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Federal law placed a ten-year ban on Chinese immigration

Early in the 1880s, federal legislators banned Chinese immigration to California. Hostility toward the Chinese had been running high for over a decade, as many of the rich landowners hired Chinese labor to work in the gold mines and then later on the railroads. The Chinese were paid less than American labor because they had no legal protection under the race-biased laws of the era. Californiaís legislators had tried to exclude the Chinese through local and state laws but failed because they violated federal laws such as the Fourteenth Amendment or the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

In 1878 California pressure convinced Congress to enact the Fifteen Passengers Bill which set a 15-person quota on Chinese immigrant boats. President Rutherford B. Hayes vetoed it, but a later law which prevented all Chinese immigration for ten years was signed by President Chester A. Arthur in 1882. The situation eased late in the 1880s, when the California economy improved and unemployment declined. Even then, although the Chinese government protested the law, the U.S. extended it for another ten years in 1892, and in 1901 the exclusion was made permanent. It was not repealed until World War II, when China became an American ally.

Real estate boom occurred in southern California

In the early part of the 1880s, southern California began to experience a real estate boom which would last well into the next decade. The boom produced not only a rise in the value of land, but an enormous increase in immigration. Towns began to spring up all over the area; from January 1887 to July 1889, over 60 new towns were plotted. Some towns were perched precariously on hillsides.

California had long had a reputation for a healthy climate, and now with oranges flourishing and railroads for transportation, farming and business also worked well. Real estate speculators from the Midwest flocked to the region and started advertising campaigns for the land they bought. By 1887 land speculation produced sales of over $200 million, according to some estimates. The city of Los Angeles went from a population of 11,183 in 1880 to over 50,000 at the end of the decade. This was the beginning of the move of the center of population from the north to the south of the state.

William Randolph Hearst became publisher of the San Francisco Examiner

In 1887, William Randolph Hearst became the executive editor of the San Francisco Examiner. He was born to a wealthy family in San Francisco in 1863, the son of U.S. Senator George Hearst, who made his fortune in the Nevada mines. William Randolph attended Harvard University, then returned to San Francisco to manage the family-owned paper. Despite his young age, he quickly gained a reputation for the Examiner through his willingness to invest large sums of his fatherís money. He made quite a fortune, expanding his chain nationally and internationally to eventually include thirteen magazines, over thirty newspapers, and several radio stations and movie studios.

For a time Hearst lived in New York and was active in politics there. He was a conservative supporter of business and opposed labor unions and government control. His newspapers supported the Spanish-American War (1897-98), though he was an isolationist, wanting the U.S. to avoid foreign wars. At his death in 1951, Hearst gave to the state much of his $35 million estate, San Simeon, where he had collected many valuable works of art, including entire sections of castles shipped from Europe. Citizen Kane is a fictionalized film account of his life.

Edward Duplex was elected mayor of Wheatland and became California's first African-American mayor

Edward Parker Duplex was a member of a prominent family of free blacks in Connecticut, but in the 1850s he left for California, having heard of the excellent climate and opportunities to make wealth. Despite the racism that ran rampant in California at the time, Duplex settled in Marysville and became active in civil rights affairs. In 1888 he was elected mayor of Wheatland, a small town near Fresno which would become famous as the site of migrant-labor riots in the 1910s. He thus became the first African-American to be a mayor in California, or in any western American state.

He was preceded in one sense, however, by Francisco Reyes.† Reyes was an African-American who became alcalde of Los Angeles, a position equivalent to being mayor, in 1784 when it was a Spanish pueblo (town).


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