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Three Tartans Honor John Muir

John Muir Way Tartan, California Tartan, and John Muir Tartan

What is a Tartan?

A tartan is a special kind of cloth design from Scotland. The design consists of distinctive patterns of stripes of various widths and colors. The stripes cross at right angles against a solid color background. The tartan pattern is traditionally known as the sett of the tartan. The cloth that is used to make a tartan is usually wool.

In the United States, the word tartan also means a cloth or a garment with a tartan design, and is often referred to as a "plaid."

In Scotland, a "tartan" has a special meaning, originally used as a means of identifying with a Scottish district, regiment or family. The principal clans in Scotland, especially the clans in the Highlands, have their own tartans. Thus, the Clan "Muir" and Clan "Gordon," etc. each have its own tartan; in fact many clans have multiple tartans. We cannot be sure that John Muir was a member of either of these clans, because clan links cannot be assumed without genealogical evidence, and cannot be claimed on basis of name alone. See John Muir: Muir Clan or Gordon Clan?.

In any case, today people of Scots descent worldwide, and visitors to Scotland alike, regard tartan as a means through which they can express association with the culture of Scotland. On February 5, 2009, the Parliament of Scotland officially opened the Scottish Register of Tartans, which incorporates pre-existing tartan designs that were included in the databases held by the Scottish Tartans Authority and the Scottish Tartans World Register, and authorizes new registrations. The Register is a database of tartan designs, maintained by the National Records of Scotland. Thus, there are many tartans created and registered especially for individuals, families, districts, institutions, schools and corporations, and for commemorative purposes. Anyone, from anywhere in the world, can now register a new tartan -- providing that it meets the criteria for registration. Accordingly, several U.S. States have adopted official "district" tartans.

"John Muir Way" Tartan

Most recently, in 2014, Gordon Nicolson created the "John Muir Way" tartan. He designed The John Muir Way Tartan to mark the 100th Anniversary of Muirs death, and to celebrate the opening of the new Coast-to-Coast cycling and walking route between Dunbar & Helensburgh. According to Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers, "Living family life in Dunbar (the birthplace and boyhood home of the influential environmentalist John Muir) while enjoying the beautiful outdoors of East Lothian it seemed natural for Gordon to design a tartan to celebrate the opening of the 215km John Muir Way. Dunbar is a stunning town surrounded by stunning coastline and the beautiful Lammermuir Hills. The inspiration for the colours incorporated in Gordon's design came from his surroundings: Brown and Green represent nature; Red comes from the Dunbar Tartan; and Blue represents the sea and sky." The Tartan has been officially approved by Scottish Register of Tartans.

John Muir Way Tartan by Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers


"John Muir: and "California State"Tartans

In 1998, two tartans were registered to officially honor John Muir. One is a "district" tartan: the "California State Tartan." In another category, the "John Muir Tartan," like the "John Muir Way" Tartan, is a "commemorative" tartan.


California State Tartan

California State Tartan
(Click on thumbnail for larger size)

Scottish Tartans World Register #:2454; Scottish Register of Tartans #482
Class: District
Details: California Official State Tartan

Status: Assembly Bill 614 was passed by the State Assembly and Senate on July 23rd 2001. Governor Davis approved and signed the Assembly Bill 614 on July 24th 2001 which was subsequently filled with the Secretary of State. This Tartan was originally designed in 1997 by J. Howard Standing & Thomas Ferguson.
Source: The Scottish Register of Tartans
Thread Count LB8, K2, B56, K32, G20, R4, G20, R8, G20, R4, G20, K2, Y8

John Muir Tartan

John Muir Tartan
(Click on thumbnail for larger size)

Scottish Tartans World Register #: 2682; Scottish Register of Tartans #: 3038
Class: Commemorative
Details: Created by David McGill in 1998 for the 150th anniversary of the arrival of John Muir in the United States. The John Muir tartan was launched at a reception in the San Francisco Bay area City of Pleasanton in 2002 when his grand-son accepted an inscribed tartan clock and picture frame on behalf of the Muir family.
Source: International Tartans and The Scottish Register of Tartans
Thread Count: MB2W16MB60LB16MB32W42Y4


John Muir Tartan

According to David McGill, the designer of the John Muir Tartan, this tartan was created in 1998 for the 150th anniversary of John Muir's arrival in the United States (in 1849). The John Muir Tartan was launched at a reception in the San Francisco Bay area City of Pleasanton in 2002 when Muir's grand-son accepted an inscribed tartan clock and picture frame on behalf of the Muir family.

The colours in the John Muir Tartan were chosen to represent what Muir first saw, and invited us all to see, long before man walked on the moon: “…the fragile earth spinning silently through infinite space."

The designer, David McGill, likes to refer to Muir as the "First Citizen of the Universe." A postcard of the Tartan and an imaginary letter from Muir to his wife Louie were distributed at the photographic exhibition of the photographer Ken Paterson "In the Footsteps of John Muir" at Federal Hall in New York City in April 2013.


California State Tartan

California has an official State Tartan, honoring the memory of John Muir and other Scottish immigrants to California. The State Tartan is based on the Muir Clan tartan, in honor of the great Scottish-born naturalist. This tartan is representative of the Scottish heritage of millions of Scottish-Californians, but the law expressly provides that the State Tartan is one that all California residents may "claim as their own."

The California State District Tartan is duly registered and accepted as such by The Scottish Tartans Society (now defunct) and was entered in The Registry of All Known Tartans as TS 2454 on the 3rd of June, 1998. It was registered, as well, by The Scottish Tartans Authority as Tartan 200111. It is officially registered in Scottish Register of Tartans as No. 482.

A tartan design is called a "sett." The California State Tartan adopts an existing sett created expressly for this purpose.

The tartan accords the State's natural splendor and history and is derived from the pattern and sett based on the Muir Family tartan, but with sufficient originality to be registered with the Scottish Tartans Society as a unique tartan. The tartan's blue reflects the sky, the Pacific, the rivers and mountains, while the green reflects the Sierras, fields, forests, and parks. The red, gold, and blue signify the arts, sciences, and industry of the people of the State of California.

Effective January 1, 2002, the California Legislature has proclaimed April 6 annually as "California Tartan Day." The date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, which was signed on April 6, 1320. To some extent, the American Declaration of Independence was modelled on that inspirational document. Coincidentally, April 6 is also "California Poppy Day" (so designated in 1974 pursuant to Government Code § 421; Education Code § 37222(a)(3)) - - linking - quite by accident -- Scottish culture and California's State Flower on our state commemorative calendar!

The tartan was designed by Messrs. J. Howard Standing, Esq., of Tarzana, California, and Thomas Ferguson of Sydney, British Columbia.

All residents of the State of California can rightfully wear, and show the tartan as their own!

Mr. and Mrs. J. Howard Standing

Mr. and Mrs. J. Howard Standing model the California tartan.
Photo by permission of Jim Anderson, © Bonbright Woolens, Inc. 2000, all rights reserved.

The Legislation

The legislation, AB 614, enacted California Government Code Section 424.3, which officially designates the California District Tartan as the official California State Tartan. The Secretary of State recorded the signed legislation on Tuesday, July 24, 2001. it is interesting to note that throughout the entire complex legislative process, there was never a single dissenting vote cast. This included a total of five voting sessions, including committees and floor votes.

The California State Tartan was designed by J. Howard Standing, 2001 president, and past president, past V.P., past treasurer of the St. Andrews Society of Los Angeles, and a member of the St. Andrews Society of Southern California, and Thomas Ferguson. The concept was largely campaigned for by the St. Andrews Society of Los Angeles. A leader of that organization, Christopher Gray Lamberton, FSA Scot, Past President (1995-1997) of the St. Andrews Society of Southern California, President St. Andrews Foundation of Southern California, and Regional High Commissioner (AZ, CA, HI, NV) of the Clan Stewart Society in America, conceived the idea of a petition drive and wrote the original draft, which was then fine-tuned by J. Howard Standing.

Californians owe a debt of gratitude to the citizens who conceived and promoted the new State Tartan. Especially important was J. Howard Standing for conceiving the idea, and for designing the tartan. His tireless efforts made all the rest possible. Thanks also to Assemblywoman Helen Thomson, and Assemblyman Bill Campbell, for raising the banner, and introducing this bill in the State Assembly. Senator Bruce McPherson deserves thanks for his support and efforts in the State Senate.

J. Howard Standing - co-creator of California Tartan

Mr. J. Howard Standing displays a banner made with the California Tartan.
Photo by permission of R. M. Richards © 2000, all rights reserved.

Sources of information and Thanks to:
J. Howard Standing
Christopher Gray Lamberton

Scottish Tartans World Register: California

California District Tartan WR2454

More on Tartans

Comparison of California Tartan and Muir Tartan

California State Tartan
California TS Number: TS2454
Class District
Details California Official State Tartan

Status: Assembly Bill 614 was passed by the State Assembly and Senate on July 23rd 2001. Governor Davis approved and signed the Assembly Bill 614 on July 24th 2001 which was subsequently filled with the Secretary of State.
Source: J Howard Standing & Thomas Ferguson
sIndex BKB:YKG
Thread Count LB8, K2, B56, K32, G20, R4, G20, R8, G20, R4, G20, K2, Y8

Muir Clan Tartan
More / Muir
TS Number: TS345 Class: Clan
Details: The Muir tartan has the traditional blue - black - green base, but with an unusual motif of three narrow red stripes appearing twice on the green square. A similar device is seen in the Cochrane tartan. The threadcount of this illustration comes from a sample in the collection of John MacGregor Hastie, who collected tartans between 1930 and 1950, and whose work formed the basis of the archive at the Scottish Tartans Society. The tartan was documented in John Ross's, 'Land of the Scottish Gael' published in 1930.
Source: 'Land of the Scottish Gael', John Ross.
sIndex BKG:YKG
Thread Count B120, K30, G20, R4, G20, R4, G20, R4, G20, K2, Y8

More on California Tartan

Scottish Tartan Links

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