10 Reasons Why California is Called the Golden State

Author: Jason Coles

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California is the same as pretty much all other U.S. states in the sense that it has an official state nickname, as well as other state symbols that represent the state historically and presently.

The nickname that comes to mind when you mention California is the official and most historically significant “Golden State”, but how and why did this nickname get adopted? Well, typically U.S. states adopt nicknames for what they are most famous for, and this certainly applied to California in 1968 when it officially became the “Golden State”.

There are many reasons and theories as to why California is called “Golden”, and we will be dissecting each of them to truly understand why California has been named this for such a long time.

Reasons Why California is the Golden State

There are many solid reasons and theories why California is called the Golden State. Each is broken down and discussed below, allowing you to make your mind up on which is the best reason. You may think that the adoption of this famous state nickname results from a collaborative effort of all of them!

1. The Gold Rush

The most popular and main reason why California is called the Golden State stems from the North American Gold Rush, which took place when gold was first discovered in California in 1848.

Shortly after the discovery of gold within the area, the state’s population grew from 14,000 people to 250,000 in a little under four years!

People came to the state from all over with the ambition to make millions from gold, and funnily enough, many people still move to the state each year to make a fortune, just from different means nowadays.

Gold is massively significant within the state, helping build its wealth and fortune, which in return, built one of the most stable and wealthy economies in the world, not just in the United States.

You probably won’t be surprised to know that gold is the official state mineral of California, and the state motto is “Eureka, I have found it,” which again, pays homage to the California Gold Rush and the people who dedicated their lives to finding gold within the state.

The first time gold appeared in a California symbol was on the state seal in 1949 due to mathematician Archimedes exclaiming it after he discovered how to determine the purity of gold.

2. Golden Poppies

California is home to a plethora of golden poppies, which certainly adds to the list of reasons why the state is known as the “Golden State.” Golden poppies are the official state flower and have been since 1903.

They go by a few different names – California sunlight, California poppy, flame flower, and a cup of gold. Not to mention they are beautiful flowers, too, boasting a cup shape with a silky smooth texture and four classic poppy petals sporting yellow, red, and orange colorations.

California Poppy Day is a hugely celebrated time that takes place between May 13 and May 18. The celebration is known as “Poppy Week.”

3. Golden Gate Bridge

Arguably the biggest and one of the most well-known landmarks in the entire state, the Golden Gate Bridge is an impressive piece of architecture and has become one of the biggest tourist landmarks in the nation. The bridge was built in 1930 and connects the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay.

Reasons for the name adoption are plentiful; however, when sunlight touches the bridge’s tall towers, you can see a beautiful glowing and glistening golden coloration beaming out.

4. Golden Weather

Keeping on the topic of tourism, many believe that the “Golden State” stemmed from the government trying to entice more people to come and visit the state. “Golden” is a good word to describe the weather in California due to the sun nearly always being out and also being incredibly powerful in California, leaving most residents with a year-round tan.

Something that not all states are fortunate enough to experience is consistently good weather all year round, and California certainly has this. For those living in cooler states, the thought of taking a winter break to the warmer pastures of California is pretty lucrative, and tourism has helped strengthen an already thriving economy.

So, was California called the Golden State as one big marketing ploy to attract those from colder places? Sure, it certainly could be, much like Florida being called the Sunshine State, but there is not a great deal of concrete evidence to support this one.

5. Golden Sunsets

Typically in California, the summers are both very warm and also very dry, which is fantastic for outdoor living as the state is situated on the west coast and is surrounded by an abundance of beautiful beaches. The Californian sunsets, specifically when viewed from a beach and over city skylines, are some of the most glorious in the world.

This is super attractive for residents and tourists, which has helped boost the state’s popularity over the past several years. In the Golden State, the sun typically sets over the Pacific Ocean and displays a golden-yellow coloration, providing another reason to name the state “Golden.”

6. Golden Trout

The beautiful and somewhat unique golden trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita) is native to California and has been the official state fish since 1947.

It was not long ago that they were only discovered in the icy waters of the High Sierra; however, many people began growing populations in hatcheries and then distributed them across other bodies of water around the state and nation.

7. Official State Color

Another strong reason why California adopted its Golden nickname is that gold is one of the state’s official colors, as well as blue. The blue represents the sea and the sky due to both being particularly representative of the state with such good weather.

The gold color was adopted to pay homage to the Gold Rush and the state’s official mineral. These colors, however, were not made official until 1913; before this, the only showcase of these colors representing the state was for the University of California, being the school colors from 1875 until the present day.

8. California Valley Quail

California is home to an incredibly unique bird, the California Valley Quail (Laphortyx californica), which sports a gray, black, and white coloration. So, you are probably wondering what significance this bird has to the golden theme throughout California.

Well, the eggs that the California state bird produces are covered in large golden spots! Yet another significant symbol or a piece of history that can be seen as a reason or theory as to why the state is Golden! These quails typically hang around in pairs during the spring but flock during both winter and fall months.

9. Garibaldi Fish

The Hypsypops rubicundus, more commonly known as the garibaldi fish, has been the official California marine fish since 1995, but what makes this fish so special within California is that it has an orange/reddish-orange body, looking almost golden!

They typically reside in the shallow waters of the Southern California coast, from Monterey Bay to Baja California.

10. California Dogface Butterfly

Another California state symbol to make the list is the Dogface Butterfly. It was in 1972 when this beautiful butterfly became California’s official insect, and since then, many people have suggested that this is one of the main reasons behind California’s nickname adoption.

Males and females typically showcase a yellow/golden body, with the females displaying a few black spots that appear on their upper wing. The unusual yet beautiful butterfly can be found across the Sierra Nevada foothills and coastal areas.

Final Thoughts

Most U.S. states have a nickname; however, they perhaps do not have as many reasons why they are called those nicknames as California does.

Almost every symbol or historical moment within the state relates to the color gold or the significance of the “Gold Rush” within the state. California truly is a golden place, with golden people, not to mention that it is one of the most economically stable states with thousands of California small businesses, which has certainly put it on the map by the presence of gold within the state.

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Jason Coles

Jason Coles is the Founder of Foreign USA and its Chief Content Writer and Editor. Recognized as a prolific business plan writer by many prominent immigration attorneys in the U.S., Jason has written over 1,200 business plans over the past 16+ years for start-ups looking to establish and expand their footprint in the United States.