California Since 20th Century

After the 1906 earthquake, much of San Francisco was in ruins. The inhabitants seized the opportunity to rebuild the city to deal with corrupt politicians, prostitution and inadequate facilities. The Progressive Party, which split from the Republicans in 1912, was popular in California, largely because voters were fed up with corrupt administrators. The new party also campaigned against the political power of the Southern Pacific Railway and allied itself with the relatively powerful unions in California. The unions originated in San Francisco and spread across the Central Valley and into Los Angeles in the early 20th century. They united in a political party (Union Labor Party), who briefly supplied the mayor of San Francisco. The confessional majority and the liberals saw the trade unions as a danger to the free market and strikes were sometimes dealt with harshly. Despite this, California continued to steer a progressive course: taxes were imposed on corporations, public utilities were brought under state control, and California was the first state to introduce a modern pension system. California gave women the right to vote in 1911, nine years before it became national. Behind these developments, however, were not only the unions but also groups of liberal businessmen, for whom a more powerful state protected against corrupt local governments and crime.

According to Citypopulationreview, the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad had triggered a growing influx of migrants from the eastern United States, attracted by the state’s fertile land and sunny climate. Progressive politicians such as Governor CC Young (1927–1931) stimulated economic growth by ramping up public investment. Among other things, hydroelectric power stations such as the Hoover Dam (the dam is located in Nevada but supplies southern California with power) and an extensive road network, financed by fuel taxes, were built. Construction of highways like the Lincoln Highway (1913) and Route 66(1926) made the state even more accessible to both migrants and tourists. At the same time, the Mexican Revolution (1910–1921) brought in a flood of refugees from Mexico, who were attracted by the increased prosperity and brought their leftist revolutionary ideas with them. Los Angeles in particular grew into a ” boomtown ” and would become the second largest city in the United States in terms of population. The city hosted the 1932 Olympics.

California’s appeal was enhanced by the rise of the Hollywood film industry from 1908. Inventor Philo Farnsworth (1906–1971) succeeded in making the first television broadcast in 1927. In the course of the 20th century, the wild, lawless image of the state would be replaced by the media with an image of sea, sun, sand and surf. Meanwhile, in the 1930s, a new influx of migrants emerged in the form of victims of the drought and dust bowl (Dust Bowl) in Texas, Oklahoma, and other Great Plains states.

Buildings Burning During the 1965 Los Angeles Riot

California did not escape the Great Depression, which led to social unrest. In 1934, unions managed to enforce better working conditions and wages for stevedores and dock workers with an 83-day strike. During the strike, however, there had been violent riots in San Francisco.

After the United States became involved in World War II, in 1942 President Roosevelt had hundreds of thousands of Japanese Californians imprisoned in concentration camps. Subsequent lawsuits gave rise to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gave all American citizens equal rights. Hollywood directors and actors who were banned from the film industry on suspicion of Communist sympathies filed lawsuits, leading to California courts ending McCarthyism in 1962. In the same year, agricultural workers led by union leaderCésar Chávez (1927–1993) to enforce better working conditions.

The years immediately after the war were a period of economic growth, which was again accompanied by an explosive population growth. By 1970, as a result of migration and the baby boom, California’s population had grown to nearly 20 million. Real estate traders who had bought up land during the war years saw the value of their assets rise, to the extent that real estate overtook the oil industry and agriculture as the most important sectors of the economy.

California’s left-wing image was boosted during the Summer of Love of 1967, when thousands of hippies flocked to San Francisco to listen to music and smoke weed. There was a demonstration against the Vietnam War.

The film industry’s important cultural role was confirmed when California elected former actor Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) as governor in 1966. In addition to the hippie movement, the 1960s and 1970s also saw tremendous industrial and economic growth, including the rise of Silicon Valley and the computer industry. The latter arose after the first computer was produced in 1968. California was also the birthplace of genetic engineering with the founding of Genentech in 1976.

California was also a pioneer in many ways politically. In 1978, Proposition 13 was adopted. This constitutional amendment was originally intended to curtail property tax increases, but turned out to be a structural change in the political system. With Proposition 13, California introduced a form of direct democracy, in which citizens and interest groups were given great opportunities to block unwelcome laws and tax increases through referendums. The later difficulties in balancing the state budget are largely due to this amendment. In 1994, California was one of the first states to adopt theintroduced three strikes legislation. In a referendum, 72% of the population voted in favor of this law, which stipulated that judges should always impose a life sentence if a suspect was found guilty of a crime for the third time.

Economic growth was not without its problems. The various megacities faced smog and traffic jams and once again California was a pioneer in environmental legislation, in the field of carpool lanes, cleaner fuels and catalytic converters. Social and ethnic tensions arose in the deprived migrant neighborhoods in the major cities. Dissatisfaction with discrimination and the disadvantaged position of the Hispanic and African American populations led to the 1965 riots and the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. However, Los Angeles was also once again the organizer of the1984 Summer Olympics.

Economic growth continued into the last decades of the 20th century, mainly driven by the Silicon Valley computer industry. California was hit relatively hard when the internet bubble burst at the start of the 21st century. At the height of the bubble, immigration of highly skilled technicians was actively encouraged by the state. Since then, politics has tried to make migration more difficult, but many companies have moved their activities to low-wage countries such as India and China and employment has continued to be disappointing. In 2007 there was a crash on the housing market. However, politics turned out to be too divided to intervene. As a result, the government deficit increasedand in 2009 the state was in danger of bankruptcy. Ultimately, this was prevented by Democratic and Republican politicians reaching a last-minute agreement. The state’s financial problems are not over. The government deficit is increasing every year and the economic outlook is a lot less rosy than at the turn of the century.

California Since 20th Century

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