A state of the western United States on the Pacific Ocean. It was admitted as the 31st state in 1850. The area was colonized by the Spanish and formally ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848). California is often called the Golden State because of its sunny climate and the discovery of gold during its pioneering days. Where the name comes from: Named by Spanish after “Califia,” a mythical paradise in a Spanish romance, written by Montalvo in 1510

California is bordered by Oregon (N), Nevada and, across the Colorado River, Arizona (E), Mexico (S), and the Pacific Ocean (W).

Facts and Figures

Abbreviation: CA
Capital City: Sacramento
Date of Statehood: Sept. 9, 1850 (31st state).
Population: 33,871,648 (2000 census.)
Time zone: Pacific time: UTC-8/-7

State Motto: Eureka — I have found it
State Slogan: Find Yourself Here
State Nickname: Golden State
State Song: I Love You, California
State Tree: California Redwood.
State Flower: California Poppy

State Bird: California Valley Quail
State Animal: California grizzly bear; Marine: Gray Whale
State Fish: Golden Trout; marine – Garibaldi
State Insect: California dogface butterfly

Area: 163707 sq.mi. Land 155973 sq. mi. Water 7734 sq.mi.
Highest pt., Mt. Whitney, 14,491 ft (4,417 m)
Lowest pt., Death Valley, 282 ft (86 m) below sea level.

The Seal of California

Adopted at the California state Constitutional Convention of 1849 and redesigned in 1937. The seal features Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom; a California grizzly bear (the official state animal) feeding on grape vines, representing California wine production; a sheaf of grain, representing agriculture; a miner, representing the California Gold Rush and the mining industry; sailing ships, representing the state’s economic power; and San Francisco Bay or the Sacramento River. The phrase “Eureka,” meaning “I have found (it)!” is the California state motto.

The geography is not an exact view from any one place in California, although the waters were described in 1849 as being “of the Sacramento” and the mountains in the background as being “the snow-clad peaks of the Sierra Nevada.”

Original 1849 text describing the seal
Around the bevel of the ring are represented thirty-one stars being the number of states of which the union will consist upon the admission of California. The foreground figure represents the Goddess Athena (Roman: Minerva) having sprung full grown from the brain of Zeus (Roman: Jupiter). This is introduced as a type of the political birth of the State of California without having gone through the probation of a Territory. At her feet crouches a grizzly bear feeding upon clusters from a grapevine emblematic of the peculiar characteristics of the country. A miner in engaged with a rocker and a bowl at his side, illustrating the golden wealth of the Sacramento upon whose waters are seen shipping typical of commercial greatness and the snow-clad peaks of the Sierra Nevada make up the background while above the Greek motto “Eureka” (I have found it) applying either to the principle involved in the admission of the State or the success of the miner at work.


The flag of California

The flag of California was first flown during the Bear Flag Revolt as the flag of the California Republic, and a modified version was then adopted by the California state legislature in 1911 as the state flag. The flag of the U.S. state of California is often called the Bear Flag.

The modern state flag is white with a wide red strip along the bottom. There is a red star in the upper left corner and a grizzly bear facing left in the center, standing on a patch of green grass. The bear depicted is a California grizzly bear, a subspecies that is now extinct. The five-point star is a nod to the Republic of Texas, and the bear represents strength.

The California Bear Flag

Historic California Bear Flag as photographed in 1890. This flag, raised at Sonoma on June 14, 1846, was in the possession of the Society of California Pioneers at the time of the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire, and burned during the conflagration.

According to the California Blue Book: “The flag was designed by William Todd on a piece of new unbleached cotton. The star imitated the lone star of Texas. A grizzly bear represented the many bears seen in the state. The word, ‘California Republic’ was placed beneath the star and bear. The Bear Flag was replaced by the American flag. It was adopted by the 1911 State Legislature as the State Flag. ”

The original Bear Flag was raised for the first time in Sonoma, California on June 14, 1846, by the “Bear Flaggers” led by William B. Ide who said he wished to “bring freedom to the Spaniards.” He was made President of the short-lived California Republic. California had been under Mexican rule since Mexican independence in 1821 as the department of Alta California, and under the control of Spain for many years before that.

The original Bear Flag and the republic it symbolized had a brief career, from June 14 until July 9. On July 9, 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 Navy Lt. Joseph Warren Revere arrived in Sonoma and hauled down the Bear Flag, running up in its place the Stars and Stripes. Revere handed the Bear Flag to Midshipman John E. Montgomery, who, because the flag snagged a few times as it was lowered, would later write in a letter to his mother “Cuffy came down growling”—”Cuffy” being his nickname for the bear on the flag.

The original Bear Flag was preserved 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 depicting the raising of the flag.

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