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Explore California History

“There’s only the American Dream and the California dream.”
—Gov. Gavin Newsom

CAL@170 is a collection of 170 stories celebrating California’s 170 years of statehood. The aim is to offer examples of California’s unique character and that of its residents, past and present. That means among the good there will be some bad. For every success story, there’s a failure, a tragedy, an injustice. It’s from these mistakes that we learn and grow stronger together. Share a story with us that helps define what California means to you.

Tsupu, The Last Woman From Petaluma

Her Indian name, or at least one of her Indian names, the only one any of us know, is Tsupu. She…

California’s Most Famous Canines?

Bummer and Lazarus are the most famous dogs in San Francisco’s history. Maybe even in California’s history. Between 1861 and…

“My Poems Came Out With Tunes Attached”

Inspiration comes to Malvina Reynolds as she drives through a Daly City housing development in 1962. Her song, "Little Boxes,"…

The Game of Hoops That Changes Lives

On March 18, 1947, a basketball game tips off at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Corona. It has all the makings…

A Dummy Brings Down an Empire

For decades, nobody questions that Artie Samish runs Sacramento. Starting as a lobbyist in the early 1920s, Samish gradually amasses…

California’s Unstoppable Rubio Sisters

Assembly member Blanca Rubio agrees to meet me at Chicory, a coffee shop in Sacramento frequented by members of the…

Reshaping the World as the Atomic Age Dawns

World War II effectively ends in 1945 when the United States detonates an atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6,…

Chasing Water and Dust

On a summer day in the San Joaquin Valley, 101 in the shade, I merge onto Highway 99 past downtown…

The Savior of California’s Suffrage Movement

After California’s male voters decisively defeat a women’s voting rights ballot measure in 1896, suffragists display plenty of public bravado.…

Chronicler of Butterfly Valley’s Killer Lily

Rebecca M. Austin, ca. 1880-1887. [2013-0197], California State Library Erstwhile school teacher Rebecca Merritt Austin and husband James move to…

“A Person Always Doing His or Her Best Becomes a Natural Leader Just by Example.”

DiMaggio invests part of his first year salary with the Yankees to partner with his baseball-playing brothers on this restaurant,…

History as Fiction: The California Social Novel

California writers have created a rich tradition of social protest novels, beginning with John Rollin Ridge’s The Life and Adventures…

The Finest College Football Team of All Time — Both On The Field and Off

In the view of many sportswriters and historians of the game, the University of San Francisco's 1951 team is the…

A Governor Resigns to Become Chief Justice

Lt. Gov. Goodwin Jesse Knight, a genial,…

True Heroes of the Transcontinental Railroad

Work on the last mile of the Pacific Railroad [2008-3303] California State Library Between 1864 and 1869, thousands of Chinese…

Hollywood’s Castle on a Hill

For nearly 90 years, as a city and a world have change utterly around it, the famed hotel Chateau Marmont,…

Annie Burke and Elsie Allen, Pomo Basket Weavers

Annie Burke, 1944. [2007-0340], California State Library The lands of the Pomo spread across modern-day Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake counties.…

California’s Long “War of Extermination”

"The California Gold Rush was a “universal mass trespass that shortly created laws to legitimize itself.” -- Wallace Stegner Some…

Coast-to-Coast Direct Dial Phone Service Begins

The First Transcontinental Direct Dial Phone Call: Flanked by Phone Company Executives, Mayor M. Leslie Denning of Englewood, New Jersey…

The Face of the True California

As a boy growing up in Suffolk County on Long Island, I climb the tops of the highest hills with…