State Spotlight: California

Golden Gate Bridge

For most of its history, California has been a dream that people chase looking for an opportunity at a new life in one form or another.  People came to the territory of California in a push for freedom and expansion, then for gold, and finally fame. Today, California offers vast opportunities for those seeking a new start and different dreams for people to follow.  But, first, it started with a flag, a group of people looking for a change, and the dream of new land.

The flag of California pre-dates its entrance to the American territories. It was during the Bear Flag Revolt that a small group of American settlers marched on a Mexican garrison, fighting to claim the territory from Mexico.  Their flag was first raised in 1846 during an uprising in Sonoma.  The flag was then quickly designed by William Todd, nephew to former First Lady Mary Lincoln Todd, and raised for less than a month.  It was replaced by the American flag when word spread that the United States and Mexico were officially at war.

California joined the American territories in 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed and the Mexican-American war was over. It was during 1848 that James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Sawmill in Coloma, which started the gold rush that started a boom in population and forward progress for California.

The gold rush definitely sped up the California’s statehood and, on September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state to join the Union.  Though the gold being mined was somewhat fleeting, it did create many jobs in mining and ways for people to spend their newfound fortunes.

The results of the gold rush may seem mixed, but they helped the San Franciscan banks be the few that didn’t close after the 1929 stock market crash.  The gold helped provide a stability for California and cemented its feeling of opportunity.  In 1968, California was officially nicknamed the Golden State.

California state flag

California was originally known as the “Grizzly Bear” state, which is one of the reasons that a bear is on the flag.  In 1911, California officially declared the Bear Flag of 1848 to be its flag.  The California Republic flag depicts a grizzly bear, with a red star against a white background.  The bear represents strength, the star sovereignty; its red color symbolizes courage, while the white background stands for purity.

While grizzly bears are not as plentiful as they once were California, the state is still known for its awe-inspiring nature reserves.  California is the home of the first national park, Yosemite, which was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant.  In 1892, the Sierra Club was founded and it protects conservation efforts. California now has 26 National Parks that have many alluring sites for vacationers, including the deserts of Death Valley, and the giant trees and prairies of Redwood.

California has both the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, at 14,494 feet, and the lowest, Death Valley, and they are only 76 miles apart.  The state’s diverse nature has made it ideal for farming.  California is known for vineyards, but it also produces almost all of our country’s almonds, olives, apricots, and more.  Its wide range of produce and livestock makes it a top state for farm income.

Because of its wide range of attractions, in 2010 California was, not surprisingly, rated the top state for tourism.  From the Walk of Fame, to the Redwoods and Death Valley, to the breathtaking beaches, California has something for everyone.  That includes top universities, including Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley, and Hollywood, home to the stars. It even has Disneyland.

Skyline of Los Angeles

California, like the rest of the United States of America, is a place where people historically went looking for a better opportunity.  The state has become diverse in natural sights and prospects, and it is considered a place where anyone can go to become famous.  People who flock there for their chance at fame, glory, and a gold star will find that courage and the strength of a bear will come in handy.

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