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Welcome! This site is all about California’s spectacular past, and the people and events that shaped a neglected Mexican province into the 31st state of the American Union.

California got its name before anyone knew what it was, or where it was, from a fantasy-adventure novel published by a Spanish author in 1510. The novel, which became wildly popular, portrayed a swashbuckling hero whose adventures took him to an island “to the right hand of the Indies.” This island was ruled by the beautiful Queen Calafia. Her subjects were all fierce female warriors who armed themselves with spears and shields made of gold.

After 1530, Spanish explorers sent north in ships by Mexico’s conqueror Hernán Cortés realized the truth: the fabled island was a mainland, and there were no warrior women toting golden armaments. The name, however, stuck.

Spain held California for nearly 300 years but did nothing to colonize it until 1769, when a handful of Spanish priests built twenty-one missions along the coast. Next came the relatively few years of Mexican ownership, when cattle ranchers held prominence on enormous tracts of land. The Mexican-American War triggered the American conquest of the province in 1846-1847, followed soon after by the gold discovery in 1848, and the tumultuous years of the Gold Rush. Statehood in 1850 spurred a further increase in the expansion of cities, industry and commercial agriculture that a gold economy had already developed.


Covered wagons trundling west…the short-lived Bear Flag Revolt…stagecoaches hauling passengers over dangerous mountain roads…stalwart men, black-hearted villains, and courageous pioneer women…If California history intrigues you, this is the place to learn more.

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