esposearch - ideal online careers

Economic Change in California Between 1770 and 1845


California came under the control of the Spaniards in 1769, the policy of the colonisers to the Indian natives that they found here was to both civilise and Christianize them. In the process, missions, akin to semi feudal farms had to be established, thereby laying the foundation for agriculture activities in the territory (Berkovich, 2005). Later on, wealth Spaniard families would have large tracts of land distributed to them by the Spanish authorities. It is in these large estates, commonly referred to as ranchos, that large herds of cattle were raised. These, coupled with the agricultural produces, formed the basis from the establishment of trade at the south-coast of California, effectively paving way for the entry of the Americans and the Yankee entrepreneurs (Fagan, 2003). Items of trade here were tallow and hides, and these got exchanged for processed foreign items.

Economic change

For the period commencing 1784, moving on to 1846, the governors of California, of both Mexican and Spanish descent, gave huge tracts of lands to various individuals. As it were, it is the cattle herds that found their grazing lands in these large grazing estates (otherwise also referred to as ranchos) that laid the foundation of the economy of California, at least from the beginning first section of 19th century. By 1821, at a time when the Spanish Crown was defeated following the Mexican Independence War, bureaucrats from Spain looted Mexican California’s treasury, in effect leaving the territory in a state of bankruptcy.

Due to these developments, the just established Mexican government was incapacitated economically, meaning that it could not sustain its forces located to the southwest of California (Chartkoff & Chartkoff, 1984). By 1836, there were several rancheros (owners of ranches) that were in possession of large estates. The families of such wealthy estate owners were leading elegant lives, emanating from the proceeds of their vast estates. Just like the economy of California during the time of the missions, the rancho economy had its basis on grain cultivation, in addition to the raising of large cattle herds (Wilson & Ebbert, 2006).

The rancheros (owners of the large ranches) were known traders of tallow and hide. These raw materials were traded in exchange for processed goods with the foreign-based traders, along California’s coastline. Just like the practice was at the missions, slaughtering, herding, tallow rendering, hide tanning, in addition to all manual activities got accomplished by labourers of the Indian descent (Fagan, 2003). By 1945, prior to America’s acquisition, the population of non-Indians at this regions is estimated to have been at 7,000. For the period that the Mexicans were in control of the California region, there are a considerable number of minority immigrants that are believed to have flocked the territory, from the United States.

It was in the later part of the 19th century that the Americans paid their maiden visit to California. This was occasioned by a need to search for the sea otter. This is a marine animal that was much sought-after, for its luxurious pelts (Fagan, 2003).These pelts were being collected from the waters in California, and then later sold and shaped to China. Moments later, trade in tallow and hide enticed the Yankee entrepreneurs. A majority of these were later to become agents of the commercial firms in America for the region. As from 1826 moving forward (this is a period that marked the overland arrival of beaver trappers) those interior parts of California were also by now attracting Americans in growing numbers.

California missions

These are terms that are used in reference to the period from 1769 up to 1834, now what is called the state of California. At the time, Franciscans made their journey to California, with the sole intention of winning into Christianity the native tribes (Fagan, 2003). In addition, these Franciscans were also out to help the said native tribes towards adopting the societal life of Spain as well. As such, other than being taught the Spanish language and religion, these natives also learn such valuable skills as the making of bricks and construction.

Furthermore, these natives also learnt ways of raises both horses and cattle, not to mention weaving. These are activities that undoubtedly changed the economic perceptive of the region from that point moving forward. In order to learn these skills, is was necessary that the natives had to make the mission as their dwelling place, at least until such a point as they had learnt the right skills, along with a religious nourishment (Berkovich, 2005). Later, they would move pout and make their homes, away from the missions. By and by, the mission recorded prosperity after prosperity.

As it were, the mission helps in the creation of considerable wealth and consequently, the economy of the region. This was made possible, thanks to the growing rise in the agricultural activities within this regions that the missions were located, alongside the huge livestock numbers that the ranchos were raising (Fagan, 2003). As can been seen, there are quite a lot of people that greatly benefited out of the efforts of the missions.

Nevertheless, an increasing number of individuals wished that they could have the prevailing prosperity only to themselves. Settlers, traders, and explorers were not blind to the wealth that was now glaring at their eyes, and so they sought out to take advantage of the missions. As a result, the mission economy came under constant pressure to have it invaded by Californians (Fagan, 2003). Consequently, there were regulations from both California and Mexico that got issued by 1813, to the effect that the mission needed to be disbanded. The proposal was that the missions would now be operated by civilian authorities, a process that came to be terms as “secularization”, one that ultimately led to the demise of the mission, as we know them.


Having been a Spanish colony, who were later on defeated had had their Crown seized by the Mexicans these two colonisers could be attributed to the economic changes that California experienced during the period between 1770 and 1845 (Fagan, 2003).The Spaniards are specifically noted for starting the mission that led to agricultural and livestock prosperity, not to mention an acquiring of such valuable skills as weaving and brick building by the natives.

Clearly, this helped to lay the foundation fro trade relations between California and foreigners. Later on, explorers, settlers and traders saw an opportunity to make money out of the missions, and so they prevailed on Spanish authorities to overturn the missions, that were later on handed over to the authorities (Wilson & Ebbert, 2006). This proved to be a turning point of the economic changes in California, as it opened up the regions to the outside world.


  1. Berkovich, O. (2005). “California Photos”. California in Photographs 51(4): 18–77.
  2. Chartkoff, J.L., & Chartkoff, K. K. (1984). The archaeology of California. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  3. Fagan, B. (2003). Before California: An archaeologist looks at our earliest inhabitants. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  4. Wilson, D., & Ebbert, B. S. (2006). California’s legislature. Sacramento: California State Assembly.

About the author

we will assist you 24/7

Quick Contact

Keep current with the ESPOSEARCH Blog. Let’s get it written!

EspoSearch Ⓒ 2022 - All Rights Are Reserved