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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.

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…

“She Can Handle the Wheel like an Old Salt”

Bay tug boat circa 1890 [2009-0412], California State Library That’s how an article in the July 30, 1897 San Francisco…

Mrs. Fisher Pens a Cookbook

Front Cover of "What Mrs. Fisher Knows." Courtesy of California State Library. Alexander and Abby Clifton Fisher come to San…

As It Was in 1992, So It Is in 2020

On Sunday, May 3, 1992, I’m asked by my dear friend Pastor John Bowie to address his congregation in South…

Building a Better Life in Gold Mountain

On orders from his father, Ging Chuck Yee leaves China for the United States when he is just 14 years…

From Enslaved to Wealthy Philanthropist

Biddy Mason, Public Domain, National Park Service Born enslaved in Georgia or Mississippi in 1818, Bridget “Biddy” Mason -- with…

Native American Author Pens First California Novel

John Rollin Ridge's Cherokee name is Cheesquatalawny or "Yellow Bird." He is considered the first Native American novelist. [caption id="attachment_10730"…

Maggie Gee, Pioneering Aviator

Margaret “Maggie” Yee grows up dreaming of being a pilot like Amelia Earhart. She becomes one of only two Chinese American WASPs, serving in WWII.

Mary of Marysville’s Harrowing Journey

On February 19, 1847, the First Relief rescue team helps Meriam "Mary" Murphy and about 20 other survivors of the…

Fearless Local Librarians Deliver the Books

In 1908, Sacramento becomes the first public library in the state to offer free access to all county residents. This…

Pío Pico Impacts California for Over 90 Years

Pio Pico, 1847 [2007-0361] California State Library Pío de Jesus Pico influences California history for most of the 19th Century.…