Early California History
Pre-European California
400,000 Native Americans
small bands, linguistically diverse
mostly peaceful
technologically and politically primitive
Europeans Arrive--1500s
• The legend of Queen Califia
• Cabrillo and Drake explore the coast
Spanish settlement of Alta
• Junipero Serra’s Franciscans found 21
missions and the military establish 4
presidios to strengthen Spain’s claim–
against, Britain, US, and Russia.
Mexican Period 1821-48
• Mexican independence from Spain
• Discontinuing support for missions
• Establishing a “nobility” based on land
grant ranchos
• 1846 “Bear Flag” rebellion
From Mexico to US
• Mexican-American War breaks out in 1846
over annexation of Texas
• Mexico forced to cede California and much
of the West for about $15,000,000.
Mexican perspective: los ninos
heroes de Chapultepec
Gold Rush 1849
• population booms 30 fold in 6 years and
becomes 80% Euro-American
• Military governor of CA initiates a constitutional
convention in 1849
• Leading Californios continue to play major
political role
• New Constitution recognizes their land grants, and
recognizes both English and Spanish as official
• Accepted into the Union as a free state--1850
Transcontinental railroad
completed 1877
• Opens CA to the East
• Rise of Southern Pacific Railroad as
dominant force in politics and economy
The Big Four--Stanford, Huntington, Crocker,
and Hopkins
• Stanford served as Governor, then Senator,
but all four partners “ran” CA in the late
19th century
• Great Railroad Strike of 1877
• SF had a tradition of powerful working class
• Denis Kearney leads the Workingmen’s Party
against SPR’s power and abuses
• But also against the 1000s of Chinese workers
brought over to work in mines and then the
railroad for a fraction of what was paid whites
• riot of 1877--launderies burned, etc.
Kearney and Workingmen’s Party
Anti-Asian sentiment
• New constitution of 1879 gave all local
governments the power to exclude or
restrict where Chinese lived and forbade
their employment
• Federal Exclusion Act of 1882
• restricting immigration of Chinese laborers (later all Chinese)
• similar restrictions for Japanese and
eventually Filippinos
Great Depression 1930-40
• 100,000s of dustbowl refugees migrate here
• "California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see
But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi."
• Okie culture
1934 Governor’s race
• Former socialist and author of The Jungle,
Upton Sinclair, runs for office as a Democrat
and New Dealer on EPIC platform
• Is smeared in first professional media
Growing Radicalism of the
Depression era
• unions organize and strike--previously the
“Wobblies,” now the Communist Party
among others
• Over 50 strikes of farm workers in 1933
Salinas strike of 1934-36
• Growers brought over Filipinos to work in
fields after WWI and exclusion of Chinese
and Japanese
• Growers split striking Filipino lettuce
pickers from white shed workers
San Francisco General Strike
• Strike shuts down shipping on West Coast
• Entire Bay Area is shut down for 3 day
General Strike after police force picketing
longshoremen to allow in “scabs”
Again, economic downturn leads
to greater xenophobia
• 100,000s of Mexicans are pushed out or
• anti-Filipino riots break out, and they are
“invited” to leave under the Filipino
Repatriation Act of 1935

Pres - San Mateo County Community College District