California’s yesteryears: Admitted as a state in September 1850 |

California’s yesteryears: Admitted as a state in September 1850

Donna Reynolds
Special to The Union

The news traveled so much slower back in the day is obviated by the fact that although California had achieved statehood, having been admitted on Sept. 9, 1850, those who lived within the boundaries of the 31st State would be left completely in the dark regarding this happenstance until Oct. 18, 1850.

The glorious news, that citizens hereabouts had been champing at the bit to hear, did not arrive via the internet, nor by televised news report; telephone; or telegraph, for all such forms of such new-fangled mass media were, simply, non-existent.

The news was instead conveyed by the ship Oregon. Captain Patterson at the helm, had seen fit to display, among other decorations, a large banner bearing the words “CALIFORNIA IS ADMITTED.”

And with that the joyous news would spread. The normalities of daily living were instantly cast aside, as the elated citizenry were instead delightfully engaged in cheerful revelry and impromptu celebration. Today, we are not left to merely imagine the excitement, for we can travel back to California’s yesteryears, through newspaper accounts, for which we should be eternally thankful. Following are some clippings which heralded the news to California’s pioneers:





We have no longer to introduce our foreign news with the display line “California not Admitted.” We congratulate our citizens that that day is passed. The California Admission Bill passed the Senate August 13th, by the decisive vote of 33 yeas to 16 nays, and the House on Sept. 7th, by 150 yeas to 57 nays. So that We can announce to our citizens that California is one of the THIRTY-ONE UNITED STATES!

The Texas bill passed September 6th. On the 5th Sept. the New Mexico bill was added to the Texas bill by a vote of 106 to 99. It passed, therefore, with the Texas bill on Sept. 6th.

The Utah Bill passed the Senate; Aug. 1st, by a vote of 32 to 18, and the House; Aug. 7th, by a vote of 97 to 85.

These bills were all signed by President Fillmore on Sept. 9th., so that we can announce that the fearful ordeal is passed, the difficulties are settled, California is a State, Utah and New Mexico are territories, and the disturbance between Texas and the United States is settled. Our Senators are pushing matters, and we trust that much will be done for us before Congress adjourns,

The Oregon, Capt. Patterson, arrived at San Francisco on Friday morning. She made the trip in the unusually short time of 17 days. She sailed into the harbor gaily decked with flags, and announcing the admission of the State by the firing of guns. Hung among the flags, was a large announcement with the words “CALIFORNIA IS ADMITTED” upon it. She brings a large mail and one hundred and sixty-nine passengers. Her dates from the United States are to the 13th ult.

The Oregon proceeded: to Saucelito previous to anchoring, and informed the squadron of the admission of California.

The Oregon brings 138 passengers from Panama, and 15 from San Blas.

We give the following abstract of news furnished to the Alta California and California Courier:

Oregon arrived at Panama Sept. 19th, stopped at five ports.

Oregon left Oct. 1st. Passed Antelope Oct. 2d. Saw nothing of the Warren. Had heavy head winds and sea to Acapulco. The O. passed steamer Ecuador Oct. 8, 2 p. m Arrived at Acapulco Oct. 8. Found 25 sail of vessels in port.

Oregon left Acapulco at 1 p.m., Oct. 9th, passed a bark with passengers (probably with passengers from San; Francisco) beating in. Also a bark standing in with loss of topmasts — appeared deep, probably with coal.

A good deal of sickness among the shipping — health on shore. Cholera said to be at San Blas. Passed a steamer with two masts, on morning of 12th, 100 S. E. of Cape San Lucas, supposed to be the New Orleans.

At San Diego, 16, U. S. steamer Massachusetts, with Army and Navy Commissioners on board; had finished work, and were to sail for San Francisco on the 21st. On the 17th, in Santa Barbara channel, passed a vessel’s light — supposed the propeller Carolina.

A constant succession of fresh headwinds throughout the passage.

At Monterey, at 2 a.m., on the 18th inst., fired salute of 21 guns, upon receipt of news of admission.

We learn from the Alta, that the Oregon’s mail filled one hundred and thirty nine large bags, the largest ever brought to California in one vessel.

There was of course great excitement at San Francisco on the reception of the news of our admission. The Herald says, that 5000 dollars were collected, for the purpose of getting up a grand ball to celebrate the occasion. There were public rejoicings over the admission of our State, at Washington, Baltimore and New York, and throughout the United States the feeling is universal.

Hon. John Bidwell who Arrived in the Oregon, described the excitement in the States, as little less enthusiastic than that here.

EXCITEMENT AT SAN FRANCISCO. — When the steamer came in bearing the news, flags were hoisted, crowds collected, and business was for the moment suspended, until the details could be learned. The Herald says:

“An impromptu gathering of citizens immediately assembled on Portsmouth Square, when a patriotic tar, named William Redmond, from Portland, Me., climbed the Liberty Pole, and adjusting the cords, gave the stars and stripes to the breeze. As it reached its place, it was saluted with enthusiastic cheers by the multitude; when it was lowered and an additional star, dedicated to the Eureka State, was affixed and on its elevation, it was greeted with renewed shouts. Nine cheers were given for Henry Clay, and several others were similarly applauded. The enthusiasm was general — all classes and nations seemed to unite in rejoicing.

Later in the afternoon, a salute of thirty-one guns was fired on the Plaza by a detachment of men from the revenue cutter Lawrence, Capt..Frazier, which was the signal for frequent discharges of every variety of arms during the remainder of the evening.

— Sacramento Transcript – Mon. Oct. 21, 1850


The news of the admission of California, arrived in the New World, on Saturday morning last about half past three o’clock. It was announced by the firing of guns, and through the efforts of an individual, who with commendable public spirit, mounted a caballo and dashed up one street and down another, using his stentorian lungs to arouse the citizens from their sleep to a realization of their actual condition, as members of the recognized STATE OF CALIFORNIA.

At first, as one after another of our citizens arose, one could hear single voices, raising with ludicrous distinctness, from we know not what back steps, three cheers for the United States. We were reminded of Chanticleer sending his responsive voice to his various mates in the village. We heard one who, having started from a sound sleep, went so far in the confused enthusiasm of the moment, as to shout nine cheers. It did not take long for those who were awakened to arouse their friends, and what with the bonfires which were forthwith lit on the Levee and J street, the reports of guns and pistols, the cries of the news-boys who immediately on the arrival of the steamer, ran through the City with “Here’s your Extras — California admitted — here’s your papers — Queen Victoria has got another baby,” the shoutings in the streets, and the “thousand drinks”’ of congratulation, the town was well alive long before sunrise.

Men stood around the bonfires reading the news by their light, and a preliminary meeting was agreed upon to take place at the Recorder’s office at half past nine A.M., to decide upon an appropriate public demonstration on the reception of the news. A report of this meeting will be found in another column. Such was the feeling that in the forenoon, before the popular Auctioneer, R. N. Berry Esqr., commenced his sale, the crowd around this store raised nine cheers for California and the Union. Whereupon Mr. Berry expressed his patriotism by freely opening baskets of Champagne. There were many who gave up the day to rejoicing, and by night, they were just ready to enter with spirit upon the festivities of the evening.

The whole town were in excitement; every one felt that it was a time for rejoicing and jubilee. Amongst the rest, the illumination of the Crescent City Hotel was pre-eminently beautiful and brilliant. It was from top to bottom one blaze of light. Not only were all the windows thick studded with candles, but the balcony in front and the tasteful shaded observatory upon the roof of the house, were hung with lights. Banners floated from the top and front of the Hotel, and we noticed one monster banner, which, hanging out into the street from a pole extended from the top of the house, almost swept the ground. Huge bonfires were lit along the Levee and in other parts of the city — crowds were in the streets and saloons — and what is strange, the places of public amusement were also full. Mrs. Mestayer’s benefit was a bumper. One of our citizens threw his bar open to the public.

Thousands of persons were collected at the Mass Meeting on the Levee, foot of J street, a report of which is in another column; and the Universal Yankee Nation in Sacramento vented its patriotism, as usual, by pyrotechnic explosions and displays of the larger and lesser degree. While the Mass Meeting was being holden, cannonading commenced on the opposite bank of the river. The patriotic citizens of Washington fired their thirty-one, and a most magnificent bon fire lit up the Levee houses of their town. The Levee on our side, around the Mass Meeting, was rendered as light as day by a huge bon fire which sent its red light far around. The meeting was enthusiastic, and the whole town felt that the long looked for event had at last taken place — that the claims had been recognized of the STATE OF CALIFORNIA.

We are admitted! It is no time now for us to speculate on the probable results of our admission. A season at least must be given up for rejoicing. We thank God that the event has arrived! that our country has emerged from the dark and dangerous pass, and that all is prosperous in the future! We congratulate our citizens that California is no longer neglected — that she takes her position among the most influential of the thirty-one United States. Her boundaries as she formed them, her sea coast as she claims it, her constitution as untramelled she made it, her government as she elected it, her laws as she created them, all, all are recognized. She has not been insulted by having a division of her territory demanded of her, a repeal of any of her laws, a single alteration of her Constitution. Whatever she has done has been declared right and legal. She is no longer without representation. Her Senators and Representatives have taken their seats; their voice has been heard in the halls of Congress, their votes have been deposited among those of their peers; and the new State of California has been received with great rejoicings by the citizens of her sister States from Maine to Texas.

— Sacramento Transcript – Mon. Oct. 21, 1850

AS IT SHOULD BE. — We learn from the Herald that on the arrival of the steamer Oregon from Panama, with the intelligence of the admission of California into the Union, the first guns fired on the occasion, were from the British barque Novelty, of Liverpool, Capt. Harrison.

— Sacramento Transcript – Mon. Oct. 21, 1850

Donna Reynolds is a volunteer at the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research. For more on California admission to the United States, see this story at

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