California State Symbols
California Triva Page
© Tom Myers
The California grizzly bear
(Ursus californicus) was designated official State Animal
in 1953. Before dying out in California, this largest and most
powerful of carnivores thrived in the great valleys and low
mountains of the state, probably in greater numbers than anywhere
else in the United States. As humans began to populate California,
the grizzly stood its ground, refusing to retreat in the face
of advancing civilization. It killed livestock and interfered
with settlers. Less than 75 years after the discovery of gold,
every grizzly bear in California had been tracked down and killed.
The last one was killed in Tulare County in August 1922, more
than 20 years before the authority to regulate the take of fish
and wildlife was delegated to the California Fish and Game Commission
by the State Legislature.
© Tom Myers
The California quail (Lophortyx
californica), also known as the valley quail, became the
official state bird in 1931. A widely distributed and prized
game bird, it is known for its hardiness and adaptability. Plump,
gray-colored and smaller than a pigeon, the California quail
sports a downward curving black plume on top of its head and
black bib with white stripe under the beak. Flocks number from
a few to 60 or more in the fall and winter months, but in the
spring break into pairs. They nest in hollows scratched in the
ground and concealed by foliage, and their eggs, 6 to 28 in
number, are creamy white and thickly spotted with golden brown.
of blue and gold as official colors in California were first
used as school colors by the University of California, Berkeley
in 1875. Blue represented the sky and gold the color of the
precious metal found by forty-niners in the state's hills. The
Secretary of State began using blue and gold ribbons with the
state seal on official documents as early as 1913. Secretary
of State Frank M. Jordan suggested making blue and gold the
official state colors and in 1951, the State Legislature passed
legislation to that effect.
© Dottie's Just Dancin'
West Coast Swing Dancing, related
to the Swing, Whip, or Jitterbug, came into being in the early
1930's in response to new musical forms then sweeping the land.
It was created at the grassroots level and devotees of this
art come from every conceivable ethnic, religious, racial, and
West Coast Swing Dancing is an intricate dance, requiring
a great deal of coordination, good timing, and intelligent application.
It is an American dance which is danced to American music. It
originated in California and is danced in competition nationally
State Fife and Drum
Consolidated Drum Band
The California Consolidated
Drum Band was designated as the official State Fife and Drum
Corps in 1997. The music of fife and drum roused and inspired
soldiers during significant events in this country's history.
California State Archives
The golden trout (Salmo
agua-bonita) is native only to California and was named
the official state fish by act of the State Legislature in 1947.
Originally the species was found only in a few streams in the
icy headwaters of the Kern River, south of Mount Whitney, the
highest peak in the United States outside of Alaska. Stocking
of wild and hatchery-reared fish has extended its range to many
waters at high elevation in the Sierra Nevada from El Dorado
and Alpine Counties southward. It has also been planted in other
California State Archives
On June 14, 1846, a small band
of settlers marched on the Mexican garrison at Sonoma and took
the commandant, Mariano Vallejo, prisoner, They issued a proclamation
which declared California to be a Republic independent of Mexico.
This uprising became known as the Bear Flag Revolt after the
hastily designed flag depicting a grizzly bear and a five pointed
star over a red bar and the words "California Republic." The
grizzly bear was a symbol of great strength while the lone star
made reference to the lone Star of Texas. The flag only flew
until July 9, 1846 when it was learned that Mexico and the United
States were already at war. Soon after, the Bear Flag was replaced
with the American flag. It was adopted as the State Flag by
the State Legislature in 1911.
California Indians cherished
the poppy as both a source of food and for oil extracted from
the plant. Its botanical name, Eschsholtzia californica,
was given by Adelbert Von Chamisso, a naturalist and member
of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, who dropped anchor in San
Francisco in 1816 in a bay surrounded by hills of the golden
flowers. Also sometimes known as the flame flower, la amapola,
and copa de oro (cup of gold), the poppy grows wild throughout
California. It became the state flower in 1903. Every year April
6 is California Poppy Day, and Governor Wilson proclaimed May
13-18, 1996, Poppy Week.
State Folk Dance
Square Dancing is the American
folk dance which is called, cued, or prompted to the dancers,
and includes squares, rounds, clogging, contra, line and heritage
dances. The Square Dance has a long and proud history. It is
an exciting art form that is truly an original of our country,
and has been danced continuously in California since the "Gold
As our state's population has grown, so has the square dance
activity. California leads the nation with more than 200,000
residents square dancing weekly. It conforms to our ever changing
lifestyles and appeals to people of all ages, races, and creeds.
Class distinction is forgotten when people join together to
enjoy the true fellowship of the Square Dance.
California State Archives
The saber-toothed cat (Smilodon
californicus) was adopted by the Legislature as the official
State Fossil in 1973. Fossil evidence indicates that this member
of the cat family with 8-inch upper canine teeth was somewhat
shorter than a modern lion, but weighed more. This meat-eater
was very common in California during the late Pleistocene epoch
that ended about 11,000 to 10,000 years ago. Fossil bones of
Smilodon californicus have been found in abundance
preserved in the tar pits of Rancho La Brea in Los Angeles.
© Tom Myers
Benitoite was designated as
the official State Gemstone in 1985. Sometimes called the "
blue diamond", it was first discovered near the headwaters of
the San Benito River from which it derived its name. The gem
is extremely rare and ranges in color from a light transparent
blue to dark, vivid sapphire blue, and occasionally it is found
in a violet shade.
Gold Rush Ghost Town
California State Library
Bodie was designated as the
official California State Gold Rush ghost town in 2002. In 1962
it was named a National Historic Site and a California State
Historic Park. It once housed a population of 10,000, but now
it is preserved in a state of arrested decay. What was left
of the town’s buildings and contents remains as they did
after the last resident departed. Bodie is located northeast
of Yosemite about 13 miles off of Highway 395 on Bodie Road
and 7 miles south of Bridgeport.
The exact source of the town’s name remains unknown
today. It may have been named for gold miner W. S. Body also
known as William S. or Waterman S. Body or his name may have
been Wakeman S. Bodey. The name Bodie was given to the camp
that was near the site where he discovered gold in 1859. It
was not until 1877 when gold was discovered in quantity and
the population increased that Bodie grew in size from 3,000
up to 10,000 by 1880. The mining boom ended in the early 1880’s
and by 1888 about $18,000,000 worth of gold had been mined,
but only 3 mines were left from the 40 to 50 that had existed
during the boom years.
© California Native
The official State Grass designated
in 2004, is Nassella pulchra, or Purple needlegrass, as it is
most commonly known. Purple needlegrass is a medium-large, long-lived
bunchgrass well adapted to clay soils. It is the most widespread
native bunchgrass and its growing range is from the Oregon border
into northern Baja California.
The seed of this grass species was one of several used by
many California Native American communities as a food source.
It remains to this day as an important food source for California’s
wildlife. During the period of Mexican control of California,
Purple needlegrass was used for cattle grazing to support the
cowhide and tallow industry. Today, this grass continues to
provide forage for California’s important cattle industry.
Once established, Purple needlegrass is tolerant of summer
drought and heat. It can live more than 150 years and has been
used in projects such as habitat restoration, erosion and levee
Established in 1871, the California
Historical Society was designated the official California State
Historical society in 1979. Headquartered in San Francisco with
a library and museum, the Society collects, preserves and exhibits
materials about the history of California and the West.
The North Baker Research Library houses a large collection
of manuscripts, maps, posters, printed ephemera, books, and
pamphlets. The collection of photographs numbers over 500,000
and includes works by noted California photographers such as
Carleton E. Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge and Ansel Adams. The
Society also has a large collection of art that depicts the
history of California. In addition to its library and museum
function, it also offers lectures, family and school programs
and other activities on a scheduled basis.
© Tom Myers
The California dogface butterfly
or dog head (Zerene eurydice) was designated the official
State Insect in 1972. The butterfly is found only in California
from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the Coast Ranges
and from Sonoma south to San Diego. The male has a yellow silhouette
of a dog's head on its wings. The female is usually entirely
yellow with a black spot on the upper wings.
State Marine Fish
© 2004 Joseph Dougherty
A golden orange fish approximately
14 inches in length, the garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus)
is most common in the shallow waters off the Southern California
coast. Young garibaldi are even more colorful with bright blue
spots on a reddish orange body.
When disturbed these fish emit a thumping sound which can
be heard by divers. Although the garibaldi is not an endangered
species, there is concern that commercial collection by the
saltwater aquarium industry has reduced its numbers. In 1995,
the Legislature acted to protect the garibaldi by placing a
moratorium on commercial collection until the year 2002. They
also named the garibaldi the official State Marine Fish.
State Marine Mammal
© Larry Foster
Measuring 35 to 50 feet in
length and around 20 to 40 tons in weight, the California gray
whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is identified by its mottled
gray color and low hump in place of a dorsal fin. Gray whale
feed mainly on small crustaceans along the ocean bottom in the
western Bering Sea where they spend the summer.
From December through February, the whales can be seen traveling
southward in small groups along the California coast on their
way to the bays and lagoons of Baja California where mating
occurs and the females calve. In March and April, they once
again travel north following the shoreline. The whales cover
approximately 6,000 to 7,000 miles each way. It is believed
that memory and vision aid them on their long migration. The
California gray whale was designated the State Marine Mammal
© California State
The California State Military
Museum is located at 1119 Second Street in the Old Sacramento
State Historical Park. It was designated by legislation in 2004
as the California State Military Museum and Resource Center.
The museum displays California's military history and houses
many artifacts, a research library and related archival materials.
Besides the Sacramento location, there are auxiliary museums
at Camp Roberts in Monterey County, Camp San Luis Obispo, Fresno
Air National Guard Base, Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training
Base in Orange County and San Diego National Guard Armory.
© Tom Myers
As one might expect, gold is
the official state mineral and was so designated in 1965. In
the four years following the discovery of gold by James Marshall
in January of 1848, California's population swelled from 14,000
to 250,000 people. Miners came from all over the world and extracted
28,280,711 fine ounces of gold from 1850-1859 which would be
worth approximately $10,000,000,000 today. Although production
is much lower, present day prospectors can still pan for gold
in California's streams.
The Greek word "Eureka" has
appeared on the state seal since 1849 and means "I have found
it". The words were probably intended to refer to the discovery
of gold in California. Archimedes, the famed Greek mathematician,
is said to have exclaimed "Eureka!" when, after long study,
he discovered a method of determining the purity of gold. In
1957, attempts were made to establish "In God We Trust" as the
state motto, but "Eureka" was made the official state motto
"The Golden State" has long
been a popular designation for California and was made the official
State Nickname in 1968. It is particularly appropriate since
California's modern development can be traced back to the discovery
of gold in 1848 and fields of golden poppies can be seen each
spring throughout the state.
State Poet Laureate
California Arts Council
Al Young is the current California
State Poet Laureate and was born in Mississippi on May 31, 1939.
Mr. Young has been a poet, writer, teacher and lecturer throughout
his literary career and has lived most of his life in the San
Francisco Bay Area. He has authored a number of books including
poetry and fiction. Young has also co-edited several works including
the recent two volume set, The Literature of California , which
was co-edited along with California authors Jack Hicks, James
D. Houston, and Maxine Hong Kingston. Mr. Young has been the
recipient of numerous literary honors.
The Poet Laureate serves a two-year term during which he or
she provides a minimum of six public poetry readings in both
rural and urban California areas. He or she is also charged
with educating community, business and government leaders about
the value of creative expression. The Poet Laureate also undertakes
a cultural project during the two-year term that includes bringing
the poetic arts to students who might not have had an opportunity
to be exposed to poetry.
Ina D. Coolbrith was named the first State Poet Laureate by
the legislature in 1915 to honor her contributions to the Panama-Pacific
State Prehistoric Artifact
of Parks &
Perhaps the most unusual state
symbol is the state prehistoric artifact, the chipped stone
bear. Discovered at an archaeological dig site in San Diego
County in 1985, this small stone object measures about 2 1/2
by 1 1/2 inches and resembles a walking bear. Fashioned from
volcanic rock by one of California's earliest inhabitants some
7-8,000 years ago, the stone artifact is thought to have been
made for religious use. The Legislature named the chipped stone
bear a state symbol in 1991 making California the first state
to designate an official State Prehistoric Artifact.
The California Quarter was
issued January 31, 2005 by the United States Mint. The California
Quarter, part of the
United States Mint's 50 State Quarters® Program, was the
31st state quarter released by the Mint because California,
admitted into the Union on September 9, 1850, is our nation's
31st state. The California Quarter depicts naturalist and conservationist
John Muir admiring Yosemite Valley's monolithic Half Dome while
a California condor soars overhead. The coin bears the inscriptions
"California," "John Muir," "Yosemite Valley" and "1850."
John Muir helped form the Sierra Club in 1892 to protect Yosemite
National Park that Congress had established in 1890. Muir served
as the Sierra Club's president until his death in 1914. The
California condor, with a wingspan of nine feet, was once nearly
extinct. Its prominence on the quarter is a testament to the
enormous bird's successful repopulation in California.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose the California Quarter
design concept from five final concepts presented to him by
the 20-member California State Quarter Commission. The U.S.
Department of Treasury approved the "John Muir/Yosemite Valley"
design on April 15, 2004.
California Quarters are available in commemorative holders
through the California Museum for History, Women, and The Arts
© Tom Myers
Under a full head of steam,
the desert tortoise (gopherus agassizi) moves at a stolid
pace of about 20 feet per minute. This patient vegetarian has
existed on Earth almost unchanged for millions of years. It
is found in the southwestern desert areas of California where
it now enjoys protected status as an endangered species. The
desert tortoise played a key role in the passage of the California
Desert Protection Act in 1994. To protect the fragile desert
habitat of the tortoise and other plants and animals, millions
of acres were added to the national park and wilderness system.
Supporters reportedly brought a desert tortoise to the White
House for the bill signing. The tortoise has been the official
State Reptile since 1972.
© Tom Myers
California has a greater number
of minerals and a wider variety of rock types than does any
other state. Serpentine, a shiny, green and blue rock found
throughout California, was named the official State Rock in
1965. It contains the state's principal deposits of chromite,
magnesite, and cinnabar. California was the first state to designate
a State Rock.
California State Archives
The Constitutional Convention
of 1849 adopted the Great Seal of the State of California. The
seal was designed by Major R. S. Garnett of the United States
Army, and proposed by Caleb Lyon, a clerk of the convention.
The Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, has at her feet a grizzly
bear and clusters of grapes representing wildlife and agricultural
richness. A miner works near the busy Sacramento River, below
the Sierra Nevada peaks. The Greek word "Eureka" meaning "I
have found it", probably refers to the miner's discovery of
gold. Near the upper edge of the seal are 31 stars representing
the number of states with California's anticipated admission.
Just as Minerva sprung full-grown from the head of Jupiter,
California became a state on September 9, 1850, without having
to go through a territorial stage.
Silver Rush Ghost Town
California State Library
Calico, located near Barstow
in San Bernardino county, was designated the official California
State Silver Rush Ghost town in 2005. Prior to its present status
it had been designated State Historic Landmark number 782.
The town of Calico was founded near the site of a major silver
strike in 1881 and at the height of its glory claimed over 20
saloons and hundreds of nearby mines. The exact value of silver
that was mined is estimated to have been between $13,000,000 and
$20,000,000 by the end of the boom years. In the mid-1890’s
the price of an ounce of silver dropped over half in value from
what it had been in 1880. This event caused a loss of demand for
silver and by the early 1900’s Calico had become a deserted
Calico was acquired in the 1950’s by Walter Knott, owner
of Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. He preserved
what was left of Calico and constructed other buildings to recreate
Calico’s past to serve as a tourist attraction. Mr. Knott
donated Calico Ghost Town to the County of San Bernardino in
1966, and today it is part of a 480-acre County Regional Park.
The San Joaquin
Soil was designated as the official state soil in 1997. The
designation commemorates the completion of the state's most
comprehensive soil inventory and acknowledges the importance
California's official state
song is "I Love You, California", written by F.B. Silverwood,
a Los Angeles merchant. The words were subsequently put to music
by Alfred Frankenstein, a former conductor for the Los Angeles
Symphony Orchestra. It was the official song of expositions
held in San Francisco and San Diego in 1915, and was played
aboard the first ship to go through the Panama Canal. In 1951,
the State Legislature passed a resolution designating it as
California's state song. During the years following, several
attempts were made to make other songs such as "California,
Here I Come" the official state song. Finally, in 1988, "I Love
You, California" became the official state song by law.
I Love You, California
I love you, California, you're the greatest
state of all.
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall.
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore.
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore.
Where the snow crowned Golden Sierras
Keep their watch o'er the valleys bloom,
It is there I would be in our land by the sea,
Every breeze bearing rich perfume.
It is here nature gives of her rarest. It is Home Sweet Home to
And I know when I die I shall breathe my last sigh
For my sunny California.
your red-wood forests - love your fields of yellow grain.
I love your summer breezes and I love your winter rain.
I love you, land of flowers; land of honey, fruit and wine.
I love you, California; you have won this heart of mine.
I love your old gray Missions - love your
vineyards stretching far.
I love you, California, with your Golden Gate ajar.
I love your purple sun-sets, love your skies of azure blue.
I love you, California; I just can't help loving you.
I love you, Catalina, you are very dear to
I love you, Tamalpais, and I love Yosemite.
I love you, Land of Sunshine, Half your beauties are untold.
I loved you in my childhood, and I'll love you when I'm old.
State Tall Ship
© Maritime Museum
of San Diego
Designated by legislation in
2003, the Californian was named the State's Official Tall Ship.
She is the only ship that can claim this title.
Built in 1984, the Californian is a replica of the 1847 Revenue
Cutter C. W. Lawrence that patrolled California's coast during
the Gold Rush period. She has nine sails for a total of 7,000
square feet of canvas, weighs 130 tons and measures 145 feet
The Californian has been owned by the Maritime Museum of San
Diego since 2002. The Californian is used for educational programs
including an annual summer tour of the California coast.
© Bonbright Woolens, Inc.
Enacted by legislation in 2001,
the California Tartan recognizes the contributions to California
by residents of Scottish ancestry. The legislation also stated
that the official State Tartan may be claimed by any resident
of the state.
The tartan is based on the Muir Clan tartan to honor the great
naturalist John Muir. However, it is original enough to be registered
with the Scottish Tartan Authority as California State District
Tartan Number 200111 and with the Scottish Tartans Society as
The official State Tartan is described as a pattern or sett
consisting of alternate squares of meadow green and pacific
blue that are separated and surrounded by narrow charcoal bands.
The squares of meadow green are divided by a gold seam that
is supported by charcoal lines on each side. There are three
redwood stripes, the middle of which is broader, that are added
to each side of the gold seam. The pacific blue square is divided
by a sky blue stripe, which is supported on each side by charcoal
The tartan's blue reflects the sky, the ocean, and the state'
s rivers and lakes, while the green stands for the state's mountains,
fields, and parks. The red, gold, and blue seams signify the
arts, sciences, agriculture, and industry of California.
California State Archives
Designed in the Spanish style
by Pasadena architect Elmer Grey, the cornerstone for the Pasadena
Playhouse was laid in May, 1924. The theater staged its first
production in May 1925 and was recognized by the Legislature
as the State Theater in 1937. With close ties to Hollywood,
many famous actors have graced the Pasadena Playhouse stage
including Jean Arthur, Eve Arden, Gene Hackman, Raymond Burr,
and Tyrone Power. The theater has produced hundreds of new scripts
including many American and world premieres. Today, the 680-seat
mainstage theater hosts a year-round season of six plays, giving
306-322 performances annually.
© Tom Myers
The California redwood was
designated the official State Tree of California by the State
Legislature in 1937. Once common throughout the Northern Hemisphere,
redwoods are found only on the Pacific Coast. Many groves and
stands of the towering trees are preserved in state and national
parks and forests. There are actually two genera of California
redwood: the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and
the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). The coast
redwoods are the tallest trees in the world; one reaching over
379 feet tall grows in Redwood National and State Parks. One
giant sequoia, the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia & Kings
Canyon National Park, is over 274 feet high and more than 102
feet in circumference at its base; it is widely considered to
be the world's largest tree in overall volume.
Graphic & Photo Credits:
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Sources of Information:
California Blue Book; Statutes of California; California Government Code
Copyright © 2003-2008 Made in California.
All rights reserved.