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(kăl'ĭfôr`nyə), most populous state in the United States, located in the Far West; bordered by Oregon (N), Nevada and, across the Colorado River, Arizona (E), Mexico (S), and the Pacific Ocean (W).

Facts and Figures

Area, 158,693 sq mi (411,015 sq km). Pop. (2010) 37,253,956, a 10% increase since the 2000 census. Capital, Sacramento. Largest city, Los Angeles. Statehood, Sept. 9, 1850 (31st state). Highest pt., Mt. Whitney, 14,491 ft (4,417 m); lowest pt., Death Valley, 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. Nickname, Golden State. Motto, Eureka [I Have Found It]. State bird, California valley quail. State flower, California poppy. State tree, California redwood. Abbr., Calif.; CA


Ranking third among the U.S. states in area, California has a diverse topography and climate. A series of low mountains known as the Coast RangesCoast Ranges,
series of mountain ranges along the Pacific coast of North America, extending from SE Alaska to Baja California; from 2,000 to 20,000 ft (610–6,100 m) high. The ranges include the St. Elias Mts.
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 extends along the 1,200-mi (1,930-km) coast. The region from Point Arena, N of San Francisco, to the southern part of the state is subject to tremors and sometimes to severe earthquakes caused by tectonic stress along the San Andreas faultSan Andreas fault,
great fracture (see fault) of the earth's crust in California. It is the principal fault of an intricate network of faults extending more than 600 mi (965 km) from NW California to the Gulf of California.
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. The Coast Ranges receive heavy rainfall in the north, where the giant cathedrallike redwood forests prevail, but the climate of these mountains is considerably drier in S California, and S of the Golden GateGolden Gate,
strait, 4 mi (6.4 km) long and 1 to 2 mi (1.6–3.2 km) wide, linking San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. It was discovered in 1579 by the English explorer Sir Francis Drake.
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 no major rivers reach the ocean. Behind the coastal ranges in central California lies the great Central ValleyCentral Valley,
great trough of central Calif., c.450 mi (720 km) long and c.50 mi (80 km) wide, between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges. The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers drain much of the valley before converging in a huge delta and flowing into San Francisco Bay;
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, a long alluvial valley drained by the SacramentoSacramento,
longest river of Calif., c.380 mi (610 km) long, rising near Mt. Shasta, N Calif., and flowing generally SW to Suisun Bay, an arm of San Francisco Bay, where it forms a large delta with the San Joaquin River.
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 and San JoaquinSan Joaquin
, river, c.320 mi (510 km) long, rising in the Sierra Nevada, E Calif., and flowing W then N through the S Central Valley to form a large delta with the Sacramento River near Suisun Bay, an arm of San Francisco Bay. The San Joaquin is navigable c.
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 rivers. In the southeast lie vast wastelands, notably the Mojave DesertMojave or Mohave Desert,
c.15,000 sq mi (38,850 sq km), region of low, barren mountains and flat valleys, 2,000 to 5,000 ft (610–1,524 m) high, S Calif.; part of the Great Basin of the United States.
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, site of Joshua Tree National Park.

Rising as an almost impenetrable granite barrier E of the Central Valley is the Sierra NevadaSierra Nevada
, mountain range, c.400 mi (640 km) long and from c.40 to 80 mi (60–130 km) wide, mostly in E Calif. It rises to 14,495 ft (4,418 m) in Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the United States outside Alaska.
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 range, which includes Mt. WhitneyWhitney, Mount,
peak, 14,494 ft (4,418 m) high, E Calif., in the Sierra Nevada at the eastern border of Sequoia National Park; the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states (Denali [Mt. McKinley], Alaska, is the highest peak in the United States).
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, Kings Canyon National ParkKings Canyon National Park,
461,901 acres (187,070 hectares), E central California. Largely wilderness, the park features summits of the High Sierra and two enormous canyons on the Kings River.
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, Sequoia National ParkSequoia National Park,
402,510 acres (162,960 hectares), E central Calif.; est. 1890. In the park are 35 groves of giant sequoias, spectacular granite mountains, and deep canyons.
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, and Yosemite National ParkYosemite National Park
, 748,436 acres (302,881 hectares), E central Calif.; est. 1890 as a result of the efforts of conservationist John Muir. Located in the Sierra Nevada, it is a glacier-scoured area of great beauty; Mt. Lyell (13,114 ft/3,997 m) is the highest peak.
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. The Cascade RangeCascade Range,
mountain chain, c.700 mi (1,130 km) long, extending S from British Columbia to N Calif., where it becomes the Sierra Nevada; it parallels the Coast Ranges, 100–150 mi (161–241 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean.
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, the northern continuation of the Sierra Nevada, includes Lassen Volcanic National ParkLassen Volcanic National Park,
106,372 acres (43,081 hectares), N Calif., at the southern end of the Cascade Range. Proclaimed as Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone national monuments in 1907, the two were incorporated into a new national park in 1916.
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. Lying E of the S Sierra Nevada is Death ValleyDeath Valley,
SE Calif. and SW Nev., a deep, arid basin, 140 mi (225 km) long, bordered on the W by the Panamint Range and on the E by the Amargosa Range. In summer the valley has recorded some of the world's highest air temperatures (134°F;/56.
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 National Park. The drier portions of the state especially are subject periodically to large, wind-driven fires; in certain hilly areas sometimes devastating mudslides occur, particularly in the rainy season after large fires.

, city (1990 pop. 369,365), state capital and seat of Sacramento co., central Calif., on the Sacramento River at its confluence with the American River; settled 1839, inc. 1850.
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 is the state capital. The largest cities are Los AngelesLos Angeles
, city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. A port of entry on the Pacific coast, with a fine harbor at San Pedro Bay, it is the second largest U.S. city in population and one of the largest in area.
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, San DiegoSan Diego
, city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay.
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, San JoseSan Jose
, city (1990 pop. 782,248), seat of Santa Clara co., W central Calif.; founded 1777, inc. 1850. Along with San Francisco and Oakland the city comprises the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States.
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, San FranciscoSan Francisco
, city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden Gate; inc. 1850.
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, Long BeachLong Beach.
1 City (1990 pop. 429,433), Los Angeles co., S Calif., on San Pedro Bay; est. 1882 as Willmore City, inc. 1888 as Long Beach. Having an excellent harbor, it serves as one of Los Angeles's two ports—it is one of the world's largest container
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, OaklandOakland,
city (1990 pop. 372,242), seat of Alameda co., W Calif., on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay; inc. 1852. Together with San Francisco and San Jose, the city comprises the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States.
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, and Sacramento.


California has an enormously productive economy, which for a nation would be one of the ten largest in the world. Although agriculture is gradually yielding to industry as the core of the state's economy, California leads the nation in the production of fruits and vegetables, including carrots, lettuce, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, and almonds. The state's most valuable crops are grapes, cotton, flowers, and oranges; dairy products, however, contribute the single largest share of farm income, and California is again the national leader in this sector. The state also produces the major share of U.S. domestic wine. California's farms are highly productive as a result of good soil, a long growing season, and the use of modern agricultural methods. Irrigation is critical, especially in the San Joaquin Valley and Imperial Valley. The gathering and packing of crops is done largely by seasonal migrant labor, primarily Mexicans. Fishing is another important industry.

Much of the state's industrial production depends on the processing of farm produce and upon such local resources as petroleum, natural gas, lumber, cement, and sand and gravel. Since World War II, however, manufacturing, notably of electronic equipment, computers, machinery, transportation equipment, and metal products, has increased enormously. Defense industries, a base of the economy especially in S California, have declined following the end of the cold war, a serious blow to the state. But many high-tech companies and small low-tech, often low-wage, companies remain in S California, in what is said to be the largest manufacturing belt in the United States. Farther north, "Silicon Valley," between Palo Alto and San Jose, so called because it is the nation's leading producer of semiconductors, is also a focus of software development.

California continues to be a major U.S. center for motion-picture, television film, and related entertainment industries, especially in HollywoodHollywood.
1 Community within the city of Los Angeles, S Calif., on the slopes of the Santa Monica Mts.; inc. 1903, consolidated with Los Angeles 1910. Most major film and television studios and their executive offices, once located in Hollywood, have moved to nearby
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 and BurbankBurbank,
city (1990 pop. 93,643), Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1911. Tourism and the entertainment industry are central to its economy; several motion-picture studios and television headquarters are here. Burbank's aerospace industry collapsed with the end of the cold war.
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. Tourism also is an important source of income. Disneyland, Sea World, and other theme parks draw millions of visitors each year, as do San Francisco with its numerous attractions and several entertainment-dominated Los Angeles–area communities. California also abounds in natural beauty, seen especially in its many national parks and forests—home to such attractions as Yosemite Falls and giant sequoiasequoia
, name for the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and for the big tree, or giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), both huge, coniferous evergreen trees of the bald cypress family, and for extinct related species.
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 trees—and along miles of Pacific beaches.

One of the state's most acute problems is its appetite for water. The once fertile OwensOwens,
river, c.120 mi (190 km) long, rising in the Sierra Nevada, E Calif., SE of Yosemite National Park and flowing SE, to enter Owens Lake, near Mt. Whitney. Since 1913, at a point c.
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 valley is now arid, its waters tapped by Los Angeles 175 mi (282 km) away. In the lush Imperial ValleyImperial Valley,
fertile region in the Colorado Desert, SE Calif., extending S into NW Mexico. Once part of the Gulf of California, most of the region is below sea level; its lowest point is −232 ft (−71 m) at the southern shore of the Salton Sea. Receiving only c.
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, irrigation is controlled by the All-American CanalAll-American Canal,
80 mi (129 km) long, SE Calif.; part of the federal irrigation system of the Hoover Dam. Built between 1934 and 1940 across the Colorado Desert, the canal is entirely within the United States and replaces the Inter-California Canal, which passes through
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, which draws from the Colorado River. In the Central Valley the water problem is one of poor distribution, an imbalance lessened by the vast Central Valley projectCentral Valley project,
central Calif., long-term general scheme for the utilization of the water of the Sacramento River basin in the north for the benefit of the farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley in the south, undertaken by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1935.
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. Cutbacks in federally funded water projects in the 1970s and 80s led many California cities to begin buying water from areas with a surplus, but political problems associated with water sharing continue. California's failure to develop a long-term plan to end surplus withdrawals from the Colorado led the federal government to stop the release of surplus water to the state in 2003.

Government, Politics, and Higher Education

The state's first constitution was adopted in 1849. The present constitution, dating from 1879, is noted for its provisions for public initiative and referendum—which have led at times to difficulties in governance—and for recall of public officials. The state's executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. California's bicameral legislature has a senate with 40 members and an assembly with 80 members. The state elects 2 senators and 53 representatives to the U.S. Congress and has 55 electoral votes. In the 1980s and 1990s, California elected Republican governors—George Deukemejian (1982, 1986) and Pete WilsonWilson, Pete
(Peter Barton Wilson), 1933–, American politician, b. Lake Forest, Ill. A lawyer and moderate Republican, he began his career in local politics. He was a campaign aide in Richard Nixon's 1962 gubernatorial race, served in the state legislature (1967–71),
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 (1990, 1994)— before the Democrat Gray DavisDavis, Gray
(Joseph Graham Davis, Jr.), 1942–, U.S. politician, b. the Bronx, N.Y. A graduate of Stanford Univ. (1964) and Columbia Univ. Law School (1967), he entered the army and served in Vietnam (1968–69). Active in California Democratic politics, he was Gov.
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 was elected in 1998 (and reelected in 2002). In 2003, Davis was recalled and Republican Arnold SchwarzeneggerSchwarzenegger, Arnold Alois,
1947–, Austrian-American actor, bodybuilder, and politician, b. Thal, Austria. He began competing in bodybuilding contests in his teens, and won his first of five Mr. Universe titles in 1967.
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 was elected to succeed him; Schwarzenegger was reelected in 2006. Jerry BrownBrown, Jerry
(Edmund Gerald Brown, Jr.), 1938–, American political leader, b. San Francisco. The son of Edmund Gerald (Pat) Brown (1905–96), governor of California (1959–67), Brown abandoned early ideas of entering the priesthood and obtained a law degree
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, a Democrat who had been been governor in the 1970s and 80s, was elected to the post again in 2010 and 2014. In 2018 Democrat Gavin Newsom won the governorship. In 1992, California became the first state to simultaneously elect two women to the U.S. Senate—Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Among the state's more prominent institutions of higher learning are the Univ. of CaliforniaCalifornia, University of,
at ten campuses, main campus at Berkeley; land-grant and state supported; coeducational; chartered 1868, opened 1869 when it took over the College of California (est. 1853 at Oakland as Contra Costa Academy).
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, with nine campuses; the California State University SystemCalifornia State University System,
coordinating agency established in 1960 by the merger of individual California state colleges, now consisting of 23 campuses. It constitutes one of the three California public systems of higher education, the other two being the Univ.
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, with 23 campuses; Occidental College and the Univ. of Southern CaliforniaSouthern California, University of,
at Los Angeles; coeducational; chartered and opened 1880. The university has a liberal arts college and a graduate school as well as schools of architecture, urban and regional planning, engineering, safety and systems management, business
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, at Los Angeles; Stanford Univ.Stanford University,
at Stanford, Calif.; coeducational; chartered 1885, opened 1891 as Leland Stanford Junior Univ. (still the legal name). The original campus was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. David Starr Jordan was its first president.
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, at Stanford; the California Institute of TechnologyCalifornia Institute of Technology,
at Pasadena, Calif.; originally for men, became coeducational in 1970; founded 1891 as Throop Polytechnic Institute; called Throop College of Technology, 1913–20.
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, at Pasadena; Mills CollegeMills College,
at Oakland, Calif.; for women; est. 1852 as the Young Ladies' Seminary at Benicia, Calif., moved 1871, chartered as Mills College 1885. The first women's college in the Far West, it has programs in English literature and creative writing, foreign languages and
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, at Oakland; and the Claremont CollegesClaremont Colleges,
at Claremont, Calif.; including five liberal arts and sciences colleges and two graduate schools; founded 1925, known until 1961 as the Associated Colleges at Claremont. Their history began with Pomona College (inc.
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, at Claremont. After a period from the 1960s through the 1970s when the state's well-financed public institutions were the envy of the nation, California's colleges have been forced to retrench by tax-cutting initiatives.


European Exploration and Colonization

The first voyage (1542) to Alta California (Upper California), as the region north of Baja CaliforniaBaja California
or Lower California,
peninsula, c.760 mi (1,220 km) long and from 30 to 150 mi (48–241 km) wide, NW Mexico, separating the Gulf of California from the Pacific Ocean. The peninsula is divided at lat.
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 (Lower California) came to be known, was commanded by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez CabrilloCabrillo, Juan Rodríguez
, Port. João Rodrigues Cabrilho, d. 1543, Spanish conquistador and discoverer of California, b. Portugal. In 1520 he landed in Mexico with Pánfilo de Narváez and joined in the conquests of Mexico and Guatemala.
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, who explored San Diego Bay and the area farther north along the coast. In 1579 an English expedition headed by Sir Francis DrakeDrake, Sir Francis,
1540?–1596, English navigator and admiral, first Englishman to circumnavigate the world (1577–80). Early Career

He was born in Devonshire, the son of a yeoman, and was at an early age apprenticed to a ship captain.
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 landed near Point Reyes, N of San Francisco, and claimed the region for Queen Elizabeth I. In 1602, Sebastián VizcaínoVizcaíno, Sebastián
, c.1550–c.1628, Spanish explorer and merchant. After an unsuccessful attempt to plant a colony in Lower California (1596), he sailed (1602) to explore the California coast, where he discovered and named Monterey Bay.
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, another Spaniard, explored the coast and Monterey Bay.

Colonization was slow, but finally in 1769 Gaspar de PortoláPortolá, Gaspar de
, fl. 1734–84, Spanish explorer in the Far West. After serving in Italy and Portugal, he was sent (1767) to America as governor of the Californias to expel the Jesuits and to save Franciscan missions.
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, governor of the Californias, led an expedition up the Pacific coast and established a colony on San Diego Bay. The following year he explored the area around Monterey Bay and later returned to establish a presidio there. Soon afterward MontereyMonterey
, city (1990 pop. 31,954), Monterey co., W Calif., a port on Monterey Bay; founded 1770, inc. 1850. It is a popular resort, the home of many artists and writers, and one of California's oldest cities.
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 became the capital of Alta California. Accompanying Portolá's expedition was Father Junipero SerraSerra, Saint Junípero
, 1713–84, Spanish Franciscan missionary in North America, b. Majorca. His name was originally Miguel José Serra, and Junípero was his name in religion. For 15 years he taught philosophy in the college at Palma.
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, a Franciscan missionary who founded a mission at San Diego. Franciscans later founded several missions that extended as far N as Sonoma, N of San Francisco. The missionaries sought to Christianize the Native Americans but also forced them to work as manual laborers, helping to build the missions into vital agricultural communities (see Mission IndiansMission Indians,
Native Americans of S and central California; so called because they were under the jurisdiction of some 21 Spanish missions that were established between 1769 and 1823.
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). Cattle raising was of primary importance, and hides and tallow were exported. The missions have been preserved and are now open to visitors.

In 1776, Juan Bautista de AnzaAnza, Juan Bautista de
, 1735–88, Spanish explorer and official in the Southwest and the far West, reputed founder of San Francisco, b. Mexico. Accompanied by Father F. T. H.
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 founded San Francisco, where he established a military outpost. The early colonists, called the Californios, lived a pastoral life and for the most part were not interfered with by the central government of New Spain (as the Spanish empire in the Americas was called) or later (1820s) by that of Mexico. The Californios did, however, become involved in local politics, as when Juan Bautista AlvaradoAlvarado, Juan Bautista
, 1809–82, governor of Alta California (1836–42), b. Monterey, Calif. Out of the chaotic times in the neglected Mexican province of Alta California, Alvarado emerged as a brilliant politician.
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 led a revolt (1836) and made himself governor of Alta California, a position he later persuaded the Mexicans to let him keep. Under Mexican rule the missions were secularized (1833–34) and the Native Americans released from their servitude. The degradation of Native American peoples, which continued under Mexican rule and after U.S. settlers came to the area, was described by Helen Hunt Jackson in her novel Ramona (1884). Many mission lands were subsequently given to Californios, who established the great ranchos, vast cattle-raising estates. Colonization of California remained largely Mexican until the 1840s.

Russian and U.S. Settlement

Russian fur traders had penetrated south to the California coast and established Fort Ross, north of San Francisco, in 1812. Jedediah Strong SmithSmith, Jedediah Strong,
1799–1831, American explorer, one of the greatest of the mountain men, b. near Binghamton, N.Y. Early in 1824, Smith took a party through South Pass, beginning the regular use of that route.
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 and other trappers made the first U.S. overland trip to the area in 1826, but U.S. settlement did not become significant until the 1840s. In 1839, Swiss-born John Augustus SutterSutter, John Augustus,
1803–80, American pioneer, b. Kandern, Baden, of Swiss parents. His original name was Johann August Suter. He emigrated to the United States in 1834, went to St. Louis, then to Santa Fe.
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 arrived and established his "kingdom" of New Helvetia on a vast tract in the Sacramento valley. He did much for the overland American immigrants, who began to arrive in large numbers in 1841. Some newcomers met with tragedy, including the Donner PartyDonner Party,
group of emigrants to California who in the winter of 1846–47 met with one of the most famous tragedies in Western history. The California-bound families were mostly from Illinois and Iowa, and most prominent among them were the two Donner families and the
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, which was stranded in the Sierra Nevada after a heavy snowstorm.

Political events in the territory moved swiftly in the next few years. After having briefly asserted the independence of California in 1836, the Californios drove out the last Mexican governor in 1845. Under the influence of the American explorer John C. FrémontFrémont, John Charles,
1813–90, American explorer, soldier, and political leader, b. Savannah, Ga. He taught mathematics to U.S. naval cadets, then became an assistant on a surveying expedition (1838–39) between the upper Mississippi River and the Missouri.
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, U.S. settlers set up (1846) a republic at Sonoma under their unique Bear Flag. The news of war between the United States and Mexico (1846–48) reached California soon afterward. On July 7, 1846, Commodore John D. SloatSloat, John Drake,
1781–1867, American naval officer, b. near Goshen, N.Y. He entered the navy as a midshipman in 1800 and resigned after a year's service, but reentered for service in the War of 1812.
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 captured Monterey, the capital, and claimed California for the United States. The Californios in the north worked with U.S. soldiers, but those in the south resisted U.S. martial law. In 1847, however, U.S. Gen. Stephen W. KearnyKearny, Stephen Watts
, 1794–1848, American general in the Mexican War, b. Newark, N.J. At the beginning of the Mexican War he was made commander of the Army of the West with the rank (June, 1846) of brigadier general.
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 defeated the southern Californios. By the Treaty of Guadalupe HidalgoGuadalupe Hidalgo, Treaty of,
1848, peace treaty between the United States and Mexico that ended the Mexican War. Negotiations were carried on for the United States by Nicholas P. Trist. The treaty was signed on Feb.
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 (1848), Mexico formally ceded the territory to the United States.

The Gold Rush

In 1848, the year that California became a part of the United States, another major event in the state's history occurred: While establishing a sawmill for John Sutter near Coloma, James W. Marshall discovered gold and touched off the California gold rush. The forty-niners, as the gold-rush miners were called, came in droves, spurred by the promise of fabulous riches from the Mother LodeMother Lode,
belt of gold-bearing quartz veins, central Calif., along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The term is sometimes limited to a strip c.70 mi (110 km) long and from 1 to 6 1-2 mi (1.6–10.5 km) wide, running NW from Mariposa.
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. San Francisco rapidly became a boom city, and its bawdy, lawless coastal area, which became known as the Barbary Coast, gave rise to the vigilantes, extralegal community groups formed to suppress civil disorder. American writers such as Bret HarteHarte, Bret
(Francis Brett Harte) , 1836–1902, American writer of short stories and humorous verse, b. Albany, N.Y. At 19 he went to California, where he tried his hand at teaching, clerking, and mining.
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 and Mark TwainTwain, Mark,
pseud. of Samuel Langhorne Clemens,
1835–1910, American author, b. Florida, Mo. As humorist, narrator, and social observer, Twain is unsurpassed in American literature.
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 have recorded the local color as well as the violence and human tragedies of the roaring mining camps.

Statehood and Immigration

With the gold rush came a huge increase in population and a pressing need for civil government. In 1849, Californians sought statehood and, after heated debate in the U.S. Congress arising out of the slavery issue, California entered the Union as a free, nonslavery state by the Compromise of 1850. San Jose became the capital. Monterey, Vallejo, and Benicia each served as the capital before it was moved to Sacramento in 1854. In 1853, Congress authorized the survey of a railroad route to link California with the eastern seaboard, but the transcontinental railroad was not completed until 1869. In the meantime communication and transportation depended upon ships, the stagecoach, the pony express, and the telegraph.

Chinese laborers were imported in great numbers to work on railroad construction. The Burlingame Treaty of 1868 (see Burlingame, AnsonBurlingame, Anson
, 1820–70, American diplomat, b. New Berlin, N.Y. He became a lawyer in Boston and later (1855–61) a Congressman. Defeated for reelection, he was made (1861) minister to China.
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) provided, among other things, for unrestricted Chinese immigration. That was at first enthusiastically endorsed by Californians; but after a slump in the state's shaky economy, the white settlers viewed the influx of the lower-paid Chinese laborers as an economic threat. Ensuing bitterness and friction led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (see Chinese exclusionChinese exclusion,
policy of prohibiting immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States; initiated in 1882. From the time of the U.S. acquisition of California (1848) there had been a large influx of Chinese laborers to the Pacific coast.
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A railroad-rate war (1884) and a boom in real estate (1885) fostered a new wave of overland immigration. Cattle raising on the ranchos gave way to increased grain production. Vineyards were planted by 1861, and the first trainload of oranges was shipped from Los Angeles in 1886.

Industrialization and Increased Settlement

By the turn of the century the discovery of oil, industrialization resulting from the increase of hydroelectric power, and expanding agricultural development attracted more settlers. Los Angeles grew rapidly in this period and, in population, soon surpassed San Francisco, which suffered greatly after the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Improvements in urban transportation stimulated the growth of both Los Angeles and San Francisco; the advent of the cable car and the electric railway made possible the development of previously inaccessible areas.

As industrious Japanese farmers acquired valuable land and a virtual monopoly of California's truck-farming operations, the issue of Asian immigration again arose. The bitter struggle for the exclusion of Asians plagued international relations, and in 1913 the California Alien Land Act was passed despite President Woodrow Wilson's attempts to block it. The act provided that persons ineligible for U.S. citizenship could not own agricultural land in California.

Successive waves of settlers arrived in California, attracted by a new real-estate boom in the 1920s and by the promise of work in the 1930s. The influx during the 1930s of displaced farm workers, depicted by John SteinbeckSteinbeck, John,
1902–68, American writer, b. Salinas, Calif., studied at Stanford. He is probably best remembered for his strong sociological novel The Grapes of Wrath, considered one of the great American novels of the 20th cent.
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 in his novel The Grapes of Wrath, caused profound dislocation in the state's economy. During World War II the Japanese in California were removed from their homes and placed in relocation centers. Industry in California expanded rapidly during the war; the production of ships and aircraft attracted many workers who later settled in the state.

Growing Pains and Natural Disasters

Prosperity and rapid population growth continued after the war. Many African Americans who came during World War II to work in the war industries settled in California. By the 1960s they constituted a sizable minority in the state, and racial tensions reached a climax. In 1964, California voters approved an initiative measure, Proposition 14, allowing racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing in the state, a measure later declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1965 riots broke out in Watts, a predominantly black section of Los Angeles, touching off a wave of riots across the United States. Also in the 1960s migrant farm workers in California formed a union and struck many growers to obtain better pay and working conditions. Unrest also occurred in the state's universities, especially the Univ. of California at Berkeley, where student demonstrations and protests in 1964 provoked disorders.

Republicans generally played a more dominant role than Democrats in California politics during the 20th cent., but by the early 21st cent. the state had become more Democratic. From the end of World War II through the mid-1990s, five of the seven governors were Republicans, starting with Earl WarrenWarren, Earl,
1891–1974, American public official and 14th chief justice of the United States (1953–69), b. Los Angeles. He graduated from the Univ. of California Law School in 1912. Admitted (1914) to the bar, he practiced in Oakland, Calif.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1943–53). Ronald ReaganReagan, Ronald Wilson
, 1911–2004, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), b. Tampico, Ill. In 1932, after graduation from Eureka College, he became a radio announcer and sportscaster.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a former movie actor and a leading conservative Republican, was elected governor in 1966 and reelected in 1970; he later served two terms as U.S president. The two Democrats were liberals Edmund G. (Pat) Brown (1959–67) and his son Jerry BrownBrown, Jerry
(Edmund Gerald Brown, Jr.), 1938–, American political leader, b. San Francisco. The son of Edmund Gerald (Pat) Brown (1905–96), governor of California (1959–67), Brown abandoned early ideas of entering the priesthood and obtained a law degree
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1975–83). In the late 1970s, Californians staged a "tax revolt" that attracted national attention, passing legislation to cut property taxes.

During the 1970s and 80s California continued to grow rapidly, with a major shift of population to the state's interior. The metropolitan areas of Riverside–San Bernardino, Modesto, Stockton, Bakersfield, and Sacramento were among the fastest growing in the nation during the 1980s. Much of the state's population growth was a result of largely illegal immigration from Mexico; there was also a heavy infux of immigrants from China, the Philippines, and SE Asia.

Population growth and immigration contributed to growing economic pressures, as did cuts in federal defense spending; meanwhile, social tensions also increased. In Apr., 1992, four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of brutality charges after they had been videotaped beating a black motorist; the verdict touched off riots in South-Central Los Angeles and other neighborhoods, resulting in 58 deaths, thousands of arrests, and approximately $1 billion in property damage.

In addition to periodic heavy flooding and brushfires, earthquakes have caused widespread damage in California. In Oct., 1989, a major earthquake killed about 60 people and injured thousands in Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Bay area. In Jan., 1994, an earthquake hit the Northridge area of N Los Angeles, killing some 60 people and causing at least $13 billion in damage.

In a backlash against illegal immigration, California voters in 1994 approved Proposition 187, an initiative barring the state from providing most services—including welfare, education, and nonemergency medical care—to illegal immigrants. Federal courts found much of Proposition 187 unconstitutional; the appeal of their rulings was dropped in 1999, at a time when the state's economy had rebounded and a Democratic administration was in Sacramento.

In late 2000, California began experiencing an electricity crisis as insufficient generating capacity and increasing short-term wholesale prices for power squeezed the state's two largest public utilities, who, under the "deregulation" plan they had agreed to in the early 1990s, were not allowed to pass along their increased costs. As the state worked to come up with both short-term and long-time solutions to the situation, consumers experienced sporadic blackouts and faced large rate hikes under the terms of a bailout plan. The crisis was severe enough that it was expected to slow the state's economic growth. Evidence subsequently emerged of both price gouging and market manipulation by a number of energy companies.

The economic downturn in the early 2000s resulted in enormous budget shortfalls for California's state government, and made Gov. Gray DavisDavis, Gray
(Joseph Graham Davis, Jr.), 1942–, U.S. politician, b. the Bronx, N.Y. A graduate of Stanford Univ. (1964) and Columbia Univ. Law School (1967), he entered the army and served in Vietnam (1968–69). Active in California Democratic politics, he was Gov.
..... Click the link for more information.
 increasingly unpopular. A recall petition financed mainly by a Republican congressman who withdrew from the subsequent election led to a vote (Oct., 2003) that removed Davis from office. The actor Arnold SchwarzeneggerSchwarzenegger, Arnold Alois,
1947–, Austrian-American actor, bodybuilder, and politician, b. Thal, Austria. He began competing in bodybuilding contests in his teens, and won his first of five Mr. Universe titles in 1967.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a Republican, was elected to succeed him. The year the state experienced devastating wildfires in the greater San Diego area; the area was again hit with particularly dangerous wildfires in 2007. The housing bubble that burst in 2007 and the significant recession that followed it had especially severe consequences in California, both for the state's economy (which experienced unemployment levels not seen since the early 1940s) and government (which faced enormous budget shortfalls for several years).

In 2014 three consecutive years of below normal rainfall combined with hotter temperatures resulted in California's worst drought on record (and by some measures the worst in more than a millenium); the drought continued through 2016. In Oct., 2017, Nov., 2018, and Aug.–Sept., 2020, the state experienced some of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in its history, primarily in N California, and was ravaged by other extensive and destructive wildfires in the intervening months.


See L. Pitt, The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish Speaking Californians, 1846–1890 (1967); R. Kirsch, West of the West: Witnesses to the California Experience, 1542–1906 (1968); R. J. Roske, Everyman's Eden: A History of California (1968); C. A. Hutchinson, Frontier Settlement in Mexican California (1969); W. Bean, California: An Interpretive History (2d. ed. 1973); K. Starr, Americans and the California Dream (8 vol., 1973–2009) and California (2005); M. W. Donley, Atlas of California (1979); D. W. Lantis, California: Land of Contrast (3d ed. 1981); C. Miller and R. S. Hyslop, California: The Geography of Diversity (1983); T. H. Watkins, California: An Illustrated History (1983); J. D. Hart, A Companion to California (1984); T. Muller, The Fourth Wave: California's Newest Immigrants (1985); A. F. Rolle, California: A History (4th ed. 1987); P. Schrag, Paradise Lost (1998).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

California State Information

Phone: (916) 657-9900

Area (sq mi):: 163695.57 (land 155959.34; water 7736.23) Population per square mile: 231.70
Population 2005: 36,132,147 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 6.70%; 1990-2000 13.80% Population 2000: 33,871,648 (White 46.70%; Black or African American 6.70%; Hispanic or Latino 32.40%; Asian 10.90%; Other 22.80%). Foreign born: 26.20%. Median age: 33.30
Income 2000: per capita $22,711; median household $47,493; Population below poverty level: 14.20% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $32,464-$33,415
Unemployment (2004): 6.20% Unemployment change (from 2000): 1.30% Median travel time to work: 27.70 minutes Working outside county of residence: 17.10%

List of California counties:

  • Alameda County
  • Alpine County
  • Amador County
  • Butte County
  • Calaveras County
  • Colusa County
  • Contra Costa County
  • Del Norte County
  • El Dorado County
  • Fresno County
  • Glenn County
  • Humboldt County
  • Imperial County
  • Inyo County
  • Kern County
  • Kings County
  • Lake County
  • Lassen County
  • Los Angeles County
  • Madera County
  • Marin County
  • Mariposa County
  • Mendocino County
  • Merced County
  • Modoc County
  • Mono County
  • Monterey County
  • Napa County
  • Nevada County
  • Orange County
  • Placer County
  • Plumas County
  • Riverside County
  • Sacramento County
  • San Benito County
  • San Bernardino County
  • San Diego County
  • San Francisco City & County
  • San Joaquin County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • San Mateo County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Santa Clara County
  • Santa Cruz County
  • Shasta County
  • Sierra County
  • Siskiyou County
  • Solano County
  • Sonoma County
  • Stanislaus County
  • Sutter County
  • Tehama County
  • Trinity County
  • Tulare County
  • Tuolumne County
  • Ventura County
  • Yolo County
  • Yuba County
  • Counties USA: A Directory of United States Counties, 3rd Edition. © 2006 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

    California Parks

    Parks Directory of the United States, 5th Edition. © 2007 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
    The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



    a state on the Pacific coast of the USA, on the border with Mexico. Area, 411,000 sq km; population, 19.95 million (1970). The capital of the state is Sacramento; Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego are the largest cities. In 1970, 90.9 percent of the population was urban.

    The state is mountainous: the Coast Ranges extend longitudinally in the west, with elevations above 2, 500 m (Mt. Pinos), and the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, including Mt. Whitney (4, 418 m), are in the east. In the north and south these mountain ranges are connected by rather low mountains that enclose the Central Valley, which is watered by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. The Mojave, a sand desert, and deep tectonic depressions, such as Death Valley and the Salton Sea, are located in the extreme east and southeast. California is subject to earthquakes. The climate on the coast is Mediterranean, with a warm summer and a damp winter. The vegetation consists of mountain pine forests and sclerophyllous evergreen shrubbery. The climate on the interior slopes of the mountains and in the Central Valley is hot and dry. Most of the valley is under cultivation, and the southern districts and the foothills are covered with annual grasses and bushes. Located in California are the Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

    California is the most rapidly developing state of the USA, the first in number of incoming settlers, and one of the most important economically. The settlement of the state in the middle of the 19th century was linked with the “gold rush.” California’s population grew from 1.5 million in 1900 to 10.6 million in 1950 and to 19.7 million in 1967, when it became the most populous state in the USA. The population grew by 48 percent from 1950 to 1960 and by 27 percent from 1960 to 1970. More than 90 percent of the population is concentrated in the coastal plains of southern and central California and in the Central Valley. California is first among the states of the USA in commercial agriculture and in the number of automobiles and is second in employment in manufacturing (1.6 million in 1970).

    Approximately 50 million tons of oil and much natural gas are extracted annually, mainly in the Los Angeles area. Gold, mercury, potassium salts, and iron ore are also mined. The output of electric power plants in 1969 was 22 million kilowatts. California is a highly important center of military production. A leading position is occupied by the aviation, space and rocket, and radio-electronic industries, which fill mainly defense orders and which are located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. The oil-refining and chemical industries, shipbuilding, automobile assembly production, and other branches of machine building are also well developed. Ferrous metallurgy is located in Fontana, which is near Los Angeles, and in areas near San Francisco. California is first among the states in food processing, especially canning; this industry is based on local agricultural produce. The film industry is centered in southern California, in Hollywood and other suburbs of Los Angeles.

    The agricultural economy is characterized by a combination of intensive agriculture, mainly on irrigated lands, and extensive cattle-raising. Approximately two-thirds of the commodity output is composed of agricultural products: various fruits and vegetables (mainly in the Central Valley), citrus fruits (in the Los Angeles area), and long-fiber cotton (in the Colorado River basin). There were approximately 4 million head of cattle and 1.5 million sheep in 1969. Fishing is also an important branch of the economy. In the north, logging (timber cutting) and the wood-products industry are of considerable importance. Tourism has great economic significance. There are approximately 13, 000 km of railway lines (1968) and 10 million automobiles (1969). Sea transport plays an important role. The principal ports are San Francisco and Los Angeles. US military bases are located within California.

    Europeans first visited the territory of California in the 16th century. The colonization of California by the Spaniards began in the 18th century and was accompanied by the extermination of the local Indian population. Russian settlers played an important role in the exploration and economic development of California. After the proclamation of the independence of Mexico in 1821, the territory of California became part of that newly independent country. As a result of the war of aggression of the USA against Mexico in 1846-48, California was seized from Mexico and annexed to the USA. The territory became a state in 1850.

    The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


    Thirty-first state; admitted on September 9, 1850

    City and state offices, banks, and public schools close in Cal­ifornia to mark this legal holiday on the first Monday in Sep­tember. Two organizations—the Native Sons of the Golden West and the Native Daughters of the Golden West—have sponsored annual programs in different locations through­out the state each year. In addition, many communities hold festivities of their own, including parades, music, food, and dancing.

    State capital: Sacramento

    Nickname: The Golden State

    State motto: Eureka (Greek “I Have Found It”)

    State animal: California grizzly bear (Ursus (arctos) horri­bilis)

    State bird: California valley quail (Callipepla californica)

    State colors: Yale blue and golden yellow

    State dance: West Coast swing dance

    State fife and drum band: The California Consolidated Drum Band

    State fish: South Fork golden trout (Salmo aguabonita)

    State folk dance: Square dance

    State fossil: California saber-toothed cat (Smilodon californi­cus)

    State flower: California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica)

    State gemstone: Benitoite

    State gold rush ghost town: Bodie

    State grass: Purple needlegrass (Nassella pulchra)

    State insect: California dog-face butterfly (flying pansy)

    State marine fish: Garibaldi

    State marine mammal: California gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus)

    State military museum: The California State Military Museum and Resource Center

    State mineral: Native gold

    State prehistoric artifact: Chipped stone bear

    State reptile: California desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)

    State rock: Serpentine

    State silver rush ghost town: Calico

    State soil: San Joaquin soil

    State song: “I Love You, California”

    State tall ship: Californian

    State tartan: California State Tartan

    State theater: Pasadena Playhouse

    State trees: Two species of California redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens and Sequoia gigantea)

    More about the state at:


    AmerBkDays-2000, p. 636 AnnivHol-2000, p. 152


    Native Daughters of the Golden West 543 Baker St. San Francisco, CA 94117-1405 800-994-6349 415-563-9091 fax: 415-563-5230

    Native Sons of the Golden West 414 Mason St. San Francisco, CA 94102 415-392-1223 fax: 415-392-1224


    State web site:

    Office of the Governor State Capitol 1st Fl Sacramento, CA 95814 916-445-2841 fax: 916-445-4633

    Secretary of State 1500 11th St Sacramento, CA 95814 916-653-6814 fax: 916-653-4620

    California State Library 914 Capitol Mall Sacramento, CA 95814 916-654-0261 fax: 916-654-0241

    Legal Holidays:

    Cesar Chavez DayMar 31
    Day after ThanksgivingNov 25, 2011; Nov 23, 2012; Nov 29, 2013; Nov 28, 2014; Nov 27, 2015; Nov 25, 2016; Nov 24, 2017; Nov 23, 2018; Nov 29, 2019; Nov 27, 2020; Nov 26, 2021; Nov 25, 2022; Nov 24, 2023
    Lincoln's BirthdayFeb 12
    Washington's BirthdayFeb 21, 2011; Feb 20, 2012; Feb 18, 2013; Feb 17, 2014; Feb 16, 2015; Feb 15, 2016; Feb 20, 2017; Feb 19, 2018; Feb 18, 2019; Feb 17, 2020; Feb 15, 2021; Feb 21, 2022; Feb 20, 2023
    Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


    1. a state on the W coast of the US: the third largest state in area and the largest in population; consists of a narrow, warm coastal plain rising to the Coast Range, deserts in the south, the fertile central valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and the mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the east; major industries include the growing of citrus fruits and grapes, fishing, oil production, electronics, information technology, and films. Capital: Sacramento. Pop.: 35 484 453 (2003 est.). Area: 411 015 sq. km (158 693 sq. miles)
    2. Gulf of. an arm of the Pacific Ocean, between Sonora and Lower California
    Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005