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As you travel around California, you'll be struck by the state's astounding cultural diversity. You'll experience delicious foods and joyous traditions brought from Maine, Mexico, or the banks of the Mekong. You'll walk streets that resonate with the music and poetry of foreign tongues. In cities, you'll find jazz clubs reverberating with African-American music. You'll see walls, flowers, and clothing ablaze in brilliant colors. Still held precious here, these threads of life, once lived in other places, now make up the vibrant tapestry that is California.

Weathered cottages in Mendocino evoke the New England origins of its first settlers. A dim sum dinner in San Francisco preserves the memory of a grandparent born in Hong Kong. A Native-American name meaning "water" or "lake," spoken before the coming of Europeans, still perfectly suits the matchless blue splendor of Tahoe.

From the Gold Rush days of 1849 onward, people came from the far reaches of the earth dreaming of California's fabled riches, gentle climate, and stunning beauty. These immigrants brought abundant hope and boundless energy. California's sons and daughters, the beneficiaries of this optimism, have gone on to chart new beginnings in such fields as electronics, aerospace, biotechnology, entertainment, art, literature, and fashion. The brief timeline to the right marks some highlights in California's colorful past.

California's Multicultural History

20,000 B.C.to 15,000 B.C.: First migrations

Humans cross the Bering Straits from Asia and settle in California. At the time of Spanish exploration in the 18th century, there are more than 300 distinct tribes and language groups within the state.

1769: California is settled by Spain

Mission San Diego de Alcala is founded by a Franciscan monk, Junâpero Serra. The mission's red tile roofs, white stucco walls, and graceful arches are recalled today in the style of homes and offices around the state.

1781: Los Angeles is founded

The small band of 11 founding families are of European, African and Native American heritages. Each of these families is racially mixed as well.

1822: California comes under Mexican rule

The era of vast ranches and adobe ranch homes reaches its pinnacle. Community names like Rancho Cucamunga and Rancho Bernardo hark back to those impressive holdings. Adobe ranch homes like La Casa de Estudillo in Old Town San Diego Historic Park and the Avila Adobe in the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument and Olvera Street in Los Angeles attest to prosperous and graceful living in this era, with libraries and furnishings from Europe, New England, and China.

1847: Yerba Buena becomes San Francisco

From a few hundred pioneers in 1847, the city booms to the 10th largest in the country by the early 1870s.

1848: Gold Rush begins

The discovery at John Sutter's sawmill in Coloma draws 300,000 adventurous men and women over the next few years to try their luck in striking it rich in California's streams and mountains.

1850: Statehood is granted

California is welcomed into the Union as the 31st state, all 158,706 square miles of it. Four years later, the state capital moves from Benicia to Sacramento.

1853: Blue jeans are first made

After his efforts to sell canvas tents to the '49ers fail, Levi Strauss creates the hard-wearing denim trousers that become the prospectors' work uniform. Still in family hands today, Levi Strauss & Co. of San Francisco is the largest clothing manufacturer in the world.

1857: The state's first winery is established

Agoston Haraszthy, an adventurer and viticulturist whose aristocratic family produced the Tokay wine in Hungary, finds in Sonoma the perfect location for growing his European vine stock.There he establishes the Buena Vista Winery, still producing quality wines today.

1869: Rail service connects the east to California

The Central Pacific, begun in Sacramento, and the Union Pacific, begun in Omaha, join at Promontory, Utah, forming the first transcontinental railroad.

1888: Lick Observatory established

California enters into the forefront of exploration of the heavens, beginning the state's technological legacy.

ca.1900: Arts & Literature

Writers such as Jack London, Frank Norris, and Gertrude Atherton begin to give California a literary voice. A young girl from San Francisco, Isadora Duncan, will reinvent dance.

1906: Great Earthquake and Fire in San Francisco

Some 300,000 people are left without homes; then with courage and optimism, they rebuild the city.

1908: The first motion picture begins production in California

Colonel William Selig calls for "action" on In the Sultan's Power, the first complete film made in Los Angeles.

1927: "The Spirit of St. Louis" is built in San Diego

Ryan Airlines, San Diego, constructs the plane that carries Lindbergh on the first solo trans-Atlantic flight.

1930s: Dust Bowl spurs immigration

Route 66, from America's heartland, brings 10,000 new settlers per month by 1938.

1933/1934: The first mass-produced commercial aircraft is built

The DC-2 is built by Donald Douglas in Santa Monica.

1935: Statewide irrigation system is begun

The vast plains of the great Central Valley are transformed from semi-arid to green. Citrus groves dot the Southland. Today, California is the leading agricultural economy in the United States.

1962: California becomes the most populous state in the Union

From the eve of World War II to 1962, the state jumps from 9 to 22 million. Today, there are 32,344,000 persons living here.

1977: The personal computer is successfully taken to market

In the classic "two-guys-tinkering-in-a-garage" story, the Apple II is developed in Silicon Valley.


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