In the United States of America, there is only one state that I live in: the state with the largest population, California. I was recently challenged by a friend of my Dad to tell him about how California got its name. I did not know, and it occurred to me that though I have much knowledge on events far outside my state, I’ve paid comparatively less attention to my local history, and so I began a quest for knowledge.
I discovered that California was not originally the mass of land you see on a map. California originally referred to the Baja California Peninsula that borders Mexico, and California was mistakenly identified as an island well into the 18th century by Spanish explorers! California likely gained its name from the fictional island of that name in the romantic Spanish novel Las sergas de Esplandian, written in 1510.
After Mexico gained independence from Spain, California became a sparse population, overrun by Ranchos and rebellions against the weak Mexican government. In 1846, American settlers in California launched the Bear Flag revolt (the namesake being the flag of California), which created the California Republic and installed William B. Idle as its president (he would be the only one). In the aftermath of the Mexican-American War (fought primarily over California), California was annexed by the United States and became a state in 1850 with the help of American adventurer John C. Fremont. The Gold Rush of 1848 had much to do with the territories’ quick admission to the Union, though California was initially isolated from the rest of the states. California became better connected to the rest of the Union with the advent of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
California has also endured its share of disasters, ranging from the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the 1928 St. Francis Flood Dam, though it is renowned for its ideal southern weather down in cities like San Diego, as well as its considerable amount of sports teams and major cities. California remains the 3rd largest state in America, as well as the most populated with a population of almost 40 million people.