World History

California State History – Exploration, Gold Rush, Statehood, Hollywood

Native Americans

People have lived in California for thousands of years. When Europeans first arrived, the area was home to many Native American tribes, including the Chumash, Mojave, Yuma, Pomo, and Maidu. These tribes spoke different languages. They were often separated by geographical features such as mountain ranges and deserts. As a result, they had a different culture and language than Native Americans in the East. They were mostly peaceful people who hunted, fished, and gathered nuts and fruits for food.

Information about California State:

Capital Sacramento
Population 39,029,342 (Source: 2022 U.S. Census)
Major Cities Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento
Borders Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Mexico, Pacific Ocean
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $3,598,102.7 million (2022 U.S. Department of Commerce)
Key Industries Agriculture including dairy products, almonds, grapes, tomatoes, avocados, and broccoli
Computers, electronics, food processing, paper, mining, movie production, and tourism

Flag of California State:

Europeans Arrive

A Spanish ship led by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo first visited California in 1542. A few years later, in 1579, English explorer Francis his Lord Drake landed on the coast near San Francisco and claimed the land to England. However, the country is far from Europe and it was not until the next 200 years that European settlement began.

Spanish Missions

In 1769 the Spaniards began building missions in California. They established 21 missions along the coast to convert Native Americans to Catholicism. They also built a fortress called the Presidio and a small town called the Pueblo. One of the praesidia in the south became the city of San Diego, and the mission established in the north later became the city of Los Angeles.

Part of Mexico

After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, California became a state of the State of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the area was settled with large ranches and farms called ranchos. Also, people began migrating to the area to catch and trade beaver pelts.

The Bear Republic

In the 1840s, many settlers from the East moved to California. They arrived via the Oregon Trail and the California Trail. Soon these settlers began rebelling against Mexican rule. In 1846, settlers led by John Fremont revolted against the Mexican government and declared their own independent state, the Bear Flag Republic.

California State Symbols

  • California State Nickname: Golden State
  • California State Slogan: Find Yourself Here
  • California State Motto: Eureka (I have found it)
  • California State flower: California Poppy
  • California State bird: California Quail
  • California State fish: Golden trout (fresh water), Garibaldi (salt water)
  • California State tree: California Redwood
  • California State mammal: Grizzly bear, Gray whale
  • California State foods: Wine

Becoming a State

The bear republic did not last long. In 1846, the United States and Mexico went to war in the Mexican-American War. After the war ended in 1848, California became a territory of the United States. Two years later, on September 9, 1850, California became her 31st state to join the Union.

Gold Rush

Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1848. This caused the biggest gold rush in history. Tens of thousands of treasure hunters immigrated to California to get rich. Between 1848 and his 1855, over 300,000 people immigrated to California. Conditions are never the same.

The Geography of California

  • Total Size: 155,959 sq. miles (source: 2003 Census)
  • Geographical Low Point: Death Valley at -282 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Inyo (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Geographical High Point: Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Inyo-Tulare (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Central Point: Located in Madera County approx. 38 miles east of Madera (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Counties: 58 (source: National Association of Counties)
  • Bodies of Water: Salton Sea, Lake Tahoe, Goose Lake, Mono Lake, Lake Shasta, Sacramento River, San Joaquin River, Colorado River, Pit River, Feather River, San Francisco Bay, Pacific Ocean.


After the Gold Rush ended, people continued to migrate west to California. The first transcontinental railroad opened in 1869, making traveling west much easier. California grew to be an important agricultural state, and the Central Valley had abundant land for growing all kinds of crops, including apricots, almonds, tomatoes, and grapes.


In the early 20th century, many major film companies were based in Hollywood, a small town outside of Los Angeles. Hollywood was a great filming location due to its proximity to several locations such as beaches, mountains, and deserts. In addition, the weather was generally good, and it was possible to shoot outdoors all year round. Hollywood soon became the center of the US film industry.

Famous People of California:

NAMES Profession
Tony Hawk Professional skateboarder
Tom Hanks Actor
Jeff Gordon Race car driver
Robert Frost Poet
Clint Eastwood Actor
Snoop Dogg Rapper, Actor
Joe Dimaggio Professional baseball player
Leonardo Dicaprio Actor
Tom PBrady rofessional football player
Steve Jobs Founder of Apple
Bruce Lee Actor, Martial arts expert
Marilyn Monroe Actress
Richard Nixon The 37th President of the United States
George Patton WWII general
Katy Perry Singer
Ronald Reagan The 40th President of the United States was governor of California
Sally Ride Astronaut
Lemony Snicket Author

Interesting Facts of California State:

California has the highest point (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point (Death Valley) in the continental United States.

California has many attractions such as Disneyland, San Diego Zoo, Legoland and Yosemite National Park.

In Kings Canyon, California, you can drive through giant redwood trees.

California is home to Silicon Valley and is home to many of America’s leading technology companies.

Arm wrestling championships are held in Petaluma every October. More than half of the country’s vegetables, nuts and fruits are grown in California.

San Bernardino County is the largest county in the entire United States. Its area is about 3 million hectares.

Sequoias grow well over 90 meters in height.

The Gold Rush began when James Marshall discovered gold in his Sutter’s Mill in 1848.

The first McDonald’s restaurant he opened in San Bernardino, California in 1940.

Timeline Overview:

1542 – Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo becomes the first European to visit the California coast.
1579 – Sir Francis Drake lands on the California coast and claims it as British territory.
1769 – Spaniards begin building missions. They will build a total of 21 missions along the coast. 1781 – City of Los Angeles is incorporated.
1821 – California becomes part of the State of Mexico.
1840s – Settlers begin arriving from the east via the Oregon and California Trails.
1846 – California declares independence from Mexico.
1848 – The United States gains control of California after the Mexican-American War. 1848 – Gold is discovered at Sutter’s Mill. The gold rush begins.
1850 – California becomes the 31st state to join the Union.
1854 – Sacramento becomes the state capital. It became the permanent capital in 1879. 1869 – The first transcontinental railroad is completed, connecting San Francisco to the East Coast.
1890 – Yosemite National Park is established.
1906 – A major earthquake destroys much of San Francisco.
1937 – San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opens.
1955 – Disneyland opens in Anaheim.