10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California
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10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

California, an American state with an intriguing history, has encountered many hardships and victories that have helped describe it as it is known today. Some of these moments in the growth of California played a greater part than others. These top historical moments are what shaped California into today’s state.

So, here I bring  the 10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1579 – California’s Settling

The California coast was explored by Captain Francis Drake in 1579, resulting in the territory’s claim under England. However, even before this, Spain had been exploring and already settled in California, creating a massive tug of war between England and Spain.

By the 1600s, Spain had developed missions throughout the lower region of the state, which left behind much of the state’s Latin influence that can be seen today.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

Late 1800s – Opening of Transcontinental Railroad

The building and opening of the Transcontinental Railroad meant it was possible to transport commodities such as coal from California to other states.

Eventually, the invention of refrigerator cars led to California is the number one agricultural producer, according to the California State Railroad Foundation. California became an incredibly important state, with much-needed goods being delivered to the rest of the country.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

 

1821 – Mexican Rule

California fell under Mexico’s (then called New Spain) rule a year after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Shortly after, American travelers began to explore the state and eventually developed American settlements throughout the land. This led to the American rebels founding the California Republic in 1846, breaking way for the Mexican War where the American forces won the long battle for the state.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1849 – The Gold Rush Era

According to History.com, the Gold Rush was “arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century.” The striking of gold in California soil brought thousands upon thousands of prospectors and settlers to the state, all looking for that same fortuitous metal.

It’s estimated that a huge $2 billion worth of gold was mined in California. The huge overflow of settlers caused much distress to the land’s Native American tribes as the arrivals violently forced the tribes to uproot themselves.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1850 – Becoming the 31st State in America

Of course, one of California’s most defining moments in history was when it officially became a state. California was named the 31st state of the union on September 9, 1850.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1905 – Ocean Shore Railroad

After California’s major economic rebound from the 1890’s depression, the Ocean Shore Railway Company developed the idea of building a high-speed electric railway. The plans described a railway that would run between San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

In 1905 the construction began to connect this large portion of California’s coast but the project ran into issues right from the start when the 1906 earthquake struck. Development was delayed for over a year but when some of the railways finally opened, passengers enjoyed weekend trips from San Francisco to the coastal town of Pacifica.

Despite the popularity, due to economic politics, the entire railway was never completed. However, this paved the way for future railway developments that currently run up and down California’s Bay Area.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1906 – Disaster and Rebuilding

The infamous San Francisco earthquake and ensuing fires struck and devastated the area on April 18, 1906. This disaster brought on the largest maritime rescue in the United States’ history.

The 1906 earthquake influenced the idea of rebuilding San Francisco with stronger and more earthquake-resistant materials. This way of building is seen throughout San Francisco and earthquake-prone California today.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1911 – Women’s Rights

A special election was held in California on October 10, 1911, to grant women’s suffrage. Proposition 4 was placed on the ballot by the power of Senate Constitutional Amendment Number 8 as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The amendment passed, granting women’s right to vote.

California was the sixth state to pass this civil right, although just by 3,507 votes. Nine years later, women’s right to vote was made legal nationwide, referred to as the 19th Amendment.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1929 – The Completion of One of the World’s Greatest Highways

Thanks to the Great Highway and Ocean Beach Esplanade’s completion, California is considered to have one of the greatest stretches of highways ever constructed. The construction’s completion was celebrated on June 9, 1929, with one of the state’s biggest celebrations to date with over 50,000 people gathering along Lincoln Way in San Francisco. Travelers from around the globe still come to drive these scenic stretches.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California

1965 – The Beginning of the Gay Rights Movement

On New Year’s Day 1965, California Hall in San Francisco was the venue of a huge costume party fundraiser for the Council on Religion and the Homosexual organization. The event and its attendees were heavily and unjustly harassed by law enforcement and the organization sued San Francisco Police for its prejudice actions.

The ACLU organization took on the case but it was ultimately dismissed. Despite the lack of justice, this was the turning point of San Francisco’s, and eventually California’s, gay rights movement.

10 Defining Moments in History That Shaped California


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John Smith has been with Histecho since 2017, A Senior Editor & Writer for Histecho. his work has been featured in outlets such as Scientific American, The Washington Post, NBC News, and Fox News. John grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York.