Learn how a need for western expansion opened the California territory to statehood.
California was first discovered and explored in 1542 by Juan R. Cabrillo , a Spanish conquistador. English navigator and admiral Sir Frances Drake, who began commanding marauding expeditions against the Spanish around 1572, explored parts of California in 1579. In 1602 Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino discovered and named Monterey Bay while exploring the vast coastline. Spanish colonizing began in 1769 when Gaspar de Portola established a colony on San Diego Bay. A string of missions founded by the Franciscans followed and before long outsiders began to arrive by sea, as well as, over land.
Two main influences created a need for western expansion. The first was the idea that the center of world civilization was ever moving toward the setting sun. The second, that each frontier opened would repeat the social evolution of the entire human race. Thus, in 1803, Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the Pacific Northwest while expansionist advocated this movement in order to open a passage to India and complete the growth of civilization around the globe.
The first Americans came to the California territory in 1816, but the colonization of the area was largely Mexican through the 1840's. The last Mexican government was expelled from California in 1845. Under the influence of J. C. Fremont, an explorer, soldier and political leader, a republic was established in 1846. In 1848 the area was ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Gold was discovered in California in 1848 bringing a flood of emigrants from the east and other foreign nations. Instant cities arose, such as San Francisco which attracted 3 million people in little more than two decades. This spurred the economy and inspired projects for transcontinental telegraph lines and railroad tracks.
In 1850 California became the 31st state admitted to the Union. A settlement founded in 1848 called Sacramento became the capitol. Between 1870 and 1900 masses of people moved west. Many moved to California for their health. The striking topographical areas and climatic contrast was of great attraction to settlers. By 1890 the early mining bonanza had ended. The boom had produce billions of dollars to boost the economy, help finance the Civil War and provide capital for industrialization.
The people who had moved west transformed American agriculture. California sent fruit, wine and wheat to eastern markets. Asian, European and Latin American immigrants added talent and diversity to the entire state. Today the 158,693 square mile coastal state is the third largest in the United States. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, California houses giant redwoods in the north and leads all other states in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. The State Flower of California is the Golden Poppy and the State Bird is the California Valley Quail.