Celebrating state of California at age 167

Del Mar Wetlands/Ben Sevier

On Sept. 9, 1850, California was admitted as the 31st state in the U.S. Here are a few things to know about our 167-year old state:

Plenty of people to celebrate with: California’s population has gone from 92,597 in 1850 to an estimated 39 million in 2017. In 1962, California became the most populous state in the nation when it surpassed New York.

Places to throw a party: California has 28 National Park Service sites across the state that get an estimated 40 million visitors each year. There are 280 state park units throughout the state. The state park system also watches over 340 miles of coastline, 970 miles of lake and river frontage and 15,000 campsites.

Top trees: California has the tallest trees (redwoods), the biggest trees (giant sequoias), and the oldest trees (bristlecone pines) in the world. If you think 167 years is a long time, bristlecone pine trees are thought to be almost 5,000 years old.

Plenty of bling: We have a lot of gold, and we show it off. Our official motto became The Golden State in 1968. In 1965 the official state mineral became gold. In 1995 the golden garibaldi became the state fish, and our state flower is the golden poppy.

Well traveled: California is the state most visited by people from other states, according to a study done in 2014 by HotelsCombined. The study measured more than 87,000 hotel bookings from all 50 states.

Brain gain: According to Thebestschools.org, California has three of the best schools in the world. Stanford, UC Berkeley and Caltech are in the top 10.

Long in the tooth: We have an official state fossil: the saber-toothed cat. Smilodon californicus was common in California 40 million years ago.

Highs and lows: We have the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin. It is about 84 miles from the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S., Mount Whitney (14,505 feet). Death Valley also holds the record for hottest temperature recorded in the world, 134 degrees.

A few aging lines: In 1850, 27 counties were created in California; there are 58 today. Early on most of Southern California was known as San Diego County, and Los Angeles County was about twice the size as it is today. San Bernardino County was created in 1953, Ventura County in 1872 and Orange County in 1889. Riverside County was the second-to-last county created, in 1893, followed by Imperial County in 1907.

Wise choices: We have a Roman god on our state seal: Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and war. When the state seal was designed in 1950, the designers claimed that just as Minerva sprung full-grown from the head of Jupiter, California became a state without having to go through a territorial stage.

How it all began: In 1849, leaders from around the future state met in Monterey to draft the first constitution. The wording was approved on Nov. 13 of that year by a vote of 12,064 to 811. Peter Burnett was elected governor, and in January, 1850, the Legislature began its first two-year session.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, California Parks and Recreation, California State Library; California Secretary of State’s office; California Department of Finance; Statutes of California; California State Association of Counties.

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