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History's Happenings for September 9

Congress Makes "United States" Official
1776

Seal of the United States of America

On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress made the new name of our nation -- the United States of America -- official. Although the well-known style had been used on the Declaration of Independence, the more common usage prior to this date was "United Colonies".

California Admitted to Union
1850

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Of all America's states, probably no other paints a picture in every American's mind -- one way or the other -- the way California does. With its huge size and variety of ecosystems, comes an equally varied populace and social culture.

For everyone that envisions the state as movie studios, palm trees and "fruits and nuts", another sees vast farms and hard-working, salt-of-the-earth farmers working the fertile soils of the central valleys. Americans who remember best their vacation through the cool, dense redwoods and parks of the north can appreciate the paradox of the Great Basin with its Death Valley in the southeast.

And few would remember that the climate of southern California that woos so many today, and created the miasma that is its motion picture culture, was not so attractive until irrigation became a reality in this century. Until then, the area that is now all palm trees and bright flowers was a mere extension of the eastern deserts, mitigated somewhat by ocean breezes and moisture.

And so it was for the state's earliest residents, various native Indian tribes whose numbers probably hovered around 100,000 prior to the arrival of Europeans.

The California coastline was first explored in the mid-1500's by both Spanish and English mariners -- including the redoubtable Francis Drake, who claimed the northern part of the coast for England. But apparently the bare and austere conditions then existing, as well as the distance from Europe, did not seem attractive to white settlers, who waited another two centuries to make the trek.

In the mid-1700's, Europeans in the shape of Spanish missionaries and accompanying military units began to arrive in southern California, posted by the authorities in what would become Mexico to insure that Spanish claim to the area was not lost to traders from other nations. In 1769, one of these expeditions included Franciscan Father Junípero Serra, who built the state's first mission at San Diego. Over the next fifty years, Franciscan missionaries continued to spread northward as far as San Francisco, creating the Spanish mission flavor that still abides in the state today.

The first settlers, mostly peasants looking for land, followed shortly behind the missions and presidios, or military outposts. The native Indians, those not decimated by European diseases, were impressed into service by the missions, which gradually assumed control over most of California's coastal land. The hegemony of the missions continued until the newly independent Mexican government reigned them in in 1833, freeing the Indians and opening mission lands to settlement.

Much of the mission land was turned over to powerful Mexican families in the area and, over the next ten years, uprisings broke out between these aristocratic rancheros and the less well-endowed peones. Nonetheless, tales of life in California were so glowing that in the 1840's Americans began migrating there in droves, opening such as the Oregon, Santa Fe and California Trails from the American frontier to the presumed land of plenty on the Pacific. Immigration exploded when, in 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento. Nearly simultaneously ... almost too conveniently ... the Treaty of Guadalupe ending the recent Mexican War turned California and its neighboring states over to the United States.

Although she was never officially a U.S. territory due to arguments over her slavery status, California citizens acting on their own drew up a constitution (forbidding slavery) and formed an interim state government. Congress responded by admitting her as the thirty-first state on September 9, 1850. The capital moved around a bit, but settled in Sacramento in 1854.

Even as the gold rush petered out in 1852, settlers continued to pour into the state, especially attracted by the farming potential of the central valleys. Gradually, agriculture shifted from beef, to grain, then to the vast mixture of vegetables, fruit, dairy and grapes that we know now. Railroads appeared in the state in the mid-1850's, and were joined with the rest of America by the transcontinental link-up in 1869. The railroads brought with them the huge amount of cheap labor -- mainly Chinese -- that they needed for construction. The effects of the influx on local businesses and wages led to riots and ethnic tension in the 1870's and 80's.

California's life on the rowdy frontier gradually receded into history as various reform governments came to power at the end of the century, and the state grew in peace in the early 1900's. The Panama Canal, formally opened in 1920, eased the cost of trade between American coasts and spurred the state's economy.

And finally -- perhaps a dark day for the state, depending upon your point of view -- Hollywood arrived in the 1920's. Actually, the sleepy little farming village of Hollywood was always there but, attracted by the California climate and the ability to film every day compared to the fickle weather in the New York area, the youthful motion picture industry decided to relocate and pitch its tent in southern California. And life there would never be the same.

California's Stats

Capital: Sacramento
Land Area: 158,706 square miles (3rd)
Population (1994): 31,430,697 (1st)
Largest Cities: Los Angeles (3,485,398/1990), San Diego (1,110,549/1990), San Jose (782,248/1990), San Francisco (723,959/1990), Long Beach (429,433/1990), Oakland (372,242/1990), Sacramento (369,365/1990)
Nicknames: Golden State.
Motto: "Eureka (I have found it)."
Emblems: California grizzly bear, California redwood, California valley quail.

NBC Becomes First Broadcasting Firm
1926

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American Mainland Bombed!
1942

Japanese

On September 9, 1942, the only recorded bombing of the American mainland by a foreign enemy occurred as a Japanese sub off the west coast launched a small aircraft that managed to drop a bomb or two on a stretch of trees.

Other than a small forest fire, there was no damage.

Allies Land at Salerno
1943

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"Peoples Republic" of North Korea Established
1948

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First Civil Rights Bill Passed Since Reconstruction
1957

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill

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Mao Tse-Tung Dies
1976

Mao Tse-Tung

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