The State of California


Name: California is named after Califia, a mythical island paradise described by Garci Ordonez de Montalvo in his 16th-century novel Las Sergas de Esplandian.
Nickname: Golden State
Capital: Sacramento
Size: 158,869 sq. mi.
Population: 39,144,818 (2015 est)
Statehood: California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850.
Electoral votes: 55 (2016)
U.S. Representatives: 52 (until 2016)
State tree: California redwood
State flower: golden poppy
State reptile: California desert tortoise
Highest point: Mount Whitney, 14,494 ft.



California is known for its geographical diversity and extremes. It is the thirdlargest state in area, after Alaska and Texas. It contains the highest point in the continental states—Mount Whitney—and also the lowest point—Death Valley. Much of California is mountainous and forested, but there are also farmlands and extensive desert areas, including the Mojave, and Colorado Deserts.

Many of the seismic activities and earthquakes that occur throughout the state originate in this area. The Cascade Mountains contain at least one active volcano, Lassen Peak.

California has large areas of fertile farmland. The state's best farmland is in the Central Valley, located between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada mountains. California's 840-mile coastline is world famous. Two of its most popular harbors are in San Diego and San Francisco.

California is home to many unique species of plants and animals as a result of its diversity of climates and landscapes. Barriers to migration routes, such as rivers, mountains, and deserts, led to the evolution of many isolated species and varieties of animals.

Northern parts of the state experience cool and mild weather conditions, while the southwestern coast is warmer. The southeastern part of the state, home of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, is dry and hot in spring and summer, but cold in winter.

Facts and Firsts

  • California has more residents than any other U.S. state—almost one out of every eight Americans lives there. California is also the most urban state—93 percent of its population lives in cities.
  • More goods are manufactured in California than in any other state.
  • California has the largest economy of any state. If its economy were ranked against those of all the countries in the world, it would be in the top 10 largest economies.
  • More than 500,000 seismic tremors are detected in California annually.
  • The bristle cone pine, found in Inyo National Forest and native to California, is the oldest known living tree species in the world. Some of the trees in the forest are more than 4,600 years old.
  • In 1853, Levi Strauss invented blue jeans in California. He made some pants out of the canvas tents he had unsuccessfully tried to sell to gold rush prospectors. Unhappy with canvas, Strauss later made the pants out of denim.


California's history is as diverse as its geography. For thousands of years, hundreds of Native American tribes lived in this region. When the Spanish began to explore the Americas, they arrived in the Baja Peninsula (the peninsula south of California) to look for a mythical water route across North America.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo continued the search to the north and arrived in California in 1542. The Spanish founded many Catholic missions, but they turned the territory over to Mexico in 1822 when Mexico won its independence from Spain. In 1812, Russian settlers also reached California from Alaska and established Fort Ross. Mexico had difficulty controlling the province, and California was close to independence when the Mexican-American War broke out.

At the end of the war in 1848, the United States acquired California from Mexico. In the same year, James W. Marshall discovered gold in Coloma, which set off the gold rush. This discovery eventually brought 300,000 men and women to California in search of gold or new jobs in California's booming economy.

California rapidly became one of the most diverse states as thousands of immigrants from Mexico, Europe, and China came in search of gold. Shortly afterward, in 1850, California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state. In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed, which joined California to the East Coast. In 1906, a severe earthquake—one of the worst in California's history—struck San Francisco. The earthquake and the fires it sparked caused widespread damage and forced residents to rebuild the city.

As California entered the 20th century, important changes began to shape the state's destiny. In 1908, the first motion picture to be made completely in Los Angeles, In the Sultan's Power, was produced. California eventually became the world's motion picture industry leader.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, California became legendary as a land of plenty, and drew 10,000 people a month from the drought-stricken plains states, as described in John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath.

In 1935, the first statewide irrigation system began to transport water. The system brought water to the great Central Valley, which soon became the leading agricultural area in the United States. After the end of World War II in 1945, California's population continued to grow, as the aerospace and electronics industries brought more people.

In Silicon Valley in 1977, the Apple II personal computer, the first personal computer with color graphics, was brought to market. The personal computer revolutionized business, and continues to bring people to the state to work in high-tech industries.


California has a diverse population, geography and economy. More immigrants settle in California than in any other state. In addition, the motion picture and television industries, known all over the world, are concentrated in California.

California is home to a large aerospace manufacturing industry as well as electrical and electrical equipment manufacturers. These companies produce televisions, radios, telephones, semiconductors, printed circuit boards, lighting fixtures, and many other electronic products. Computer and computer software manufacturers in Silicon Valley make up another crucial portion of California's economy. The Napa Valley region produces most of the grapes used to make American wine. On nonirrigated land, many farmers raise cattle.

California's natural resources also support its varied economy. California's lush forests make lumber an important industry. Minerals, oil, and natural gas are also sources of wealth.

Tourism is another leading industry in California. The state's varied natural beauty and generally mild climate draw millions of visitors annually for outdoor activities. Attractions such as theme parks and motion pictures are also popular.

Born in California

  1. Shirley Temple Black, actress, ambassador
  2. Dave Brubeck, musician
  3. Julia Child, chef
  4. Joe DiMaggio, baseball player
  5. Robert Frost, poet
  6. Tom Hanks, actor
  7. William Randolph Hearst, publisher
  8. Anthony M. Kennedy, jurist
  9. Jack London, author
  10. Richard M. Nixon, U.S. president
  11. Isamu Noguchi, sculptor
  12. George S. Patton Jr., general
  13. Robert Redford, actor
  14. Sally K. Ride, astronaut
  15. William Saroyan, author
  16. John Steinbeck, author
  17. Adlai Stevenson, politician
  18. Kristi Yamaguchi, ice skater