California flag

Capital: Sacramento

State abbreviation/Postal code: Calif./CA

Governor: Jerry Brown, D (to Jan. 2019)

Lieut. Governor: Gavin Newsom, D (to Jan. 2019)

Senators: Kamala Harris, D (to Jan. 2023); Dianne Feinstein, D (to Jan. 2019)

U.S. Representatives: 53

Historical biographies of Congressional members

Secy. of State: Alex Padilla, D (to Jan. 2019)

Atty. General: Xavier Becerra, D (to Jan. 2021)

Treasurer: John Chiang, D (to Jan. 2019)

Entered Union (rank): Sept. 9, 1850 (31)

Present constitution adopted: 1879

Motto: Eureka (I have found it)

State symbols:

flowergolden poppy (1903)
treeCalifornia redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens & Sequoiadendron giganteum) (1937, 1953)
birdCalifornia valley quail (1931)
animalCalifornia grizzly bear (1953)
fishCalifornia golden trout (1947)
colorsblue and gold (1951)
song“I Love You, California” (1951)

Nickname: Golden State

Origin of name: From a book, Las Sergas de Esplandián, by Garcia Ordóñez de Montalvo, c. 1500

10 largest cities (2013): Los Angeles, 3,884,307; San Diego, 1,335,896; San Jose, 998,537; San Francisco, 837,442; Fresno, 509,924; Sacramento, 476,686; Long Beach, 469,428; Oakland, 406,253; Bakersfield, 363,630; Anaheim, 345,012

Land area: 155,959 sq mi. (403,934 sq km)

Geographic center: In Madera Co., 38 mi. E of Madera

Number of counties: 58

Largest county by population and area: Los Angeles, 10,017,068 (2013); San Bernardino, 20,062 sq mi.

National forests: 18

State parks and beaches: 278 (1.5 million ac.)

Residents: Californian

2015 resident population: 39,144,818

2010 resident census population (rank): 37,253,956 (1). Male: 18,517,830; Female: 18,736,126. White: 21,453,934 (57.6%); Black: 2,299,072 (6.2%); American Indian: 362,801 (1.0%); Asian: 4,861,007 (13.0%); Other race: 6,317,372; Two or more races: 1,815,384 (4.9%); Hispanic/Latino: 14,013,719 (37.6%). 2010 population 18 and over: 27,958,916; 65 and over: 4,246,514; median age: 35.2.

See additional census data

Area codes

Tourism office

Although California was sighted by Spanish navigator Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542, its first Spanish mission (at San Diego) was not established until 1769. California became a U.S. territory in 1847 when Mexico surrendered it to John C. Frémont. On Jan. 24, 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill, starting the California Gold Rush and bringing settlers to the state in large numbers. By 1964, California had surpassed New York to become the most populous state. One reason for this may be that more immigrants settle in California than any other state—more than one-third of the nation's total in 1994. Asians and Pacific Islanders led the influx.

Leading industries include agriculture, manufacturing (transportation equipment, machinery, and electronic equipment), biotechnology, aerospace-defense, and tourism. Principal natural resources include timber, petroleum, cement, and natural gas.

Death Valley, in the southeast, is 282 ft below sea level, the lowest point in the nation. Mt. Whitney (14,491 ft) is the highest point in the contiguous 48 states. Lassen Peak is one of two active U.S. volcanoes outside of Alaska and Hawaii; its last eruptions were recorded in 1917.

Other points of interest include Yosemite National Park, Disneyland, Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sequoia National Park, San Simeon State Park, and Point Reyes National Seashore.

Austrian-born bodybuilder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California in 2003 in a special recall election, replacing Gray Davis. Gov. Schwarzenegger was reelected in 2006. Jerry Brown was elected governor of California in 2010, an achievement made more remarkable by the fact that he had already been the state's governor from 1975-83.

Almost twenty years after California passed the "Save Our State" initiative, which denied public, social, educational, and health services to illegal immigrants, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2011 giving illegal immigrant college students access to state-funded financial aid, the second half of two-part legislation known as the "Dream Act."

See more on California:
Encyclopedia: California
Encyclopedia: Geography
Encyclopedia: Economy
Encyclopedia: Government
Encyclopedia: History
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Selected famous natives and residents:

See also: