19 things you might not know about California

(Photo: ThinkStock)

California just had its birthday: On September 9, 1850, it became the 31st state in the Union. Let's celebrate with 19 facts about the Golden State.

1. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War. The U.S. paid Mexico $15 million for war damages. In turn, Mexico ceded nearly half of its territory, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and parts of Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

2. California was originally known as the Bear State. As California boomed—and the bear population was wiped out—it became the Golden State.

3. The grizzly bear on California's current state flag is a tribute to Monarch, the last wild California grizzly bear. In 1899, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst paid a reporter named Allen Kelley to capture the animal. Monarch was sent to San Francisco, where he lived at Woodward's Garden and then Golden Gate Park. He was a star attraction until his death in 1911.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

4. But the original Bear Flag had nothing to do with Monarch. It dates back to 1846, two years before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. A group of Americans who'd settled in California, which was then part of Mexico, feared they'd be expelled. They invaded the Mexican outpost at Sonoma and captured the retired general Mariano Vallejo. A few days later they raised the first Bear Flag and called the land the California Republic.

5. The California Republic only existed for 26 days. U.S. Army Major John C. Frémont soon replaced the Bear Flag with the U.S. flag, which takes us back to the beginning of this post and the Mexican-American War.

6. And who designed the original flag? William Todd, nephew of Mary Todd Lincoln. It's a small historical world.

(Architect of the Capitol / Wikimedia Commons)

7. The one-word state motto, "Eureka," hearkens back to the exciting days of the Gold Rush. But it doesn't include an exclamation point. The first "Eureka!" is attributed to the Greek scholar Archimedes. According to legend, he had an epiphany as he stepped into a bathtub and watched the water level rise—he realized that the volume of the displaced water was equal to the volume of the foot he'd submerged. And then he ran out of the room to tell others about his discovery ... while he was completely naked. (More on whether that ever actually happened here.)

8. California's most famous for its Gold Rush in 1849, but it also had a Silver Rush in the Calico Mountains from 1881 to 1896. By 1904, Calico was a ghost town.

9. In 2013, the states of California and New York tied for the fourth-highest average credit score in the U.S.—653. (Minnesota was the victor, with an average score of 658.)

Click here for the next 10 fascinating factoids about California.



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