1977 13¢ First Civil Settlement: Alta, California
US #1725 was issued for the 200th anniversary of San Jose.  

On November 29, 1777, the first non-military settlement in California was established as El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe in Alta, California.

Before the arrival of Europeans, the Ohlone Native American tribes lived in the area of present-day San Jose.  The first permanent European settlements then came in 1770 when Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra founded the Presidio of Monterey and the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.

1977 13¢ First Civil Settlement: Alta, California Classic First Day Cover
US #1725 – Classic First Day Cover

Then in 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza embarked on an expedition to California to find locations for two missions, a presidio, and a pueblo (town).  During this trip, he chose the sites that would become the Presidios of San Francisco and the Mission San Francisco de Asís, the Mission Santa Clara de Asís, and the pueblo of San Jose.  Though he didn’t personally found the settlements, he’s often recognized for his role in their creation.

1977 13¢ First Civil Settlement: Alta, California Fleetwood Plate Block First Day Cover
US #1725 – Fleetwood Plate Block First Day Cover

Following Anza’s plan, José Joaquín Moraga officially established the town as the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe on November 29, 1777.  This name honored Saint Joseph and the Guadalupe River along which the town was settled.  San Jose was the first civilian settlement in California.

Soon colonists arrived to establish a farming community, as the settlement’s sole purpose was to function as a granary since the presidios were not self-sufficient.  By the following year, the population reached 68 people.  Because the area was prone to flooding, San Jose was moved about a mile away in the 1790s.

1976 13¢ State Flags: California
US #1663 pictures the California State Flag, which was created during the Mexican-American War for the Bear Flag Revolt.

In the coming decades, San Jose’s population continued to grow, reaching 900 people by 1845.  After the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, California became a US territory.  San Jose served first as the territory’s capital, and later as the state’s first capital after California joined the Union in 1850.  It remained the capital until 1854 when the capital was moved to Sacramento.

1950 3¢ California Statehood Centennial
US #997 was issued for the 100th anniversary of California statehood.

Over the years, San Jose became a major center of innovation and mechanization, particularly for its agricultural and food processing equipment.  During World War II, the city’s manufacturing capabilities were put to use in the war effort building tanks and other military vehicles.  In the years since, San Jose became home to a large number of tech companies, leading to the city’s nickname, “Capital of Silicon Valley.”

Discover what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. Calling San Jose the first “civil” settlement in California is a little insulting to the native people who had lived in the area for thousands of years. Of course, this stamp was issued in 1977. A more appropriate title would be the first “European” settlement or the first “Spanish” settlement.

    1. Point taken, but as an additional point most, if not all native settlements in California were of a migratory in nature. Fact remains, an excellent commentary.

  2. Wonderful historic background information !! I love history … and learning more about the development of our GREAT Country, connected through our Postal Service’s recognition of growth, changes and accomplishment through the new stamps it makes available for public use is OUTSTANDING !! Thank you !

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