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California, the largest and most important of the Pacific Coast States, is the second State of the United States in point of area, and the twenty-first in point of population. It is bounded on the north by the State of Oregon; on the east by the State of Nevada and, for a comparatively short distance, by the Territory of Arizona; on the south by the Peninsula of Lower California (Mexico); and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. It lies entirely between 42° and 32° N. lat., and between 12°5 and 11°3 W. long. It is 800 miles long, running in a north-westerly and south-easterly direction, and has an average width of 200 miles. According to the official returns of the United States Census of 1900, its total area is 158,360 square miles. Of this number 2,188 square miles constitute the water area; the total land area, therefore, is 156,172 square miles. The capital of the State is Sacramento, with a population (1900) of 29,000. San Francisco, built on San Francisco Bay, is the metropolis, with a population (1900) of 342,000. The other chief cities, with a population according to the United States Census of 1900, are Los Angeles, 102,000; Oakland, 66,000; San José, 21,000; San Diego, 17,000; Stockton, 17,000; Alameda, 17,000; Berkeley and Fresno, 12,000. These figures have been enormously increased since 1900. The estimated population of the three largest cities in January, 1907, was as follows: San Francisco, 400,000; Oakland, 276,000; and Los Angeles, 245,000.


The State presents two systems of mountains which converge at Mount Shasta, in the north, and Tehachapi, in the south. The outer, or western, range is called the Coast Range, and is close to the sea, in some places coming down precipitately to the water's edge; the eastern range is called the Sierra Nevada. The latter is considerably higher than the former, and in several peaks reaches a height of more than 14,000 feet. The Sierra Nevadas extend along the eastern border of the State for about 450 miles; they are but a portion, physically, of the Cascade Range, which traverses also the States of Oregon and Washington. The Sierra Nevada Range is practically unbroken throughout the entire length of the State of California, the Coast Range is broken by the magnificent harbour of San Francisco. Both of these ranges follow the general contour of the coast line. Between them lies a great valley which is drained by the Sacramento River in the north and the San Joaquin River in the south. These two rivers, navigable by steamers for about 100 miles from their mouth in San Francisco Bay, constitute a great parent water-system of California, and both empty into the harbour of San Francisco, which is situated approximately midway between the northern and southern extremities of the State. The Sierra Nevada Mountains form the great watershed from which are fed most of the rivers and streams of California. The combined valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin rivers are approximately 500 miles long, and have an average width of 50 miles. This area, the surface of which is quite level, is one of the most fertile regions in the world.

In addition to those already mentioned, the divisions of the mountain ranges form numerous smaller valleys. The principal of these are Sonoma, Napa, Ukiah, Vaca, Contra Costa, and Alameda valleys in the north; and Santa Clara, Pajaro, and Salinas valleys in the south. South of the Tehachapi Range, in Southern California, is another low-lying stretch of country which has become the centre of the citrus industry and the home of a large variety of semi-tropical fruits. In the south-eastern part of the State and east of the mountains is the low-lying desert region consisting of the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. Owing to the great height of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and their comparative proximity to the sea, the numerous streams, fed from their glaciers and perpetual snows, afford abundant water-power throughout their steep descent to the sea. This power is utilized for generating light and operating mills and factories.

California has one of the finest harbours in the world, San Francisco Bay, capable of accommodating the combined navies of the world. There are five other bays forming good harbours, San Diego, San Pedro, Humboldt, Santa Barbara, and Monterey bays. The 800 miles of California's length from north to south are equal to the combined length of ten States on the Atlantic seaboard; the northern line of California is on the same latitude as Boston, and the southern line is that of Savannah, Georgia. The entire state is subject to the beneficent influence of the Japan Current. The climate is equable; except in the high mountains, snow and the extremes of cold, experienced in the same latitudes on the Atlantic Coast, are unknown. There are, in reality, but two seasons: the wet and the dry. the wet or rainy season lasts from about September to April, during which the rains are occasional, alternating with clear weather. During the entire summer the winds from the west and south-west blow over the coast, keeping the weather cool, and not infrequently bringing in cold fogs towards evening. But it is chiefly in the balminess of its winters that the climate of California excels. It is never too cold to work outdoors, and the citrus fruits, semi-tropical as they are, grow to perfection throughout the valleys of California. The records of the climate left by early Franciscan missionaries who evangelized California are duplicated by those of the Government Weather Bureau of today.


The population of California, according to the United States Census of 1900, is 1,485,053, or 9.5 per square mile. This figure constitutes an increase of 22.7 percent upon the population of 1890. The following table, taken from the United States Census of 1900, exhibits the population of California in each census year since its admission into the Federal Union, its rank among the States in point of population, and the percentage of increase in its population during the period of ten years between each census:


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Bibliography Information
Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'California'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.

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