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Regional definitions vary from source to source. The states shown in dark red are usually included, while all or portions of the striped states may or may not be considered part of the Pacific states.

The Pacific States form one of the nine geographic divisions within the United States that are officially recognized by that country's census bureau. There are five states in this division — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington — and, as its name suggests, they all have coastlines on the Pacific Ocean (and are the only American states that border that ocean). The Pacific States division is one of two divisions that are located within the United States Census Bureau's Western region; the other Western division is the Mountain States.

Despite being slotted into the same region by the Census Bureau, the Pacific and Mountain divisions are vastly different from one another in many vital respects, most notably in the arena of politics; while nearly all of the Mountain states are regarded as being conservative "red states", four of the five of the Pacific states except Alaska are clearly counted among the liberal "blue states." Indeed, the other division with which residents of the Pacific States are seen as most closely self-identifying is New England, where many of the Pacific States' seminal settlers actually hailed from: Portland, Oregon was named after Portland, Maine, and according to the 1980s-era bestseller Dress For Success, businessmen in San Francisco display virtually identical sartorial preferences as their counterparts in Boston.



The Northwest Coast of the Early and Middle Holocene of prehistory consists of the Pacific coastline from the mouth of Copper River in Alaska to the Klamath 6uty River in northern California. The forager societies mainly consisted of hunter-gatherers whose most popular source of food was salmon. The people of this time and place lived in planked houses that were small, and rectangular in shape. As the population of the Northwest Coast grew, social hierarchies were formed. Leadership was often given to shamans or kin leaders. They also had people low enough in their society to be enslaved. A factor in the size of the population was that of temperature. Within the last 5000 years, temperature has fluctuated greatly, bringing on the Medieval Warm Period as well as the Little Ice Age.

In 1769 southern California was occupied by Spanish colonists sent to establish outposts to protect Mexico from advancing Russian traders. Within a decade a line of forts and mission stations had been established from San Diego to San Francisco Bay. The Indians were gathered around the missions and were taught farming and ranching along with the Roman Catholic religion. New England vessels called to trade for hides and tallow, the only nonperishable items that the missions produced.

In 1824 California became a state of the new Mexican Republic. Between 1834 and 1836 the Mexican government secularized the missions, and the state was divided into large ranches, many owned by emigrants from the United States. The power of Mexico City over California was never very great. Consequently in 1846 the Americans revolted and established the California Republic before they learned of the outbreak of the U.S.-Mexican War. In January 1848, gold was discovered in the stream gravels of central California, and by 1849 the trickle of American immigration became a flood—the gold rush was on. Prospective miners came overland, by way of the Isthmus of Panama and by the long voyage around Cape Horn in such numbers that California's population grew from 92,000 in 1850 to 380,000 in 1860. California became a state in 1850.


Development of the Pacific Northwest

Meanwhile in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) a different type of economy was developing. By the end of the 18th century Russian traders from Alaska and New England captains were buying sea otter skins from the coastal Indians. These tribes, who lived well by salmon fishing and hunting, were much more advanced than the Indians of southern California. To deal with them, American fur traders in 1811 established Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, and in 1825 the Hudson's Bay Company extended its Canadian trading network to Fort Vancouver (now Vancouver, Washington) on the north bank of the Columbia.

The fur traders carried east the news that the Willamette Valley of Oregon was a lush farming country. The first large group of settlers, following the Oregon Trail pioneered by the fur traders, reached Oregon in 1843. The ownership of the Oregon Country was disputed with Great Britain until in 1846 the boundary was fixed on the 49th parallel. Trade by boat soon started with American settlements in California, and many Oregon farms were stocked with California cattle, sheep, and fruit trees. During the gold rush, Oregon foodstuffs and lumber found a ready market in central California.

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