Issue Date: July 16, 1969
City: San Diego, CA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
Color: Orange, red, black and light blue
A dual-purpose issue, this stamp marks the 200th anniversary of the settlement of California as well as the bicentennial of the city of San Diego.
In 1796, the Otter became the first American sailing vessel to reach California’s coast from the East. Many other ships soon began making this profitable voyage. In 1826, trapper Jedediah Strong Smith became the first American explorer to reach California by land. Many trappers and explorers soon followed in his footsteps. The first group of American settlers reached California in 1841. A schoolteacher, John Bidwell, and a wagon master and land speculator, John Bartleson, led these people. Wagon trains of settlers soon followed. So many American settlers poured into California that the United States offered to buy the land, but Mexico refused to sell.
Military explorer John C. Frémont led surveying parties into California from 1844 to 1846. The Mexicans saw these expeditions as a threat. In March 1846, the Mexicans ordered Frémont to leave the area. Instead, he stood his ground, raising the U.S. flag over Hawk’s Peak, located about 25 miles from Monterey. Frémont began building a fort, but when Mexican troops came to the area, Frémont withdrew. On May 13, 1846, the U.S. and Mexico went to war.
In June 1846, California settlers, led by frontiersman Ezekiel Merritt, captured the Mexican fort at Sonoma. This fort served as Mexico’s headquarters for all of northern California. The settlers captured the fort and raised a homemade flag with a star, grizzly bear, and the words California Republic. This event became known as the Bear Flag Revolt.
The Bear Flag Revolt was not a significant military action. Regular U.S. armed forces completed the real military conquest of California. Frémont, Commodore Robert F. Stockton, and General Stephen W. Kearny led U.S. troops. After the war, Mexico surrendered California in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. California then became part of the U.S.