History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People
When Spanish explorers first
visited the land now called California, several Native American groups
inhabited the area. Yuma,
Maidu, Pomo, Hupa and Paiute tribes were some of these.
Spain (present-day Mexico) sent Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo to explore the
Pacific coast in 1542. Cabrillo
discovered San Diego Bay. In
1579, English explorer Francis Drake also sailed along the California
coast, claiming much of the land for England.
Spain continued to send many expeditions to the California coast;
Sebastián Vizcaíno named many of its landmarks.
settlement of Southern California began in 1697. The first presidio (Spanish fort) was established at San
Diego in 1769. The first
Spanish mission, San Diego de Alcalá, was built there that same year. In 1776, settlers founded a presidio and a mission where San
Francisco now stands. Missionaries
from the Roman Catholic Church greatly helped the settlement of
California. By 1823,
twenty-one missions had been established along a road called the El Camino
Real. Each mission was built a one-day journey from the next.
1821, Mexico rebelled and gained independence of Spain.
California then became a providence of the new Mexican government.
Mexican governors were sent to California, but received much
opposition from the Native Californians and returned to Mexico.
Most of the mission lands were sold to private owners during this
time. Many of these new
landowners grew wealthy from their farms and ranches.
Smith was the first American trapper to reach California in 1826.
Other trappers followed and in 1841 the first organized group of
American settlers came to California.
During the years that followed, many pioneers made their way from
the United States into California. These
pioneers wanted California to join the U.S. and offered to buy the land,
but Mexico refused to sell.
1844, U.S. Army explorer John C. Frémont led two surveying groups into
California. Mexico ordered
them out of their country, but they refused to leave.
Other revolts took place, such as the Bear Flag Revolt led by
frontiersman Ezekiel Merritt. The
United States declared war on Mexico in May 1846. Mexico surrendered California in 1848 in the Treaty of
Guadalupe Hidalgo; California then became a territory of the United
1848 just as the Mexican War was coming to an end, gold was discovered in
the Sacramento Valley. News
of the discovery brought thousands of prospectors from all over the United
States. Many of them arrived
in 1849, and thus became known as “Forty-niners.”
Between 1848 and 1860, California’s population increased from
about 26,000 to 380,000. Those
who were not lucky finding gold stayed in California and became farmers
became the 31st state on Sept. 9, 1850. By 1870, railroads connected California with the eastern U.S.
and thousands of people continued to migrate west.
Huge numbers of Chinese workers came to work on the railroads.
During the 1880s, a depression in California led to unemployment
and rioting in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Many thought the Chinese were to blame for the depression because
they would work for little pay.
population grew tremendously in the early 1900s. Irrigation allowed thousands of farmers to move into southern
California. Oil and natural
gas were discovered and mining became more important as other minerals
than gold were found. By
1910, Hollywood had become the motion-picture capital of the world.
Huge expositions were held in San Francisco (1914) and San Diego
(1915) to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal and show its
importance to the state of California.
new industries were opened in California as the United States entered
World War I in 1917. During
the Great Depression (1929-1939), nearly 400,000 people moved to
California in search of work. State
leaders even passed laws to stop poor people from entering into
California, but the Supreme Court declared this unconstitutional.
World War II (1939-1945), California became a leader in producing
airplanes, ships, and weapons. This
provided employment for many without jobs, and helped the state’s
economy. After Japan attacked
Pearl Harbor in 1941, thousands of Japanese-Americans were taken from
California to live in detention camps.
In 1941, the United Nations Charter was approved in San Francisco.
the war, many of those who had come to California to work for the military
stayed. Others continued to
come to the state in search of “the good life.”
By 1963, California had the highest population in the country.
This great increase in population created problems.
State leaders struggled to provide more schools and better roads
and public transportation. Smog
became a serious problem in the larger cities.
To help the growing need for water, the state began construction of
canals, dams, and reservoirs. This
program was designed to store and distribute water from northern
California to the southern drier areas.
has also been plagued with racial problems since the 1960s.
In 1965, rioting broke out after a black man was unjustly arrested
in Watts. Thirty-four people
died in the riots and damages were estimated in the millions.
Although state leaders strived to help minorities by increasing
education, employment, and housing, almost 30 years later rioting occurred
in Angeles due to police beating an African American.
The beating was caught on video, but police officers were found not
guilty of brutality.
California’s education system expanded during the 1960s, college
campuses became home to many student movements.
The nation’s first major college demonstration occurred in 1964
at the University of California in Berkeley.
the 1970s, California’s economy experienced a depression.
This caused many to lose their jobs and created less revenue for
needed education. However, by
the 1980s the economy had improved. The
aerospace industry increased as federal programs came to California.
Santa Clara County became known as Silicon Valley for its
production of high-tech electronic equipment.