Stately Knowledge: Facts about the United States

Map of US with California highlighted

Javascript not enabled. Return to Stately Knowledge Home to navigate to other states.

State History | Just the Facts | Encyclopedias & Almanacs | State Links | Did You Know | Some Famous People from this State | Related Resources

The third-largest and most populous state, California lies on the West Coast of the United States. It is surrounded by Oregon in the north, Nevada on the east, Arizona on the southeast and the Mexican state of Baja California on the south. A large state, its geography varies considerably, including coastline, forests, desert and mountains. At the same time, it is one of the country’s main agricultural centers.  California is also a major economic center, as the state, on its own, is the largest sub-national economy in the world. Home to Hollywood and the Silicon Valley, it has played a huge role in developing the culture of the USA as well as its technology.

California State History

The region of California was first settled by tribes that crossed over the Bering Strait from Asia about 13,000 years ago. The terrain of the area was such that it isolated the tribes in California from the others on the North American continent, and even from one another. To a large extent this eliminated conflict and warfare, allowing the population to grow and prosper. At the time the Europeans arrived, the indigenous population in the region was around 300,000. The Spanish were the first of the Europeans to reach and explore the region in the mid 1530’s. It is believed that California is named after a fictional island in a Spanish novel, ‘Las Serges de Esplandian’ by Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo that was popular at the time. Spanish colonization of the region was initially slow, but picked up after the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), mainly through the establishment of military forts and mission churches around which the first pueblos (towns) in the region grew.  With Mexico’s independence in 1821, land grants were transferred to individual owners. At the same time, the Mexican government was able to exert little control over the area due to its remoteness. Foreigners (from the US and other countries) filtered easily into California and began to settle down.  1846 saw the short lived Bear Flag Revolt when American citizens in California declared an independent California Republic. A month later news of the Mexican-American War reached the rebels and they aligned themselves with the American army.  The War ended in California with the Cahuenga Capitulation in January 1847. It was an American victory.  Two years later, gold was discovered in the region near Sutter’s Fort by John Marshall, and this triggered the Gold Rush. People came from everywhere through every possible route. California had not yet been accepted into the Union, but had framed a state constitution in September 1849 and declared itself a free state (slavery was prohibited by law). A year later it became the 31st state to enter the Union.


Just the Facts

AbbreviationCA Source: United States Postal Service – Abbreviations
Population39,512,223 Source: Source: United States Census Bureau (July 2019)
GovernorGavin Newson (Democrat, in office since January 7, 2019)
Entered the UnionSeptember 9, 1850 as the 31st state
MottoEureka (I Have Found It)
NicknamesThe Golden State
FlowerGolden Poppy
BirdCalifornia Valley Quail
Song“I Love You, California”
Professional Sports TeamsAnaheim Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants (Baseball); Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings (Men’s Basketball); Los Angeles Sparks (Women’s Basketball); Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers (Football); Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks (Hockey); Club Deportivo Chivas USA (in L.A.), LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes (Soccer) (sports listing policy)
Origin of NameFrom the name of a fictional earthly paradise in a book called Las Sergas de Esplanidian, written by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo around 1500
Historical SitesSutter’s Mill, where gold was first discovered in California in 1848
Points of InterestDisneyland (Walt Disney’s original theme park), the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay, Hollywood, Sequoia National Park
Bordering StatesCalifornia borders Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona. California also borders Mexico.
FlagCalifornia's flag

Encyclopedias and Almanacs

Follow these links to read articles about California from Encyclopedias and Almanacs:

State Links

Official Links

Other Links

  • California The site provides a wealth of information about California. It includes everything from the highest point to county profile to climate.
  • Roadside America: California Attractions Roadside America describes itself as an online guide to offbeat attractions. This site offers reviews of “weird sites along the highway” in California.
  • California State Historical Landmarks There are over 1100 California State Historical Landmarks, and this resource attempts to describe each of them. The site has been named a Recommended Site by “The History Channel”.

Did You Know

  • More people live in California than in any other state!
  • More immigrants settle in California than in any other state. In 1990, they made up more than 30 percent of all immigrants to the U.S. Most immigrants settling in California come from Asian-Pacific countries such as Japan and China.
  • Death Valley, in southern California, is the lowest point in the U.S. It’s 282 feet below sea level. The highest point in the contiguous 48 states (which don’t include Alaska and Hawaii) is also in California: Mt. Whitney, which is 14,491 feet above sea level.
  • Other natural wonders in California include Lassen Peak, one of two active volcanoes in the U.S. outside of Alaska and Hawaii; the majestic sequoia trees of the Sequoia National Park, which can grow as tall as 300 feet and can live as long as 3,500 years; and California’s widely varying climate, which ranges from desert heat in the south to the chill of snow-capped mountain peaks in the north.
  • California became a major U.S. attraction long before Hollywood or Disneyland existed, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. This began the Gold Rush, which brought many people from all over the U.S. hoping to find gold and make their fortunes in California.

Some Famous People from California

  • Shirley Temple Black, 1930s child actress and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
  • Julia Child, chef
  • Joe DiMaggio, baseball player
  • Robert Frost, former poet laureate of the U.S.
  • Jack London, author of many novels about the vast Western frontiers, such as Call of the Wild
  • Marilyn Monroe, actress
  • John Muir, naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club
  • Presidents from California with links to ipl’s POTUS (Presidents of the United States) page:
  • Robert Redford, actor
  • Sally K. Ride, astronaut and first American woman in space

Related Resources