Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February 2, 1848) that ended the war, the westernmost portion of the old Mexican territory of Alta California soon became the American state of California, and the remainder of the old territory was then subdivided into the new American Territories of Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. The lightly populated and arid lower region of old Baja California remained as a part of Mexico. In 1846, the total settler population of the western part of the old Alta California had been estimated to be no more than 8,000, plus about 100,000 Native Americans, down from about 300,000 before Hispanic settlement in 1769.[58]

In 1848, only one week before the official American annexation of the area, gold was discovered in California, this being an event which was to forever alter both the state’s demographics and its finances. Soon afterward, a massive influx of immigration into the area resulted, as prospectors and miners arrived by the thousands. The population burgeoned with United States citizens, Europeans, Chinese and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush. By the time of California’s application to the US Congress for statehood in 1850, the settler population of California had multiplied to 100,000. By 1854 over 300,000 settlers had come.[59] Between 1847 and 1870, the population of San Francisco increased from 500 to 150,000.[60] California was suddenly no longer a sparsely populated backwater, but seemingly overnight it had grown into a major US population center.

The seat of government for California under Spanish and later Mexican rule had been located in Monterey from 1777 until 1845.[45] Pio Pico, last Mexican governor of Alta California, had briefly moved the capital to Los Angeles in 1845. The United States consulate had also been located in Monterey, under consul Thomas O. Larkin.

In 1849, a state Constitutional Convention was first held in Monterey. Among the first tasks of the Convention was a decision on a location for the new state capital. The first full legislative sessions were held in San Jose (1850–1851). Subsequent locations included Vallejo (1852–1853), and nearby Benicia (1853–1854); these locations eventually proved to be inadequate as well. The capital has been located in Sacramento since 1854[61] with only a short break in 1862 when legislative sessions were held in San Francisco due to flooding in Sacramento.

Once the state’s Constitutional Convention had finalized its state constitution, it applied to the US Congress for admission to statehood. On September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, California was officially admitted into the United States as an undivided free state. Its status as a ‘free state’ prevented the expansion of slavery to the Pacific Coast, which question was then a foremost concern for the pre-Civil War US Congress. Within the state of California, Sep 9 remains as an annually celebrated legal holiday known as California Admission Day.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), California was able to send gold shipments eastwards to Washington in support of the Union cause;[62] however, due to the existence of a large contingent of pro-South sympathizers within the state, the state was not able to muster any full military regiments to send eastwards to officially serve in the Union war effort. Still, several smaller military units within the Union army were unofficially associated with the state of California, such as the “California 100 Company”, due to a majority of their members being from California.

At the time of California’s admission into the Union, travel between California and the rest of the continental United States had been a time consuming and dangerous feat. Nineteen years afterwards, in 1869, shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, a more direct connection was developed with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah. Once completed, hundreds of thousands of United States citizens were enabled to easily migrate westwards into the state.

Upon their arrival in California, the new Californians were able to discover that if irrigated during the dry summer months, that much of California was extremely well suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Vast expanses of wheat, other cereal crops, vegetable crops, cotton, and nut and fruit trees were grown (including oranges in Southern California), and the foundation was laid for the state’s prodigious agricultural production in the Central Valley and elsewhere.

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