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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.

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.…

Preserving Her Tribe’s Language

Marie Wilcox receives "Lifetime Achievement Award" Tommy Lee Kreger / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) As the last fluent speaker of Wukchumni,…

“For (S)he Driveth Furiously”

On December 18, 1879, One-Eyed Charley, one of the legendary stagecoach drivers of early California, dies of tongue cancer. As…

Harriet Strong Invents a Water Storage System

On December 6, 1887, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues a patent for Dam and Reservoir Construction to Harriet…

Sacramento Valley’s “Oddest Set of Mountains”

It is late summer 1839, and John Sutter makes his first journey up the Sacramento River to establish a fortified…

Suffragist Challenges Assemblyman to a Duel

Emily Pitts Stevens occupies a hallowed position in the pantheon of early suffrage advocates in California. San…

“Win or Lose, We Win By Raising the Issues.”

"For the first time in the history of this nation a political party has chosen a Negro woman for the…

Marietta Stow Makes a Bid for Vice President

On October 24, 1884, Marietta Stow declares her candidacy for vice president…

José Sarria, Empress of San Francisco

In 1961, José Sarria runs for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and becomes the first openly…

Sicilian Immigrant Hand-Carves an Underground Oasis in Fresno

Fresno, where it's hot enough to dry fruit in open air [CIFII_Scan652], California State Library Baldassare Forestiere, born July 8,…

California’s First African American Librarian

Miriam Matthews. Photographed by Judith Sedwick. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University Miriam Matthews, often referred to as…

A California Tale Tucked Inside a Cookie

The fortune cookie, that ubiquitous ending to a meal at Chinese restaurant, has traveled a long way from its origins…

Fossil Hunter Annie Alexander Bankrolls Two Museums

Annie Montague Alexander is the privileged daughter of Samuel Thomas Alexander founder of what becomes the California & Hawaiian Sugar…

“I Am a Full-Blooded Klamath River Woman”

Che-na-wah Weitch-ah-wah is born in 1856 in Pecwan Village, on the Klamath River near the mouth of Pecwan Creek, in…

What’s That Bug in My Sourdough?

In late 1848, when gold seekers flock to California from around the world, some European miners bring with them a…

Archy Lee’s Quest for Freedom

Between January and April of 1858, Northern California is rocked by the “case of the decade” – a determination of…

California Invention Sheds Light on the Universe

Dr. Theodore H. Maiman with laser. Associated Press On May 16, 1960, a newly constructed scientific laboratory on a hillside…

California Gets (and Returns) Its First State Park

On June 30, 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill entitled "An Act…