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Home > California History

California History

California's history contains facinating public figures, discoveries, and achievements.

  • Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European to explore California, landing at San Diego on September 28, 1542. This location was later made a national monument in 1913. He also discovered the Catalina Islands, the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, and the areas which are now Santa Monica and San Pedro.
  • Sir Francis Drake claimed the land just north of San Francisco Bay afor England.
  • San Diego De Alcala was founded. It was the first of 21 missions established by Franciscan padres. The missions stretched along a 650-mile trail, the El Camino Real, from San Diego to Sonoma.
  • Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish explorer, led expedition from Mexico to establish settlements in Alta California; he arrived in San Diego on June 29, and on November 2, they reached San Francisco Bay. Portola served as Alta California's governor from March 1769 to July 1770.
  • Fort Ross was established near Bodega Bay as a Russian trading post which allowed them to explore the northern California coast as they hunted for fur seals and sea otters.
  • The Bear Flag Revolt achieved California's independence from the rule of Mexico. The flag used in this revolt is now the State flag.
  • California became a U.S. holding with the Treaty of Guadalupe, which ended the Mexican War.
  • James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's sawmill in Coloma in January 1848, along the south fork of the American River which began the famous Gold Rush of 1849.
  • California was admitted into the Union as the 31st state on September 9, 1850.
  • The Pony Express, California's famous mail courier service, followed a route which began in Missouri and ended in Sacramento, California. The trips, lasting more than 10 days, was California's first communication system with the Midwest. Riders changed mounts at postal stations which were 15 miles apart. The fastest, the news of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, took only 6 days.
Late 1800s
  • The trans-continental railroad system was established with funding from the "Big Four," a group of men whose economic influence helped shape California's industrial industry--Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, and Leland Stanford. The system included tracks throughout California's Sierra Nevada region as well as connecting New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Mexico, Utah, and Nevada for mining and travel opportunities.
  • Oil, Black Gold, was discovered along the Kern River.
  • San Francisco businessmen began work on a coast railroad from San Francisco to Santa Cruz initially called the Ocean Shore Electric Railway.
  • A massive Earthquake occurred along the San Andreas Fault both northward and southward for a total of 296 miles and was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles, and inland as far as central Nevada. The earthquake and resulting fire is remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in US history. It's estimated that over 3,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and resulting fire.
  • Long Beach Earthquake.
  • Alcatraz made a prison.
  • The vast Golden Gate bridge was completed and opened to pedestrian traffic on May 27, 1937. The following day it was opened to vehicular traffic.
  • An Earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 hit the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Mayor Frank Jordan announces a state of emergency and a curfew after looters and vandals hit downtown following the Rodney King beating verdict. Police Chief Hongisto is fired after he orders his officers to clear the racks of 2000 copies of an issue of the gay Bay Times which criticizes his tactics against King demonstrators.

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