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State of California
Flag of California State seal of California
Flag of California Seal
Nickname(s): The Golden State
Motto(s): Eureka
Map of the United States with California highlighted
Official language English
Capital Sacramento
Largest city Los Angeles
Area Ranked 3rd
 - Total 158,302 sq mi
(410,000 km2)
 - Width 250 miles (400 km)
 - Length 770 miles (1,240 km)
 - % water 4.7
 - Latitude 32°30'N to 42°N
 - Longitude 114°8'W to 124°24'W
Number of people Ranked 1st
 - Total 37,253,956[1]
 - Density 239.1/sq mi  (92.2/km2)
Ranked 13th
 - Average income $49,894 (13th)
Height above sea level
 - Highest point Mount Whitney[2]
14,494 ft (4418 m)
 - Average 2,900 ft  (884 m)
 - Lowest point Death Valley[2]
-282 ft (-86 m)
Became part of the U.S. September 9, 1850 (31st)
Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (D)
U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D)
Barbara Boxer (D)
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7
Abbreviations CA, Calif. US-CA

California is a state in the western United States. It is the third largest state in size. It is the state with the most people living in it. Popular cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco. The capital is Sacramento. It became a state on September 9, 1850. It is bordered by Arizona to the southeast, Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south.


The geography of California changes a lot depending on the place. Southwestern California has small mountain ranges and the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles. Southeastern California has desert and Death Valley, the lowest place in the United States. The eastern part of the state has the highest point in the United States outside of Alaska, Mount Whitney. Mount Whitney is in the Sierra Nevada mountains.[3] The central part of the state has the Central Valley. The cities of Sacramento, Bakersfield, and Fresno are in the central valley. There is farming in this area, too. The west-central part of the state has some small mountains and the cities of San Fransisco, San Jose, and Oakland. Northern California has the Cascade Mountains, the Klamath Mountains, and the Modoc Plateau.[4] Far northern California does not have very many people, but the San Fransisco region and the Sacramento region are often thought of as part of northern California.



Hollywood, part of Los Angeles

The state is a leader in three businesses: farming, movie-making, and high technology, mostly software and Web sites. Aerospace used to be a large industry there, but has been downsized in the last 20 years.

There are many earthquakes in California. They happen when two earth crusts shift underground. Californians need to be prepared for earthquakes and often store extra food, water, flashlights, and first aid supplies in case of such an emergency.

California has more people than any other state in the United States. If California was a separate country it would have the sixth largest economy in the world. California is probably the state with the most ethnic groups. It also has many different geographic features — mountains, deserts, coasts. It is often called The Golden State. The state flower is the golden poppy. The post office uses "CA" as a shorthand for California and the Associated Press uses "Calif." or "Cali."


In 2010, Jerry Brown became the governor of California. Before him, the governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On November 4, 1992, Dianne Feinstein became one of California's United States senators. On January 3, 1993, Barbara Boxer became the other one.


California is a big power in American culture as well as the business life of the nation. Many of the great changes in technology and law came from California, and the state pays more to the U.S. government than it gets back. It also has some of the country's largest cities, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco.


In the past, the area that was called "California" was not just today's California. This area covered the Mexican lands south of it, as well as Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona and Wyoming. The Spanish called the part of the land that later became part of the United States Alta California (Upper California) when it was split from what became Baja California (Lower California). In these early times, the borders of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast were not well known, so the old maps wrongly showed California to be an island. The name comes from Las sergas de Espladián (Adventures of Spladian), a 16th century book by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, where there is an island paradise called California.

The first European who visited parts of the coast, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, came from Portugal in 1542. The first European who saw the entire coast was Sir Francis Drake, in 1579, and he decided that the British owned it. But starting in the late 1700s, Spanish religious leaders of the Roman Catholic Church ("missionaries") got large gifts of land in the area north of Baja California, from the Spanish king and queen. These religious people set up small towns and villages, the famous California Missions. When Mexico was no longer controlled by Spain, the Mexican government took over the villages, and they soon became empty.

San Francisco, California

In 1846, as the Mexican-American War was starting, some Americans in California hoped to create a California Republic. These men flew a "Bear flag" that had a golden bear with a star on it. This Republic ended suddenly, however, when Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into San Francisco Bay. He said that California was now part of the United States. After the war with Mexico ended, California was split between the two countries. The Mexican portion became the Mexican states of Baja California Norte (north) and Baja California Sur (south). ("Baja" means "lower" in Spanish.) The western part of the part given to the United States became today's state of California.

In 1848, there were about 4,000 Spanish-speaking people in today's California on the American side. (Today the state has a total of nearly 40,000,000 people.) In 1849, gold was suddenly found and the number of people went up very fast as the Gold Rush took hold. In 1850, California became a state in the Union (the United States).

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), many people in California, especially in the southern part of California, thought the South was right. Some people in Southern California even wanted Southern California to leave the rest of the state and join the Confederate States of America. However, this did not happen. California joined the war to and helped the North (the Union) and sent many troops east to fight the Confederacy.[5]

At first, travel between the far west and the east coast of the United States was dangerous and took a lot of time. Going by land was very difficult, because there were no roads and no trains, and many Native Americans were attacking American people heading West in wagons. The only other way was to travel by boat around the Cape Horn, at the southern end of South America. This took months, since the trip was thousands of miles long and the Panama Canal had not yet been built either. But in 1869, the connection got better quickly, because the first railroad across the continent was finished. Meanwhile, more people in California were learning that the land there was very good to grow fruit and other crops. Oranges were grown in many parts of California. This was the beginning of the huge farming business that California has today.

Present day

In 1900, there were only a million people in California and 100,000 in Los Angeles. Today, California has more people than any other U.S. state. Starting in 1965, the variety of people became much greater as many different people from around the world came to the United States and often decided to live in California. California is thought to be a very liberal state, but there are still a lot of people who are Republicans and view Ronald Reagan as a hero. Technology is very advanced and many new cultural trends begin there. Engineering and computers play a big part in the state's life. For over a hundred years, film has been one of the most important businesses in California. By the 1950s, television had also become an important business in California.