The Monarch Bear

"Monarch lived for 22 years in captivity during this transition from flesh and fur commercial coup to mythical beast - embodying the heart and soul of Californians."
Bear in Mind - The California Grizzly

The famous Monarch Bear was captured at Samhain (end of October) by newspaper reporter Allen Kelley. Allen Kelley was given the task of capturing the last wild gizzly bear of California by his famous boss, William Randolph Hearst. He was given a blank check and a large staff to accomplish this task. After six months of searching, Allen Kelley and his crew found the Monarch Bear in the Ojia Valley, Ventura County, near Los Angeles. He was brought to San Francisco on November 3rd, 1889 and was offered to the Menagerie (zoo) at Golden Gate Park. The gift was refused by the park and Hearst placed the Monarch Bear on exhibit at Woodwards Gardens in San Francisco. Opening day, November 10th, 1889, saw over 20,000 people visiting the Monarch Bear at Woodwards Gardens. This opened the Monarch Bear as a star bear which lasted for over 22 years. His stardom included becoming the model for the bear on the state flag of the state of California, his becoming the poster bear for the rejuvenation of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake, and the totem animal of the state of California. He was the last wild grizzly bear of California. The grizzly bear is the official animal of the state of California.

The revered Monarch Bear, the model for the State Flag icon of California
*photo courtesy of Lynx and Doug Crow

Allen Kelley, the reporter who acquired the Monarch Bear, the last wild grizzly bear of California, for William Randolph Hearst. This is a book that Allen Kelley wrote and published in 1903 which includes a chapter describing the capture and acquisition of the Monarch Bear for William Randolph Hearst.
* book provided by the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

An illustration of Monarch, in Allen Kelly's book.

An illustration by Thompson Seton of Monarch, in Allen Kelly's book.

An illustration in Allen Kelly's book.

Monarch Bear in bear-pit exhibit at the San Francisco mid-winter fair, 1894, in Golden Gate Park
*courtesy of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

Picture of Monarch Bear in the bear-pit cage on Monarch Bear Hill, Golden Gate Park, circa 1895.

Picture of Monarch Bear in the bear-pit cage on Monarch Bear Hill, Golden Gate Park, circa 1895.

Picture of Monarch Bear in the bear-pit cage on Monarch Bear Hill, Golden Gate Park, circa 1895.

The Monarch Bear's pelt was stuffed soon after his death, in 1911, and he was placed on exhibit in the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park, at that time through December, 2003, when the Academy closed to be torn-down and re-built. He has been visited by millions during this extensive stay, and is well known and beloved of many San Francisco school chrildren. His skeleton was donated to UC Berkeley's museum of Vertebrate zooology at the time of his death, where they remain to this day.

The honored Monarch Bear, died in 1911, in Monarch Bear Grove
*photo courtesy of Lynx and Doug Crow

The Monarch Bear was euthanized in 1911. He was likely very old at that time. He had been in captivity for over 22 years, and was a fully mature grizzly at the time of his capture. Therefore, he appears as an ancient elder bear. The stuffed pelt of the Monarch Bear which was on display at the Academy of Sciences does not express his magnificence. The Monarch was very unusual as a grizzly bear in that he was black instead of gray. His pelt after almost 100 years of exposure to strong artificial light has faded to a reddish brown from its original black. Better examples of the Monarch Bear's power and magnificence may be obtained from drawings, photographs and paintings that were done during his lifetime. A number of beautiful pictures and drawings, paintings and stories concerning the Monarch Bear can be seen in the new book "Bear in Mind" - The California Grizzly, edited by Susan Snyder, the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2003.

The Famous Monarch Bear, living, circa 1900

1905 Bear Pit at Monarch Bear Hill - designed by famous San Francisco architect, William Polk - photo shows the Monarch Bear, his rocky-mountain grizzy bear mate, and their cubs.

We are just begining the research regarding the Monarch Bear's cubs and his mate. Anyone who is viewing this site and has more information regarding the Monarch Bear, his mate, and the cubs, please contact us! (Click here to send an email).

From the San Francisco Zoo:

The bear was Monarch, a California grizzly who became the first animal in the Zoo’s collection and a lasting symbol of the city’s evolving relationship to vanishing wildlife. Monarch’s affiliation with the City began in 1889, when William Randolph Hearst, founder and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, engaged one of his reporters, Allen Kelly, in a heated debate over whether grizzlies continued to exist in California. Hearst ended the argument with a challenge for Kelly to go out and find one. Photographic proof would not suffice; Kelly would have to bring the animal back alive. After five months in the mountains of Ventura County, Kelly and the Examiner party succeeded in luring an enormous grizzly into a catch pen baited with honey and mutton. A crowd of 20,000 was waiting at the Townsend Street train station to greet the triumphant Kelly and his California grizzly.

Monarch lived for 16 years, first in Woodward’s Garden in the Mission District, then in Golden Gate Park. He sired two cubs, and although he never set a paw in the Zoo’s current location, he provided the impetus for Fleishhacker to pursue his dream of a bona fide city zoo.

The following photos are from "Bear in Mind: The California Grizzly", a corresponding website to a book of the same title, edited by Susan Snyder, published by the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

The overstuffed pelt of the Monarch Bear - who fur has faded from dark black to auburn, due to the effects of artificial lighting over a 90 year period

Turn of the Century contemporary novel with the Monarch Bear as the main character, written by Ernest Thompson Seton

The Monarch Bear was the poster-bear for the rejuvination of the city of San Francisco following the earthquake and fires of 1906

This is an illustration that was published in Cosmopolitan Magazine, of the Monarch Bear's capture at Mt. Gleeson in Los Angeles County, in November, 1889

"I want Out, Now!" - the Monarch Bear.
The Monarch Bear at Monarch Bear Hill in Golden Gate Park. Due to the Monarch's adeptness at breaking out of his cages - this cage has a barred ceiling to prevent his escape.

A performing bear at Woodward's Gardens in San Francisco, where the Monarch Bear lived between 1889, and 1894.

A turn of the century contemporary song about grizzly bears, inspired by the Monarch Bear