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Free Traveling Guides » States » California

History of California

Inhabited by over 70 distinct groups of Native Americans, California was the most linguistically and culturally diverse area in the pre-Columbian North America. These groups also differed in their political organization with tribes, bands, villages, and large chiefdoms, such as Salinan, Pomo, and Chumash. Portuguese Joao Rodrigues Cabrilho was the first European to explore the coast as far north as the Russian River, in 1542. The undefined part of the California coast was claimed and explored in 1579 by the English explorer Francis Drake. The coast of California was mapped in 1602 by Sebastian Vizcaino.

As many as 23 California Missions were set up along the coast by the Spanish missionaries. These missions together with small towns and presidios became known as 'Alta California'. The first mission in Alta California was founded at San Diego in 1769. Mexican California gained independence from Spain after the Mexican War of Independence, in 1821. The ranchos emerged as the premier institutions of the region, while the chain of mission remained a remote northern province of Mexico. Alta California was secularized by 1832.

A major turning point in the history of this region was the outset of the Mexican-American War in 1846. During the war, the California Republic was founded and the Bear Flag was flown in order to control Northern California. However, Northern California ceded in less than a month to the United States and the attempt to form a republic came to an abrupt end. A number of battles, such as the Siege of Los Angeles, the Battle of Dominguez Rancho, the Battle of San Pascual, the Battle of Rio San Gabriel, and the Battle of La Mesa, were fought in the 1840s. Following these defensive battles, the Californios signed the Treaty of Cahuenga on January 13, 1847, acquiring American control in California. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo finally brought the war to an end. As per the treaty, the western territory of Alta California was given to the United States and the Baja California, the lower region of California, remained in possession of Mexico.

During the great California Gold Rush, there was a considerable increase in the non-native population of California. The first Constitutional Convention was held here in 1849. As part of the Compromise of 1850, California was added to the United States as a free state on September 9, 1850. The capital of the state has been situated in Sacramento since 1854. Other important landmarks in the history of the state included the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869; construction of Lincoln Highway and Route 66 during the early 20th century; and a dramatic increase in the population in the period from 1900 to 1965. Today, California is a world center of technology and engineering businesses, U. S. agricultural production, and of the entertainment and music industries.

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