So you say you know a lot about California? It’s the most populous state. The state flag has a bear on it. Our state motto is “Eureka!”
But how much do you really know? Do you know what “eureka” means? Where did the bear come from? Did you know that some of the things we take for granted in our daily lives were invented in California?
There’s a lot to like about California besides the weather and scenery. We’ve rounded up some facts about the state’s history, places, and innovations that might surprise you. Take a look, starting with our motto:
- “Eureka” is a Greek motto that can be translated as “I have found it.” It is the only U.S. state motto in Greek. It appears on the state seal and was, for a long time, unofficial until formally adopted in 1963. The motto could refer to two things: the state’s admission to the union, or the discovery of gold in California between 1848 and 1855.
- California was originally nicknamed the Grizzly Bear State. After the gold rush, it became the Golden State.
- The bear on the current state of California is claimed to have been modeled on the last Californian grizzly bear in captivity. The bear, named Monarch, was captured in 1889 by newspaper reporter Allen Kelley, at the behest of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. The bear was later moved to the zoo at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. After Monarch died in 1911, it was mounted and preserved at the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park, and remains in the academy’s collection.
Highest, lowest, and oldest
- Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Its most famous climb is Mount Whitney Trail to the 14,495-foot summit.
- The highest and lowest points in the continental United States are within 100 miles of one another: Mount Whitney at 14,495 feet and Badwater Basin in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.
- It rained nearly continually in California from Christmas Eve 1861 through the end of January 1862, destroying nearly one-quarter of the property in the state, turning the Central Valley into an inland sea, and bankrupting the state.
- California has more national parks than any other state. Of the 59 national parks, we are home to nine of them.
- Hyperion, a coast redwood tree in Redwood National Park, is the tallest living tree in the world at 380.3 feet, The tree is estimated to contain 18,600 cubic feet of wood and to be about 800 years old.
- Methuselah, a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of eastern California, is the oldest non-clonal continuously standing tree in the world. It is estimated to be 4,849 years old.
Home of entertainment and invention
- Hollywood is home to world’s largest movie industry by revenue. It is based in Hollywood partly because moviemakers were trying to get away from Thomas Edison, who was based in New Jersey. He had patents covering virtually the entire moviemaking process, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California was known to rule against patent claims.
- The Hollywood Bowl is the world’s largest outdoor amphitheater.
- The first television set was invented by Philo T. Farnsworth, who transmitted the first successful electronic image in San Francisco on September 7, 1927.
- The first node of the Internet (then known as ARPANET) was installed at UCLA in September 1969. The first host-to-host message was sent a month later from UCLA to Stanford Research Institute.
- The world’s first laser was successfully operated by its inventor, Theodore Maiman, at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu in the spring of 1960.
- The Apple computer, Barbie doll, theme park (Disneyland), Frisbee, blue jeans, and fortune cookie are just a few of many things invented in California.
- The California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento is the largest museum of its kind in North America.
- Totaling nearly 3 million acres, San Bernardino County is the largest county in the United States in terms of land area–larger than the combined area of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
- Speaking of San Bernardino County, The Country Store in Baker has sold more winning California State Lottery tickets than any outlet in the state.
- During his engagement at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, Otis Redding stayed on a houseboat in Sausalito. While there, he wrote his last song and greatest hit, “The Dock of the Bay.”
- A light bulb in a Livermore fire station has been burning for 115 years.
Food facts and more
- More turkeys are raised in California than in any other state in the country.
- The first seedless watermelon was developed in California.
- Fallbrook is known as the “Avocado Capital of the World” and hosts an annual Avocado Festival.
- More avocados are grown in the region than any other county in the nation.
- Castroville is known as the “Artichoke Capital of the World.” In 1947, a young woman named Norma Jean Baker was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen at the Artichoke Festival. She went on to become known as Marilyn Monroe.
- California is the biggest milk-producing state in the U.S. It accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s milk production. California is ranked first in the U.S. in the production of total milk, butter, ice cream, nonfat dry milk, and whey protein concentrate, and is second in cheese production.
- The first McDonald’s restaurant opened in San Bernardino in 1940. Now the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants, McDonald’s was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald, who later sold the franchise to milkshake-mixer salesman Ray Kroc.
Interested in more facts about Southern California in particular? Contact a knowledgeable, dedicated real estate professional who will tell you all you need to know.
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