California, the Last Frontier

By Robert Durrenberger; G. Etzel Pearcy et al. | Go to book overview
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6
Migrants and Migrations

For the first time in the world's history pleasant living conditions -- amenities -- instead of more narrowly defined economic advantages are becoming the sparks that generate significant population increase, particularly in the United States. In spite of the handicaps of remote location and economic isolation, the fastest-growing states are California, Arizona and Florida. The new "frontier" of America is thus a frontier of comfort, in contrast with the traditional frontier of hardship. Treating this pull of amenities puts me, I realize, in the company of promoters and the traditionally uninformed, but if I make myself one with them, it is for new and valid reasons.1

WHY do people continue to come to California? Is it really pleasant living conditions as Professor Ullman suggests, or are economic advantages really the magnet which lures people away from their homes, relatives, and friends? What do they see here that makes them cross oceans and continents to settle in a new land? California has always meant different things to different people, and the problem of sifting fact from fiction has always been a difficult one. Early Spanish explorers very probably expected to find riches along her shores, only to discover a relatively primitive Indian society occupying a semiarid coastal realm.

Most Americans coming in the Gold Rush Period expected to become rich virtually overnight. In 1852, the peak year of gold production, over 100,000 miners were able to extract $83,000,000 from the ground. If divided among them, this figures out to be

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1
Edward Ullmann, "Amenities as a Factor in Regional Growth", The Geographical Review, 44 ( January, 1954), 119-132.

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