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Admission Day: California's Forgotten Holiday

Oakland libraries and city offices will be closed Monday, Sept. 10, but otherwise California's official birthday is largely unheralded.

it's the legal holiday that almost no one celebrates — Admission Day, which marks the date California officially became a state. 

California became the 31st state on Sept. 9, 1850, but its 162nd birthday passed with little fanfare.

In the East Bay, the City of Oakland is taking Monday, Sept. 10, as a legal holiday. City offices and all libraries will be closed. 

If you're responsible for reporting or paying state payroll taxes, you get a one-day reprieve until Tuesday, Sept. 11. State offices, however will be open Monday.

In Sacramento, state officials served up free birthday cake, ice cream and music on the north steps of the State Capitol on Sunday, while Columbia State Historic Park hosted a parade.

In Los Angeles, public school students got an "Admission Day" holiday on Aug. 30.

"The observance of Admission Day was once prominent in the civic life of our state and nation," Gov. Jerry Brown said in an Admission Day proclamation issued Saturday, Sept. 8.

"On September 9, 1924, by order of President Coolidge, the Bear Flag flew over the White House in honor of California’s admission to the Union. In 1976, I vetoed a measure to remove the observance of Admission Day as a state holiday, writing: 'For 125 years California has celebrated its admission into the Union on September 9th. To change now comes a bit late in our history and hardly seems in keeping with the Bicentennial Spirit.'

"In 1984, however, Governor Deukmejian signed legislation eliminating our traditional observance of Admission Day on September 9th in favor of a “personal” holiday — convenient to some but in no way respectful of our storied founding.

"California’s early history is too often neglected in schools and among our citizens. For that reason, I call upon Californians to pause and celebrate Admission Day this year by reflecting on how it was that California became the 31st state."

The scene was quite different in 1850, judging from the drawing of the 1850 celebration on the California Department of Parks & Recreation's Admission Day web page, shown above. (The original is in the State Library.)

According to that website, "In 1849, Californians sought statehood and, after heated debate in the U.S. Congress arising out of the slavery issue, California entered the Union as a free, nonslavery state by the Compromise of 1850. California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850."

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Kate Quick September 10, 2012 at 04:11 PM
My Bear Flag is flying high this week!
Evelyn Kennedy September 10, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I agree with Kate. When I was a kid Admission Day was a holiday and a big deal. I guess we are just to blase to celebrate that day or its importance has been lost. What a pity.

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