Why Is California Called the Golden State?

Marjorie McAtee

California is most likely known as The Golden State because gold has played a significant role in the state's history. Some residents of the state also point to the golden poppy, a native flower that can often be found growing abundantly throughout the state. Many believe that the Spaniards who originally led the colonization of the region named it after a fictional El Dorado described in Spanish literature. In 1848, a worker named James Marshall discovered real gold in the Golden State, leading to the California gold rush. The discovery of gold in California led to the state's being labeled "The El Dorado State" for a time, and its reputation as a land of both mineral and agriculture riches has led some to refer to it as "The Land of Milk and Honey."

A 19th century gold rush contributed to the growth of California's population.
A 19th century gold rush contributed to the growth of California's population.

It is believed that California has had a reputation for its gold deposits since the 16th century, when the area was colonized by Ortuno Ximenez and Hernando Cortez, two Spanish explorers looking for gold in the New World. Gold was discovered in the state on 24 January 1848, by James Marshall, who was building a saw mill on the American River. Marshall's discovery came just days before the finish of the Mexican-American War, and the cession of California to the United States via the Treaty of Guadalupe. Soon after, the California gold rush began, filling The Golden State with prospectors hoping to make their fortune. The population boom meant that California was able to became a state not long after, on 9 September 1850.

Sunsets over the Pacific Coast of the Golden State are often beautifully yellow in color.
Sunsets over the Pacific Coast of the Golden State are often beautifully yellow in color.

The state of California's legislative body made "The Golden State" an official nickname in 1968, based on the state's long association with gold. These associations can be found throughout the state's cultural history, and in its natural scenery. The name of the Golden Gate Bridge is said to be derived from the state's history as a source of the precious metal. Sunsets over the Pacific Coast of the Golden State are often beautifully yellow in color. The state's official flower symbol, the golden poppy, can be found growing in abundance throughout the region, and can be said to lend a golden hue to the state's meadows, fields, and hillsides.

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California officially became "The Golden State" in 1968.
California officially became "The Golden State" in 1968.

Older state nicknames, such as "The Land of Milk and Honey" or "The El Dorado State" have presumably been used to encourage travel, tourism, and settlement in the area. These nicknames are said to reflect California's reputation as a land of endless wealth and abundance. The nickname "The Grape State" has also been used, in reference to California's status as one of the nation's leading producers of grapes and wine.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge was named in reference to California's history of the gold rush.
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge was named in reference to California's history of the gold rush.

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Discussion Comments


Even without the yellow metal, "Golden State" is a good name because the hills all turn golden in the summer.


I would really like to really know why the state legislature picked the moniker of the Golden State for California in the 1960's as Hollywood had pretty much taken over the image of California by that time.

I understand that it is a nod to the history from the beginning, but that was well over one hundred years before and the state had grown considerably since then, to the point that it was unique compared to other cities in the world.

I really think they should have given a nod to Hollywood or something to do with the West Coast, seeing that this state basically represents the western part of the nation.

I would just really like to know the back story behind this decision, the people behind it, and the discussion that came along with it.


@stl156 - You are correct. It is very interesting to see that California has changed so much over the years.

Despite this change the state legislature still chose to call California the Golden State as a tribute to the people that founded the state and the reason for such a migration.

The migration to California epitomized the move west. Before the Gold Rush the West was largely unknown and there was very little thought to be out there, however California completely changed all that and caused the nation to begin to look west as the future for the growth of the nation.

California led the charge of western discovery and this is something that makes them keep their legacy as being more or less what people think of when the think of Western America.


@JimmyT - You are absolutely correct. Although the state is known for much different things today, the state was originally founded on people looking to make a name for themselves and strike it rich.

Most people did not strike it rich, but because they already had moved there, they realized the abundant natural resources that California had to offer and they were able to carve out a living in the area.

What I find to be so interesting is that the state of California experienced two population growths in their history, one during the Gold Rush and the second in the early 20th century as the area became more industrialized and commercialized with Hollywood being a major boost in the economy.


Well this has to be one of the simplest answers to an article question I have seen on here. The fact that California is called the Golden State should come as a surprise to no one as the state itself was founded on the finding of gold and the ensuing rush across the nation to stake claim in this rich area.

It is actually incredible that the largest state in the Union today started out so small and grew so fast because of one simple discovery.

One can say that the state itself was founded on people's greed, and then the people that moved there became full time residents of the state, taking advantage of all that the state has to offer and eventually molding the state into what it is today.

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