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Oil was discovered at Signal Hill

In 1921 a large oil field was discovered at Signal Hill, just outside of Long Beach. During this decade oil wells were being drilled throughout southern California, though as many of them proved to be dry as were oil-filled. But the discovery at Signal Hill, as well as at nearby Santa Fe Springs and in Huntington Beach near Los Angeles, was vastly larger than any other. The national monopoly, Standard Oil Company, had been broken into different companies. One of these companies, Shell Oil Company, won the exclusive rights to develop the Signal Hill area.

Signal Hill was so named because both the Indians and the Spanish colonists used the 300-foot-tall hill for signaling, the Indians signaling to Catalina Island and the Spanish signaling to their passing ships. By 1922 there were 265 wells on Signal Hill producing 244,000 barrels of oil each day. In 1924, as a whole California was producing oil worth over $333,292,000. This revenue was so great that it upset oil prices across the United States. Throughout the decade of the 1920s California led the nation in oil production. Although oil continued to be an important part of the California economy, by the 1930s Texas and Louisiana had surpassed California in oil production. By the end of that decade California was importing more oil than it pumped.

T. Claude Ryan began first American passenger airline company with service between San Diego and Los Angeles

The year 1922 witnessed the arrival of a new technology and a new industry in California: airplane travel. In that year Tubal Claude Ryan, an airplane manufacturer born in Kansas but raised in southern California, founded Ryan Flying Company in San Diego. This was the first company to offer daily, year-round passenger service in the United States, with flights between San Diego and Los Angeles.

The demand for service was high, and the company thrived. Ryan Flying Company was chosen to design and build the Spirit of Saint Louis, the plane that Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in 1927. His record-breaking achievement, the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean nonstop, made both Lindbergh and the Spirit of Saint Louis famous worldwide. In 1928 Ryan Flying Company became Ryan Aeronautical Company, an important manufacturer of military planes and equipment for the U. S. Air Force. They built the first jet to take off vertically.

Dam collapsed in San Francisquito Canyon causing the death of approximately 450 people

On March 12, 1928, the San Francisquito Canyon Dam collapsed, releasing a large amount of water into the narrow Santa Clara Valley. When it hit the town of Santa Paula, 50 miles away, the crest was still 25 feet high. It devastated the city, killing over 400 people and causing property damage estimated at millions of dollars.

The dam was part of the Owens River Aqueduct, a disputed project of 1908 which diverted water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. There had been serious protests over the aqueduct, including some residents who used dynamite to create blasts along the route. However, after an investigation, it was determined that the dam collapsed due to faulty building rather than sabotage. It had been anchored to a weak rock formation which had given way under the pressure, taking down the entire 180-foot-high dam. If the planners of the dam had had advice from geologists familiar with the rock formations in the area, the disaster could have been avoided.

California resident Herbert Hoover was elected President of the U.S.

In November of 1928, Herbert Hoover became the first Californian to be elected President of the United States. Although he was born in Iowa, Hoover moved to California as a young man and graduated with the first class from Stanford University. He was a mining engineer and an expert on minerals. After World War I he aided the many Americans stranded in Europe, and then headed an organization which provided food and clothing to Belgian and French citizens who had lost their homes during the war. He served as U. S. Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and then became the Republican candidate for President.

His presidency was marked primarily by the stock market collapse that began the Great Depression, which happened in October 1929, less than one year after he took office. He took only limited steps to improve the economy, following his belief in "rugged individualism," and his reaction was seen as hard and uncaring. When a number of unemployed veterans marched on Washington to demand compensation from the government, he sent in the Army to clear them out. These actions resulted in his being soundly defeated in the election of 1932. The house on the Stanford campus where Hoover and his wife lived now serves as the official residence of the president of Stanford University.


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