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|History of California|
After 1900, California became an industrial power. While fundamentally conservative, it also exhibited periods of liberal ascension. The economy was widely based on specialty agriculture, oil, tourism, shipping, film, and after 1940 advanced technology. The films and stars of Hollywood made the state the center of worldwide attention. It became an American cultural phenomenon; the idea of the "California Dream" as a portion of the larger American Dream of finding a better life drew 35 million new residents from the start to the end of the 20th century (1900–2010). Silicon Valley became the world's center for computer innovation.
California was a national leader in the Progressive Movement from the 1890s into the 1920s. A coalition of reform-minded Republicans, especially in southern California, coalesced around Thomas Bard (1841–1915). Bard's election in 1899 as U.S. Senator enabled the anti-machine Republicans to sustain a continuing opposition to the Southern Pacific Railway's political power. They helped nominate George C. Pardee for governor in 1902 and formed the "Lincoln-Roosevelt League." In 1910 Hiram W. Johnson won the campaign for governor under the slogan "Kick the Southern Pacific out of politics." In 1912 Johnson became the running mate for Theodore Roosevelt on the new Progressive Party ticket. By 1916, however, the Progressives were supporting labor unions, which helped them in ethnic enclaves in the larger cities but alienated the native-stock Protestant, middle-class voters who voted heavily against Senator Johnson and President Wilson in 1916.
Political progressivism varied across the state. Los Angeles (population 102,000 in 1900) focused on the dangers posed by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the liquor trade, and labor unions; San Francisco (population 342,000 in 1900) confronted with a corrupt machine that was finally overthrown following the earthquake of 1906. Smaller cities like San Jose (which had a population of 22,000 in 1900) had somewhat different concerns, such as fruit cooperatives, urban development, rival rural economies, and Asian labor. San Diego (population 18,000 in 1900) had both the Southern Pacific and a corrupt machine.
Progressives created a new railroad commission with vastly enlarged powers and brought public utilities under state supervision. Organized businessmen were the leaders of both of these reforms. The driving force for railroad regulation came less from an outraged public seeking lower rates than from shippers and merchants who wanted to stabilize their businesses. Public utility officers spearheaded campaigns for the passage, and, later, the enlargement of the Public Utilities Act. They expected that state regulation would reduce wasteful competition between their companies, improve the value of their companies' securities, and allow them to escape continual wrangling with county and municipal authorities. Although the businessmen were influential in obtaining the passage of bills the wanted, no group of businessmen dominated the California legislature or the railroad commission after 1910. Legislation proposed by some businessmen were opposed by other business interests. Organized labor made significant gains during the Progressive Era, but they were not a result of the benevolent, middle-class reformer actions, but of a powerful lobbying activity on the part of unions with their solid base in San Francisco and Oakland.
In the 1920s, most progressives came to view the business culture of the day not as a repudiation of progressive goals but as the fulfillment of it. The most important progressive victories of 1921 were the passage of administrative reorganization laws, the King Bill, increasing corporate taxes, and a progressive budget. In 1927-31, governor Clement Calhoun Young (1869–1947) brought more progressivism to the state. The state began large-scale hydroelectric power development, and began state aid to the handicapped. California became the first state to enact a modern old-age pension law. The parks system was upgraded and California (like most states) rapidly expanded its highway program, funding it through a tax on gasoline, and creating the famous California Highway Patrol.
The Progressive movement aimed to purify society of its corruption, and one way was to enfranchise supposedly "pure" women as voters in 1911, nine years before the 19th Amendment enfranchised women nationally in 1920. Women's clubs flourished and turned a spotlight on issues such as public schools, dirt and pollution, and public health. California women were leaders in the temperance movement, moral reform, conservation, public schools, recreation, and other issues. The women did not often run for office—that was seen as entangling their purity in the inevitable backroom deals routine in politics.
Organized labor was centered in San Francisco for much of the state's early history. By the opening decades of the twentieth century, labor efforts had expanded to Los Angeles, Long Beach and the Central Valley. In 1901, the San Francisco based City Front Federation was reputed to be the strongest trade federation in the country. It grew out of intense organizational drives in every trade during the boom around the start of the 20th century. Employers organized as well during the building trades strike of 1900 and the (San Francisco) City Front Federation strike of 1901, which led to the founding of Building Trades Council. The open shop question was at stake. Out of the City Front strike came the Union Labor Party because workers were angry at the mayor for using the police to protect strikebreakers. Eugene Schmitz was elected mayor in 1902 on the party's ticket, making San Francisco the only town in the United States, for a time, to be run by labor. A combination of corruption and unscrupulous reformers culminated in graft prosecutions in 1907.
In 1910, Los Angeles was still an open shop and employers in the north threatened for a new push to open San Francisco shops. Responding, labor sent delegations south in June 1910. National organizers were sent in during a lockout of 1,200 idled metal-trades workers. Then occurred an incident that would set back Los Angeles organizing for years, On October 10, 1910, a bomb exploded at the Los Angeles Times newspaper plant that killed twenty-one workers.
In the decade following, the rapid growth of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies) in ununionized trades, logging, wheat farming, lumber camps began extending its efforts to mines, ports and agriculture. The IWW came to public notice after the Wheatland Hop Riot when a sheriff's posse broke up a protest meeting and four people died. It led to the first legislation protecting field labor. The IWW was harmed by anti-union drives and prosecution of members under the state's California Criminal Syndicalism Act. The IWW was also involved in the 1923 seamen's strike at San Pedro, where Upton Sinclair was arrested for reciting the Declaration of Independence. However, the man who became the most prominent Wobbly of all, Thomas Mooney, soon became a cause-celebre of labor and the most important political prisoner in America.
The Preparedness Day Bombing killed ten people and hurt labor for decades. During the 1920s, the open shop efforts succeeded through a coordinated strategy called the "American Plan". In one case, the Industrial Association of San Francisco raised over a million dollars to break the building trades strikes in 1921 that led to the collapse of the building trades unions. This employers association cut wages twice in one year, and the Metal Trades Council was defeated, losing an agreement that had been in effect since 1907. The Seamen's Union also suffered defeat in 1921.
Unions grew rapidly after 1935 with political and legal support from the national New Deal and its Wagner Act of 1935. The most serious strike came in 1934 along the state's ports. In May 1934, dock workers and longshoremen along the West Coast went on strike for better hours and pay, a union hiring hall and a coast-wide contract. Communists were in control of the union, the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), led by Harry Bridges (1901–1990). On "Bloody Thursday", July 5, 1934, San Francisco was swept by bloody rioting . Striking maritime workers, pitting themselves against police, took control of much of the waterfront and warehouse areas of the city. Two workers were killed and hundreds were clubbed and gassed. The West Coast Waterfront Strike lasted 83 days with longshoremen returning to work on July 31. Arbitration was agreed to and it resulted in a victory for the strikers. and the unionization of all West Coast ports in the United States.
San Francisco in the late 1930s had 120,000 union members. Longshoreman wore union buttons on their white union made caps, Teamsters drove trucks as unionists, fishermen, taxi drivers, streetcar conductors, motormen, newsboys, retail clerks, hotel employees, newspapermen and bootlacks all had representation. Against 30,000 trade union members in 1933-34, Los Angeles by the late thirties 200,000, even against a severe 1938 anti-picketing ordinance. But Los Angeles became unionized in the mass production industries of aircraft, auto, rubber, oil and at the yards of San Pedro. Later, drives for unionization spread through musicians, teamsters, building trades, movies, actors, writers and directors.
Farm labor remained unorganized, the work brutal and underpaid. In the 1930s, 200,000 farm laborers traveled the state in tune with the seasons. Unions were accused of an "inland march" against landowners rights when they took up the early effort to organize farm labor. A number of valley towns endorsed anti-picketing ordinances to thwart organizing. In the 1933-1934 period, a wave of agricultural strikes flooded the central valley, including the Imperial Valley lettuce strike and San Joaquin Valley cotton strike. In the 1936 Salinas lettuce strike, vigilante violence shocked the nation. Again, in the spring of 1938, about three hundred men, women and children were driven by vigilantes from their homes in Grass Valley and Nevada City.
A 1938 ballot proposition against picketing, "Proposition #1," considered fascist by commentators for the state grange, became a huge political struggle. Proposition #1 failed at the polls. Soon, racist distinctions fell as California unions began to admit non-white members.
By the advent of World War II, California had an old-age assistance law, unemployment compensation, a 48 hour work week maximum for women, an apprentice law, and workplace safety rules.
Beginning around the start of the 20th century, there were several feats of engineering in Californian history. Among many, the first major engineering was in mining, building and railroads. Much later, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which runs from the Owens Valley, through the Mojave Desert and its Antelope Valley, to dry Los Angeles far to the south. Finished in 1911, it was the brain-child of the self-taught William Mulholland and is still in use today. Creeks flowing from the eastern Sierra are diverted into the aqueduct. This attracted controversy in the 1960s, since this withholds water from Mono Lake and from farmers in the Owens Valley. See also California Water Wars.
Other feats are the building of Hoover Dam (which is in Nevada, but provides power and water to Southern California), Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Shasta Dam, and the California Aqueduct, taking water from northern California to dry and sprawling southern California. Another project was the draining of Lake Tulare, which, during high water was the largest fresh-water lake inside an American state. This created a large wet area amid the dry San Joaquin Valley and swamps abounded at its shores. By the 1970s, it was completely drained, but it attempts to resurrect itself during heavy rains.
Automobile travel became important after 1910. A key route was the Lincoln Highway, which was America's first transcontinental road for motorized vehicles, connecting New York City to San Francisco. The creation of the Lincoln Highway in 1913 was a major stimulus on the development of both industry and tourism in the state. Similar effects occurred in 1926 with the creation of Route 66.
In the 1850s, oil was collected and refined for the first time in California, both in Ventura County and the Los Angeles area, and in the 1860s the first wells were dug. By the 1890s numerous oil fields, including the Summerland Oil Field near Santa Barbara, location of the world's first offshore oil wells, the giant Midway-Sunset field in Kern County, and several fields in the Los Angeles Basin were contributing to an oil boom that made California one of the largest oil producers in the nation. Oil during the period was the most profitable industry in the southern part of the state.
The first decades of the twentieth century saw the rise of the studio system. MGM, Universal and Warner Brothers all acquired land in Hollywood, which was then a small subdivision known as "Hollywoodland" on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The enormous variety in terrain and the sunshine made film making easier and cheaper, as actors, producers, financiers and craftsmen headed to Hollywood.
By the 1930s, Hollywood had extended its reach into radio, and by mid-century Southern California had also become a major center of television production, hosting studios for major networks such as NBC and CBS.
In the 1934 California gubernatorial election novelist Upton Sinclair was the narrowly defeated Democratic nominee, running on the platform of the socialist End Poverty in California (EPIC) movement, a radical response to the Great Depression. Other radical movements flourished, such as the Townsend Plan for old age pension, and "Ham and Eggs", which promised "$30 Every Thursday" to everyone over age 50. Voters narrowly rejected it in 1938 and the utopians failed to enact any panaceas; however the movements did spawn a generation of activists on the left.
During World War II, California's mild climate became a major resource for the war effort. Numerous air-training bases were established in Southern California, where most aircraft manufacturers, including Douglas Aircraft and Hughes Aircraft expanded or established factories. Major naval, shipyards were established or expanded in San Diego, Long Beach and San Francisco Bay. San Francisco was the home of the liberty ships.
After the war, hundreds of land developers bought land cheap, subdivided it, built on it, and got rich. Real-estate development replaced oil and agriculture as Southern California's principal industry. In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim. In 1958, Major League Baseball's Dodgers and Giants left New York City and came to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. The population of California expanded dramatically, to nearly 20 million by 1970. This was the coming-of-age of the Baby Boom.
In the late 1960s the baby-boom generation reached draft age, and many risked arrest to oppose the war in Vietnam. There were numerous demonstrations and strikes, most famously on the prestigious Berkeley campus of the University of California, across the bay from San Francisco. In 1965, race riots erupted in Watts, in the South Central area of Los Angeles. The hippie riots on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles were also immortalized by Buffalo Springfield in "For What It's Worth" (1966). Some commentators predicted revolution. Then the federal government promised to withdraw from the Vietnam War, which at last happened in 1974. The radical political movements, having achieved a large part of their aim, lost members and funding.
California still was a land of free spirits, open hearts, easy-going living. Popular music of the period bore titles such as "California Girls," "California Dreamin'," "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" and "Hotel California". These reflected the Californian promise of easy living in a paradisaical climate. The surfing culture burgeoned. Many took low-paying jobs and joined the surfers living in trailers at the beach and many others forsook ambition and joined the hippies free living in cities.
The most famous hippie hangout was the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. The state's cities, especially San Francisco, became famous for their gentility and tolerance. A distinctive and idyllic Californian culture emerged for a time. The peak of this culture, in 1967, was known as the Summer of Love. California became known elsewhere in the U.S. often derogatorily, as the "land of fruits and nuts."
Conversely, during the same period, the Golden State also attracted commercial and industrial expansion of astronomical rates. The adoption of a Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960 allowed the development of a highly efficient system of public higher education in the Community Colleges and the University of California and California State University systems; by creating an educated workforce, it attracted investment, particularly in areas related to high technology. By 1980, California became recognized as the world's eighth-largest economy. Millions of workers were needed to fuel the expansion. The high population of the time caused tremendous problems with urban sprawl, traffic, pollution, and, to a lesser extent, crime.
Urban sprawl created a backlash in many urban areas, with the local governments limiting growth beyond certain boundaries, reducing lot sizes for building homes, and so on. Open Space Districts were created in several parts of the state specifically to obtain, manage, and preserve undeveloped land. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the open space districts have created a nearly contiguous range of permanently undeveloped land running through the coastal range and hills surrounding the Bay's urban valleys, enabling the creation of huge natural parks and envisioning a hiking trail that will eventually circumnavigate the Bay in an unbroken loop.
The immense problem with air pollution (smog) that had developed by the early 1970s also caused a backlash. With schools being closed routinely in urban areas for "smog days" when the ozone levels became too unhealthy and the hills surrounding urban areas seldom visible even within a mile, Californians were ready for changes. Over the next three decades, California enacted some of the strictest anti-smog regulations in the United States and has been a leader in encouraging nonpolluting strategies for various industries, including automobiles. For example, carpool lanes normally allow only vehicles with two/three or more occupants (whether the base number is two or three depends on what freeway you are on), but electric cars can use the lanes with only a single occupant. As a result, smog is significantly reduced from its peak, although local Air Quality Management Districts still monitor the air and generally encourage people to avoid polluting activities on hot days when smog is expected to be at its worst.
Traffic and transportation remain a problem in urban areas. Solutions are implemented, but inevitably the implementation expense and the time required to plan, approve, and build infrastructure can't keep pace with the population growth. There have been some improvements. Carpool lanes have become common in urban areas, which are intended to encourage people to drive together rather than in individual automobiles. San Jose is gradually building a light rail system (ironically, often over routes of an original turn-of-the-century electric railroad line that was torn out and paved over to encourage the advent of the automobile age). None of the implemented solutions are without their critics. The sprawling nature of the Bay Area and of the Los Angeles Basin makes it difficult to build mass transit that can reach and serve a significant portion of the population.
During the 1960s, under the aegis of Chief Justice Roger J. Traynor, the California Supreme Court became more liberal and progressive. Traynor's term as Chief Justice (from 1964 to 1970) was marked by a number of firsts: California was the first state to create true strict liability in product liability cases, the first to allow the action of negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) even in the absence of physical injury to the plaintiff, and the first to allow bystanders to sue for NIED where the only physical injury was to a relative.
Starting in the 1960s, California became a leader in family law. California was the first state to allow true no-fault divorce, with the passage of the Family Law Act of 1969. In 1994, the Legislature took family law out of the Civil Code and created a new Family Code. In 2002, the Legislature granted registered domestic partners the same rights under state law as married spouses. In 2008 California became the second state to legalize same-sex marriage when the California Supreme Court ruled the ban unconstitutional.
Since the mid-1980s, the California Supreme Court has become more conservative, particularly with regard to the rights of criminal defendants. This is commonly seen as a reaction against the strict anti-death penalty stance of Chief Justice Rose Bird in the early 1980s although the funding that eventually brought about her defeat was from corporate and business interests concerned with what they felt was an anti-business stance by the Chief Justice. The state's electorate responded by removing her (and two of her perceived liberal allies) from the court in November 1986.
Starting in the 1950s, high technology companies in Northern California began a spectacular growth that continued through the end of the 20th century. The major products included personal computers, video games, and networking systems. The majority of these companies settled along a highway stretching from Palo Alto to San Jose, notably including Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, California, all in the Santa Clara Valley, the so-called "Silicon Valley," named after the material used to produce the integrated circuits of the era. This era peaked in 2000, by which time demand for skilled technical professionals had become so high that the high-tech industry had trouble filling all of its positions and therefore pushed for increased visa quotas so that they could recruit from overseas. When the "Dot-com bubble" burst in 2001, jobs evaporated overnight and, for the first time over the next two years, more people moved out of the area than moved in. This somewhat mirrored the collapse of the aerospace industry in southern California some twenty years earlier.
By 2004, it seemed that many of the coveted high-tech jobs were either "off-shored" to India at ten percent of the labor costs in the U.S., or "on-shored" by recruiting newcomers from among the billions in India and China. New laws have removed caps to visas, especially since the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Tens of millions of people from the third world have entered the U.S. since 1960, settling at first mainly in California and the Southwest, but now throughout the continent. In 1960 (when the birth rate nearly equaled the replacement rate) the population of the U.S. was 180 million; in 2000, it was 280 million.
Although air pollution problems have been reduced, health problems associated with pollution have continued. The brown haze known as "smog," has been substantially abated thanks to federal and state restrictions on automobile exhaust.
An energy crisis in 2001 led to rolling blackouts, soaring power rates, and the importation of electricity from neighboring states. With Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Company coming under heavy criticism.
The ongoing demand for well educated workers continued. Housing prices in urban areas continued to increase so that a modest home that, in the 1960s, cost $25,000, cost half a million dollars or more in urban areas by 2005. More people commuted longer hours to afford a home in more rural areas while earning larger salaries in the urban areas. Speculators bought houses they never intended to live in, expecting to make a huge profit in a matter of months then rolling it over by buying more properties. Mortgage companies were compliant, as everyone assumed the prices would keep rising. The bubble burst in 2007-8 as housing prices began to crash and the boom years ended. Hundreds of billions in property values vanished and foreclosures soared as many financial institutions and investors were badly hurt.
On October 7, 2003, Davis was recalled, with 55.4% of the voters supporting the recall (see results of the 2003 California recall). With a plurality of 48.6% of the vote, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was chosen as the new governor. Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante received 31.5% of the vote, and Republican State Senator Tom McClintock received 13.5% of the vote.
Schwarzenegger began his shortened term with a soaring approval rating and soon after began implementing a conservative agenda. This initially resulted in sparring with the heavily Democratic Assembly and Senate over the state budget, battles which provided his infamous "girly men" comment but also began taking their toll on his approval rating. Schwarzenegger then embarked on a campaign to enact several ballot propositions in a 2005 Special Election touted as reforming California's budget system, redistricting powers, and union political fundraising. The union-led campaign spearheaded by the California Nurses Association contributed heavily to the defeat of every proposition in the Special Election. Since this conspicuous failure, Schwarzenegger has made a turn back to the left, criticizing the Bush Administration at many junctures, reviving his environmental agenda, and compromising with the legislature on the traditionally Democratic issue of education spending. His approval rating has also been revived, and he was re-elected in 2006. However continued paralysis in state government and the inability of the Legislature and Governor to work out the fundamental funding questions has resulted in voter disapproval of both the legislators and the Governor whose approval rating is among the lowest ever recorded pending the election of a successor in November, 2010.
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