But I recollect on one occasion when informed that the executive committee intended applying for the restoration of the Flag, that I observed to the present possessor of it, that in such an event he would have to relinquish the Flag to those who alone had the right to dispose of it; and to the best of my recollection, I at the same time remarked, that if it had fallen into my hands, or belonged to me, I should send it to the Honb Secretary of the Navy, on my arrival in the U.S.

February 13, 1847

            Our object in penning this article is to make permanent record of all the particulars of the hoisting of the "Bear Flag," under the impression, that, as that was the first move in revolutionizing this country, it will some time be interesting to know where, when, by whom, and what kind of Flag it was.

            On the 14th June, 1846, a party of Americans without a leader, gathered and took possession of the fortified town of Sonoma, on the North side of the Bay of San Francisco, and made prisoners of three Mexican Officers, a General, a Lieut. Colonel and Captain.  On the same day there was a partial organization under the name of the "Republic of California," and agreed to hoist a flag made of a piece of white cotton cloth with one red stripe on the bottom, and on the white a grisly Bear with a single star in front of him, it was painted or rather stained with lamp-black and poke-berries.  Along the top was the words "REPUBLIC OF CALIFORNIA."

May 13, 1847

“Report on the Bear Flag Revolt,” by John H. Nash, John Grigsby and William B. Ide.

January 24, 1854

Letter from F. H. Gregory, Comdt, Navy Yard, Boston to the Hon. J. C. Dobbin, Secretary of the Navy, Washington

            I have the Honor to forward to you the Original Bear Flagg, under which the Independence of California was first proclaimed – There are two of them, the one made of cotton cloth being the Original – These flaggs were brought to this Yard by the U.S. Ship Portsmouth, on her return from the Pacific, after the Mexican War – as I learn from an officer who was on that station at the time – and must have been mislaid and forgotten for a long time – They will be handed to you by Purser Bradford, who is about visiting Washington, on private business.

January 30, 1854

Dobbin’s letter acknowledging receipt from Purser Bradford of the California flags

February 17, 1855

U.S. Senators John B. Weller and William M. Gwin letter to James C. Dobbin, Secretary of the Navy:

            We understand that you have in your department two flags raised by the Americans in California early in 1846 which we have been requested by some of our citizens to obtain for the use of the “Pioneer association of California” – If consistent with your views of propriety you can deliver them to us   we will take charge of them for the purpose aforesaid

February 20, 1855

Secretary of the Navy James C. Dobbin response to U.S. Senators John B. Weller and William M. Gwin

            I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 17th instant,....

            The two flags allude[d] to were recently deposited at the Navy Department.  Not being strictly the property of this Department or connected particularly with U. S. Naval service, I see no objections to my parting with them under the circumstances to be deposited in the State of California, with whose early history they are so conspicuously associated.  They are therefore, at your service, Gentleman to be disposed of as suggested.

September 8, 1855

Letter from John B. Weller “To the ‘California Pioneers’”

            Previous to leaving Washington City in March last I obtained from the Navy Department two flags which were used in this state at an early date by the Americans.  One is the “grizzly bear flag” which was hoisted by our countrymen at Sonoma in July 1846 immediately after the defeat of De La Torre by Capt Ford and his gallant comrades.  These flags although they certainly do not exhibit much artistic skill they are so connected with the early history of American affairs in California that they must be of interest to your association....
            I know of no better disposition I can make of them than to commit them to your charge.  As relics of the past I doubt not they will be carefully preserved.

Date of donation record for donation to the Society of California Pioneers of “No. 169  Letter and Bear Flags” “Procured from the military department at Washington” “Donated Sept. 8, 1855, by Hon. J. B. Weller”

September 9 or 10, 1855

The Society of California Pioneers carried the Bear Flag (just delivered to them) in the 1855 California Admission Day parade held in San Francisco. 
Per Daily Alta California.

January 8, 1863

Society of California Pioneers displayed the “Sonoma Bear Flag” in a procession opening and inaugurating the Society’s new hall at the corner of Montgomery and Gold Streets.  A so-called “Los Angeles Bear Flag” and a “Fremont Battalion Flag” were also displayed.

July 11, 1875

The Native Sons of the Golden West were first organized at San Francisco.

September 9, 1875

NSGW first participation in California Admission Day Parade at San Francisco.

December 1877

Second parlor of NSGW organized at Oakland.

March 1878

Third parlor of NSGW organized at Sacramento.

September 1878
First Grand Parlor of NSGW held.

September 11, 1886

Native Daughters of the Golden West organized at Jackson.

July 1900

+15,000 NSGW members and 208 chartered parlors; +4000 NDGW.

August 17, 1903

John I. Spear, Secretary, The Society of California Pioneers certification of authenticity of history given of Bear Flag and that “accompanying cut is from a photograph by Vaughan & Keith of the original Bear Flag on exhibition” at the Society as of that time.
copy in 1903 BLUE BOOK.


Publication of the CALIFORNIA BLUE BOOK OR STATE ROSTER   1903 containing a photograph(at p.391) of the Bear Flag which was on exhibit at the Society of California Pioneers.  Also the volume contains a photograph of a Bear flag guidon 

April 1906

Society of California Pioneers building in San Francisco, holding the Bear Flag, was destroyed by the earthquake and fires of this date.

April 1909

R.D. Barton proposed to the annual convention of the Native Sons of the Golden West a resolution recommending to the California Legislature that it adopt the Bear Flag as the flag of California.  This resolution was adopted.

January 12, 1911

California State Senate Bill No. 291, introduced by Senator Holohan, “An Act to Select and Adopt the Bear Flag as the State Flag of California” introduced.

January 21, 1911

Sacramento Union [p.2, col.6]:

            The Bear flag, for which the natives of the state have a wholesome and tenderregard waved over the senate yesterday in its first session of real accomplishment.  The flag wasn’t there in silk and analines, but floated figuratively and far, with a unanimous vote that it be declared the official state flag.  Joseph L. Coughlin, the sergeant-at-arms of the senate, was about to undrape the Bear flag when the senate adjourned on him.
            The flag was adopted along with a bill by Senator Holohan naming that bunting as the official banner of the state.  The bill was backed up by the Native Sons and Native Daughters.

January 30, 1911

State Assembly passed Senate Bill No. 291

February 1, 1911

Passed Bill No. 291 to Governor for signing.

February 3, 1911

California Governor Hiram Johnson signs into law the bill making the Bear Flag the flag of California.

December 18, 1911

Bear Flag first flown in the Assembly Chamber of the California State Legislature.

Jan - June 14, 1953

Time frame of Senate Bill No. 1014 (from introduction to signing by the Governor) providing greater specification for the design of the Bear Flag.

February 3, 2011

One Hundredth Anniversary of the adoption of the Bear Flag as the State Flag of California.

Updated January 27, 2008

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