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Southern California History and Growth

September 21, 1998

In the 1700s, Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola named many rivers, mountains and valleys as he traveled and made maps of Southern California. That dusty route he took is now the multi-lane Interstate 5. As Southern California's population grows, its history can help us understand our current situation and give us clues into the future. To learn how Southern California has changed over the years, use the direct links on The Times Launchpoint Web site:

Level 1

History of Orange County: The push to found Orange County in 1889 was fueled in part because local residents were frustrated by having only one bridge to cross the Santa Ana River. Find out the stories behind many of O.C.'s cities through this account that has photos from the 1800s to the present day.

Santa Clarita Valley History in Pictures: Santa Clarita Valley has the world's oldest existing oil refinery and was the location for Westerns featuring Tom Mix, John Wayne and Gene Autry. Read first-person narratives and thumb through archival photos in this extensive historical collection.

Postcards from San Diego Communities: Step into the past by viewing old postcards from 37 San Diego County communities.

Level 2

The Malibu Story: "The red planked canoes swung right and proceeded up the lagoon" begins this tale of the first Malibu residents, the Chumash Indians, and continues on with the Spanish land grant settlers, the artists and designers of the Malibu potteries, and the film stars of the Malibu movie colony.

Irvine: A History of Innovation and Growth: The planned community of Irvine was once the scene where two men bet their fortunes on the outcome of a single horse race. Learn more about Irvine's colorful past in this online book with nearly 200 photographs.

Historic Anaheim: Discover the stories behind Disneyland, "googie" architecture, famed actress Helena Modjeska and more in this wide-ranging set of essays.

Level 3

San Diego History: San Diego County had its own gold rush in the 1870s, with $500,000 worth of gold extracted from the Julian-Banner mines in a single year. Explore San Diego's history through articles, photo tours and oral histories, including the chance to see steroscopic views of early San Diego in 3-D.

Los Angeles: Past Present and Future: Los Angeles has been a multicultural city from its inception in 1771. Its first residents were of Spanish, Native American and African heritage. This site provides comprehensive resources for uncovering L.A.'s rich history and culture.

Historical Resources in Southern California: Discover the history of your own hometown through this list of state and regional history sites.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This week's column was designed by Anna Manring.



Which transcontinental railroad enabled Southern California farmers to sell their produce across the country?

CLUE: See Historic Anaheim

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 50 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: The ability to switch gears made it possible for cars to drive up hills; before this development, early cars would come to a standstill and then roll backward.

For more information on how today's topic affects Orange County, see the Beyond 2000 story on A1.

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