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Annotations by
Bear Flag Museum
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1. John Adam Hussey was one of the premier researchers and authors on the Bear Flag Revolt during the 20th Century.  In 1952, the California Historical Society Quarterly (Vol. XXXI, No. 3, September 1952) published his New Light on the Original Bear Flag, bringing to light several new documents related to the Bear Flag, over a century after the events.  Dr. Hussey’s Dissertation on the Bear Flag Revolt is at the Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley.  Fred B. Rogers, himself one of the leading Bear Flag Revolt experts of the 20th Century described Hussey as follows in his William Brown Ide, Bear Flagger: “Those who delve into the Bear Flag Revolt must consult with Dr. John A. Hussey, foremost authority on the subject.... I am most indebted.”

Chapter 17, The California Bear Flag  [excerpt] prepared by Dr. John A. Hussey[1] in Milo M. Quaife, Melvin J. Weig, and Roy E. Appleman The History of the United States Flag (1961, Harper & Row)[bold added and footnote annotations by the BFM].

At daybreak on June 14, 1846, Merritt’s company, now grown to thirty-three or thirty-four men, captured the hamlet of Sonoma, north of San Francisco Bay.
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2. It is unclear why Hussey accepted this description as the best available, over the description given by others.

 

3. The bases of these measurements is unclear.

On that same day William B. Ide was elected head of the “republican party,” as the settlers now styled themselves.  Needing an emblem for their cause, the men hunted about for materials from which to make a flag.  Some white cotton was obtained for the field, and along its bottom edge was sewn a four-inch wide strip of red flannel.  A young man named William L. Todd, cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln, drew on its field designs suggested by the company.  First came a single star, reminiscent of the Lone Star of Texas.  Todd colored it in with red paint made (according to the best available contemporary description [2] ) from “blackberry juice, brick dust & oil.”  Facing the star he also painted in red a crude representation of a grizzly bear standing on all fours.  Beneath the star and the bear were outlined in black the words CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC.  The completed flag, measuring thirty-six and one-half inches in the hoist and fifty-nine inches in fly [3], evidently was raised on the Mexican flagstaff in front of the Sonoma barracks on June 14, 1846.

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4. While Hussey may very well be correct, the very best we know for certain is that the Bear Flag which was flying on July 9, 1846 at Sonoma and on that date lowered and replaced by the U.S. Flag was taken East by Montgomery.  Whether that flag was “the original Bear Flag” has not been certainly established.

5. This date is a typographical error.  As Hussey unequivocally established in his article New Light on the Original Bear Flag, the flag was returned in 1855 and donated to the Society on September 8, 1855.

            The original Bear Flag [4] was taken East by Commander John B. Montgomery of the Portsmouth and deposited in the Boston Navy Yard along with other souvenirs of the Mexican War.  In 1858 [5] it was returned to San Francisco, remaining there in care of the Society of California Pioneers until destroyed during the fire of 1906.
 

March 27, 2007

 

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