California Symbols

The state of California has a rich cultural legacy, and its history and its environment are reflected in its symbols. From the Californian bear to the state's revelatory motto, California's symbols are full of a sense of nature, beauty, and history.

The flag of California depicts a bear against a green patch of grass, with a red star next to it and a red band underneath. The name "California Republic" is also written. The flag's origins lie in the 18th century, during California's attempts to gain independence from Mexico. The original flag was a red star against a white field, used during the 1836 revolution against Mexico. While this revolution failed, the star was incorporated into a similarly revolutionary flag in 1846 that became known as the Bear Flag. This flag featured all of the design elements of the current flag, just in a different configuration - the bear and the star were in the top left, without the grassy patch and with the bear in a slightly different position. The flag was used by a group now known as the Bear Flaggers during their own attempt to gain Californian independence. While the movement was dissolved in favor of supporting US efforts to gain California, the flag was used as the basis for the modern design. The current design was first adopted in 1911.

The seal of California is similarly steeped in history, as well as showcasing many of the finer features of California. The centerpiece is the goddess Minerva, who was chosen because of her origins - she sprung fully-formed from the head of Jupiter, just as California became a state without first having to spend time as a territory. At her feet is the familiar brown bear, chosen because of the Bear Flag. He is eating grape leaves, symbolizing the wine industry in particular and California's production in general. To the side is a miner working, showing the gold rush in particular and the mining industry in general. Behind the figures is an unidentified bay (attempts to locate it have failed), with the ship in it showcasing the state's economy. The Sierra Nevada Mountains finish off the backdrop. Underneath the rest is a banner bearing the state motto, "Eureka".

The motto is of itself interesting. Greek for "I have found it", "Eureka" has long been an exclamation of delighted surprise. Here it is meant to symbolize the discoveries of gold that began the gold rush, along with the delight and quickness that marked California's entrance into the United States. An attempt was once made to make the motto "in God we trust", but it failed in the end. The motto as it is symbolizes the delight that California takes in innovation and discovery.

There are many other symbols of California, of course, including various official flora and fauna, but these entries in its lexicon showcase the state's history, development, and beauty.