California State Guide
Today in History
On January 12, 1777 Padre Thomas Peña, under the direction of Padre Junípero Serra, officially founded Mission Santa Clara de Asís, the eighth of California's twenty-one missions.
On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold on the property of Johann A. Sutter near Coloma, California.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in Mexico City on February 2, 1848, ending the Mexican War and extending the boundaries of the United States west to the Pacific Ocean. The terms of the agreement established the border between the U.S. and Mexico at the Rio Grande and the Gila River and granted the U.S. more than 525,000 square miles of former Mexican territory that includes present-day Arizona, California, western Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. This treaty, along with the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, completed the continental expansion of the United States.
Italian-American Mario Olmeda shared his passion for traditional Italian singing with folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell on February 13, 1939, in Martinez, California.
On March 14, 1896, San Francisco celebrated the official opening of the Sutro Baths, an extravagant public bathhouse envisioned and developed by the one-time mayor of San Francisco, Adolph Sutro.
At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, a magnitude 8.3 (Richter Scale) earthquake struck San Francisco. With thousands of un-reinforced brick buildings and closely-spaced wooden Victorian dwellings, the city was poorly prepared for the quake. Collapsed buildings, broken chimneys, and a water shortage due to broken mains, led to several large fires that soon coalesced into a citywide holocaust. The fire raged for three days, sweeping over nearly a quarter of the city, including the entire downtown area.
On May 15, 1856, residents of San Francisco organized a Committee of Vigilance to combat crime in their rapidly growing town. Like other gold rush boomtowns, San Francisco's population explosion raised crime levels and left residents feeling insecure. Although the Committee of Vigilance turned alleged criminals over to law enforcement officials, it is known to have taken matters into its own hands more than once.
On May 27, 1937, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge was opened to the public for the first time for "Pedestrian Day," marking the start of the weeklong "Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta" held to celebrate its completion. More than 200,000 people paid twenty-five cents each to walk the bridge. The following day at noon President Franklin Roosevelt, from across the continent at the White House, pressed a telegraph key and the Golden Gate Bridge was officially opened for vehicular use.
On June 15, 1939, in Oakland, California, folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell recorded Mary MacPhee performing Gaelic songs from the Hebrides, Scotland. The collection California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell contains these a cappella performances as well as still photographs, drawings, and written documents from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in Northern California.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, Senate Bill 203, on June 30, 1864. The legislation gave California the Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove "upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation."
On July 19, 1869, naturalist John Muir set pen to paper to capture his experience of awakening in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Published in 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra is based on Muir's original journals and sketches of his 1869 stay in the vicinity of the Yosemite Valley.
On July 30, 1932, United States Vice President Charles Curtis declared, "I proclaim open the Olympic Games of Los Angeles, celebrating the tenth Olympiad of the modern era." A crowd of 100,000 spectators watched as some 1,332 athletes, representing 37 nations, paraded into the stadium. Vice President Curtis pressed a silver button to light the Olympic torch, the Olympic flag was raised, and 2,000 pigeons were released.
On August 5, 1775, the Spanish ship San Carlos, commanded by Juan Manuel de Ayala, entered what would soon be called San Francisco Bay. Unnoticed by such early naval explorers as Sir Francis Drake and Sebastián Vizcaíno, the bay had been sighted by land during a Spanish scouting expedition six years earlier.
On August 11, 1934, a group of federal prisoners arrived at Alcatraz Island, a twenty-two-acre rock outcropping one-and-one-half miles offshore in San Francisco Bay. The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was conceived of as a high-security, escape-proof fortress for federal prisoners considered either particularly dangerous, infamous, “incorrigible,” or presenting the greatest risk of flight. For the next twenty-nine years, the prison held a series of notorious inmates including Chicago mobster Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Stroud, memorialized in the 1962 film Birdman of Alcatraz.
On August 22, 1966, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), later renamed the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), was formed. The UFWOC was established when two smaller organizations, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), both in the middle of strikes against certain California grape growers, merged and moved under the umbrella of the AFL-CIO.
On Sunday, September 14, 1938, members of the Russian Molokan Church held religious services in their new church building on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, California.
On September 28, 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo of Portugal, sailing under the Spanish flag, sailed into San Diego Bay. While exploring the northwest shores of Mexico, Cabrillo became the first European to reach California.
On November 24, 1602, the eve of St. Catherine’s Day, Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno sighted three islands. He renamed Pimu, the largest island, Santa Catalina. Pimu—so-called by its native inhabitants, the Pimungan (or Pimuvit) people, was first discovered by Spaniards in October 1542, when the explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed the island for his king. He named the island San Salvador, after his ship.
"I have not come 20,000 miles," Yankee trader Franklin A. Buck wrote to his sister Mary on November 25, 1849, "to turn around and go right back again like some persons who have been here and gotten homesick." Just twenty years old, Buck left his job in New York and set sail for California the previous January. The young man was one of 40,000 people who traveled to California by sea during the gold rush of 1849. He arrived in the boom town of Sacramento City in October. With partners, Buck opened a supply store. Business was brisk.