California: Industrialization and Increased Settlement

Industrialization and Increased Settlement

By the turn of the century the discovery of oil, industrialization resulting from the increase of hydroelectric power, and expanding agricultural development attracted more settlers. Los Angeles grew rapidly in this period and, in population, soon surpassed San Francisco, which suffered greatly after the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Improvements in urban transportation stimulated the growth of both Los Angeles and San Francisco; the advent of the cable car and the electric railway made possible the development of previously inaccessible areas.

As industrious Japanese farmers acquired valuable land and a virtual monopoly of California's truck-farming operations, the issue of Asian immigration again arose. The bitter struggle for the exclusion of Asians plagued international relations, and in 1913 the California Alien Land Act was passed despite President Woodrow Wilson's attempts to block it. The act provided that persons ineligible for U.S. citizenship could not own agricultural land in California.

Successive waves of settlers arrived in California, attracted by a new real-estate boom in the 1920s and by the promise of work in the 1930s. The influx during the 1930s of displaced farm workers, depicted by John Steinbeck in his novel The Grapes of Wrath, caused profound dislocation in the state's economy. During World War II the Japanese in California were removed from their homes and placed in relocation centers. Industry in California expanded rapidly during the war; the production of ships and aircraft attracted many workers who later settled in the state.

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