This timeline was created for the Museum of The San Fernando ValIey and pulls from resources like Calisphere, the Library of Congress, CSUN, personal blogs and a diverse set of publications. Visit the ‘resources’ page for a complete listing of sources.
Special thanks to Tiffany Do for her research and interest in creating the timeline, and Hillary Jenks and Alexis Moreno for their help in writing the entries.
144 - 65 million years ago The Chatsworth Formation is created.
50,000 – 15,000 BC People of northeast Asia follow herds of caribou, bison & mammoth and migrate across the present day Bering Strait. They move south along ice-fee corridors into the North American continent to what is now California. Other people migrate north from what is now South America.
1200 -1800 AD Chumash cave dwellers paint pictographs in the caves of the Burro Flats.
Approximately 40 tribes exist around the Valley, collectively called ‘Fernandeños,’ after the mission. Some communities date to 900 AD, like the Village of Tujunga.
1542 Juan Cabrillo claims Southern California territory for the Spanish kingdom, beginning over three and half centuries of occupation. The Portuguese-born sailor goes on to “discover” the Catalina Islands, the sites of San Pedro and Santa Monica, and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands.
1720 Map of California from Frenchman Nicolas de Fer shows California as an island.
1784 Corporal Jose Maria Verdugo establishes Rancho San Rafael in Burbank/Glendale.
1795 Campo de Cahuenga adobe house is built, and Rancho Encino is founded.
1769 The Spanish claim Alta California (present day California) in the “Sacred Expedition,” when explorer Gaspar de Portolà reaches San Diego. With him are two Franciscan padres, Junipero Serra and Juan Crespi, who record the expedition and found the first mission. The Sacred Expedition is a religious & military project of missionization and colonization on behalf of Spain. Spanish citizenship is earned by Native Americans upon the acceptance of Christianity. Demographers estimate that between 300,000 & 1,000,000 Indians inhabit what is now California on the eve of colonization in the 18th century.The Spanish “discover” the valley from the Sepulveda Pass. They name it Valle de Santa Catarina de Bononia de los Encinos (Valley of St. Catherine of Bononia of Oaks).
1797 Mission San Fernando Rey de España is created and housed on Rancho Encino. It is the 17th of the California missions established by Fray Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. Using Native American workers to not only construct the mission but also work it, the mission quickly becomes one of the most prosperous in California, producing abundant harvests and goods. The mix of agrarian and industrial life at this early stage in the Valley’s history sets a precedent for the future economy of the Valley as a pastoral region with some areas of industry.
1813 Father Muñoz and Father Nuez take the first census of the Valley which focused on Mission Indians.
1819 As a working ranch, Mission San Fernando reaches its economic peak.
1822 Spanish rule in California becomes Mexican rule with the rise of the Republic of Mexico and the country's successful War for Independence from Spain.
1826 The Mexican government expels Spaniards with government order.
1833 The Mexican government secularizes the missions, making them public property and allows for land to be distributed to Indian neophytes and Mexican soldiers as payment for service in the military. Of the missions’ eight million acres originally designated as the property of converted Native Americans, 500 land grants are created for influential families.
1842 Discovery of gold in San Fernando by Francisco “Cuso” Lopez in Placeritas Canyon sparks a town of 60,000.
1843 Manuel Micheltorena, governor of southern California, decrees the restoration of southern missions to church control. This controversial move helps spark the revolution for California self-rule.
1845 Pio Pico’s “Emancipation Proclamation” liberates Indians and simultaneously ends the Mission system. Land grants are given to Indians.
1846 Governor Pio Pico sells most of the San Fernando Valley land to Eulogio de Celis before the Mexican War.
1847 Mexican Map of Mexico and the United States.
Above: San Fernando Mission chapel and Indian cemetery, circa 1910s. An unusual marble headstone marks Epiritu Chijulla Leonis' grave. She died in 1906. Image care of CSUN.
1846 - 1848 The Mexican American War results in California becoming part of the United States, along with more than half of former Mexican land. Though the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally ends the war, it becomes an issue of contention when existing Californio rights are not honored as promised, and the Treaty is breached.
1847 Agreement of peace (Cahuenga Capitulation) between Fremont and Pico gives Americans control of California in the war. The treaty takes place at the house of Don Feliz (Campo de Cahuenga) near the Cahuenga Pass.
1849 The gold rush in Northern California draws people, and the Valley is cow country full of ranchos that feed them.
1850 California joins the United States; Los Angeles County (which includes the San Fernando Valley) initially comprises 4,340 square miles and the first United States Census measures its population at 3,530.
1851 Alexander Bell and David Alexander become the first American landowners in the Valley after Vicente de Osa sells Rancho Providencia. His adobe house eventually becomes state historical monument: Los Encinos State Historical Park.
1853 The Cahuenga Pass is opened for oxcart travel, and a wagon road is built over the mountains between Mission San Fernando and Rancho San Francisquito.
1854 Rancho Ex-Mission de San Fernando falls into hands of Andres Pico who becomes known for his hospitality and entertainment.
1854 The Lankershim family settles in California.
1855 A new road allows lines of stages, trains of wagons and pack mules to travel to Kern River gold fields.
1860 Geronimo Lopez’s adobe home becomes known as the Lopez Station for housing the stagehouse for the Valley.
Above: An 1865 painting “A Californian magnate in his home. General Don Andres Pico of Los Angeles.” Southern mission orchard; vaqueros lassoing cattle; corridor of the farm-building.
Above: Ex-Mission of San Fernando. Plat Map of Rancho Encino, registered 1873, based on 1868 survey.
1869 Lopez Station is Valley’s first official post office.
1872 Charles Nordhoff writes California for Health, Pleasure and Residence. This pamphlet extolls the benefits of living in Southern California in order to be healed of many diseases like tuberculosis. Unknown to his readers, Nordhoff is paid by the Southern Pacific Railroad to praise the curative nature of the region’s climate.
1874 The Southern Pacific Railroad offers service from Los Angeles to San Fernando linking the Valley to Los Angeles more closely.
1874 State senators George K. Porter and Charles Maclay buy the northerly half of the Valley from the Celis heirs. Porter, and partners H.C. Hubbard and F.M. Wright, begin ranching within a year. Senator Maclay goes to the County Recorder in Los Angeles and creates the City of San Fernando (township) through a map of development plans.
1878 Severe drought in the valley leads to a wildfire that destroys 18,000 acres.
1880 San Fernando Farm Homestead Association officially distributes property to stockholders. Los Angeles Farm and Milling Company, the successor to the Homestead Association, promotes wheat and flour-milling industry.
1883 The first newspaper in the Valley is established: the San Fernando Comet.
1884 Major flooding in the Valley occurs and devastates the cattle economy.
1887 A real estate boom partitions up the Valley, beginning with the Lankershim Ranch Land and Water Company, which buys land from the Los Angeles Farm and Milling Company.
1888 Irrigation map care of the David Rumsey Map Collection.
1897 Squatters of the Land Settlers league attempt to squat in the San Fernando Valley under the belief that it is public land for settlement.
1904 James Jeffries, heavyweight boxing champion, makes his home in Burbank. Jeffries is the “great white hope” who comes out of retirement to unsuccessfully fight African American Jack Johnson in 1910.
1907 Los Angeles approves a 23 million dollar bond issue for aqueduct construction from Owens Valley. William Mulholland, engineer, works on Los Angeles Aqueduct.
1908 The Southern Pacific Railroad Station opens at Zelzah.
1909 Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times buys land throughout the Valley.
In 1915, the city of Los Angeles annexes the San Fernando Valley - a crucial development as this enables the Valley to gain access to the water coming from Owens Valley from the Los Angeles Aqueduct (completed two years earlier under the direction of William Mulholland). The aqueduct provides a surplus of water to the city in anticipation of its future growth. Without this crucial aqueduct or annexation, the Valley would be vastly different. But the taking of this water destroys the environment and the economy of the Owens Valley, once a beautiful valley known for its migrating birds and diverse, self-sustaining ecosystems.
1915 Universal City officially opens.
1916 Due to the influx of water provided by the LA Aqueduct, Valley residents begin growing oranges.
1918 The Valley reports record crops including 55,000,000 pounds of beans, and a variety of fruits and vegetables including apricots, citrus, peaches, potatoes, and sugar beets. Canning and poultry are also major businesses in the Valley.
1926 The town of Sherman Oaks and the street Sherman Way bear legacy to pioneer of the San Fernando Valley General Moses Hazeltine Sherman.
1927 Valley residents use gas as a means to beat Prohibition and create “moonshine.” The gas company teams up with police to monitor any unusually large consumption of gas.
1928 United Airport is named. It will be re-named Union Air Terminal in 1934 and is now known as Bob Hope Airport.
1928 St. Francis Dam is built by the City of LA Bureau of Water Works and Supply in 1925-26. The dam is approximately 200 feet high in San Francisquito Canyon, about 5 miles northeast of what is now Magic Mountain. The dam fails upon its first full filling on March 12, killing 450 people in the San Francisquito and Santa Clara River valleys.
1929 World wide depression devastates local and global economies. President Franklin Roosevelt puts out of work artists to work. Photographs at right by Dorothea Lange of the San Fernando Valley in 1936, care of the Library of Congress.
1931 Residents protest changing the name of Cahuenga to Highland because of the uniqueness of the name Cahuenga. Going back to Native American terms, the word Cahuenga reflects the Native American origins of the San Fernando Valley.
1936 “Rural rehabilitation client. San Fernando Valley, California. Chicken farmer making good on rural resettlement loan. Selling case of eggs a day. On state emergency relief administration job before loan.”
1940 Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory is established.
1940 Walt Disney Studios moves to Burbank.
1941- May 29 Disney Studio animators strike Disney due to Walt Disney's inconsistent monetary rewards for better workers. The strike occurs during the making of the animated feature "Dumbo," and a number of strikers are caricatured in the film as clowns who go to "hit the big boss for a raise." The strike lasts five weeks and is settled by a federal mediator.
1941 When the United States joins World War II, the Valley changes from a place of agriculture to manufacturing as part of the war effort and defense institutions like Lockheed. Executive Order 9066 sends 3,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps. Many former Los Angelenos return to the Valley after internment.
1941 Old Trapper’s Lodge Motel with giant trapper sculptures is built as an attraction.
1943 - 1944 The San Fernando Valley is promoted in music and film. “San Fernando Valley” by Gordon Jenkins is recorded and released. Many singers record Jenkins’ song including Bing Crosby (whose version hits #1 on Billboard Magazine’s chart in 1944) and the King Sisters; the publicity helps build a population explosion. Celebrities and media promote Valley development. The Westerns “Bells of San Fernando” and the Western “San Fernando Valley” are released.
1945 Despite the wartime ban against strikes, set designers from the Conference of Studio Unions strike against Warner Brothers film studio for 30 weeks. On October 5, also known as “Hollywood’s Black Friday,” picketing workers are attacked by executives and studio police, inciting “the Battle of Warner Brothers” at their Burbank studios. Producers pelt metal nuts and bolts from the roof and police hose workers and throw tear gas. Strikers overturn three cars in the melee. The strike ends and negotiations are never resolved. This bloody event leads to the passage of the 1947 Taft Hartley Act, which severely restricts workers’ abilities to strike and the power of unions.
1953 After the death of Mrs. Phyllis O’Kray from the crash of a jet plane, Valley residents picket Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Van Nuys to abolish the use of the San Fernando Valley for jet flying. This hastens the move of Lockheed Aircraft Corp to its Palmdale location.
1956 The Pencil House Bottle Building is created by Grandma Prisbrey in Simi Valley.
1956 The San Fernando Valley Campus of the Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences (CSUN) opens. This will be the third institution of higher education founded in the Valley; in 1947 Pierce College is founded and in 1949 Valley College opens.
1957 November 12: Edward R. Murrow televises the Sodium Reactor Experiment from the Santa Susana Research Facility on his program as it powered Moorpark. In a PR effort by the Atomic Energy Commission, "See It Now" television show is present to film when the SRE was tied into an Edison substation to light the town of Moorpark. Supposedly, this was the first time a nuclear reactor produces commercial electricity.
1959 Two events at the Santa Susana Research Facility disperse radioactivity. In March the AE-6 Reactor Accident releases contamination. In July the Sodium Reactor Experiment suffers a partial meltdown; its estimated release is 240 times that of 3 Mile Island. To the public, it is disclosed as a "parted fuel element" being observed. Official records state that 13 of 43 fuel elements suffered damage. Additional fuel-element handling accidents occurred during the recovery process that resulted in radiological releases to the environment and surrounding communities.
1959 Valley leaders and parents protest the increase in mailed pornography in the community.
1960 The Ventura Freeway, also known as the 101, opens.
1966 A coalition of property owning and tax paying associations come together to create a mass group to protest hikes on property taxes.
1966 The Ku Klux Klan parades down Van Nuys Boulevard in Panorama City on September 15. Many protest the event.
Between 1967 and 1971 there are six massive demonstrations at San Fernando Valley State College (now known as California State University Northridge) against the lack of representation or curricula related to ethnic studies and the war in Vietnam. The campus has an “Open Forum” where speakers like Angela Davis (above in 1970) speak to students. In March 1968 presidential candidate Robert Kennedy stumps at the college.
1971 Paraplegic protestors hold "wheel-a-thons" around the San Fernando Valley to protest curb designs that hinder the mobility of wheelchairs.
1971 An earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale rocks Sylmar and kills 65 people.
1971 The Sylmar Tunnel Disaster strikes when Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company tunnels to bring water from the Feather River to the Los Angeles basin. Although safety inspector Wally Zavattero discovers hazardous conditions and orders precautions taken, they are ignored, leading to an explosion that killed 17 people.
1979 Valley residents march against Rocketdyne’s Canoga Park facility on the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to protest the dangerous activities of operations involving nuclear energy.
1982 Frank & Moon Unit Zappa record “Valley Girl.”
1982 Judy Baca with hundreds of others paints "The Great Wall," the world's longest mural, in Valley Glen.
1984 Trapper’s Lodge is made into a state cultural landmark.
1985 Pacoima police use a motorized battering ram to knock a hole into an alleged “rock house,” home that sells drugs. Residents protest the military level equipment as excessive force.
1987 Senior citizens, specifically, “notch babies,” those born between 1917 and 1921 receive fewer social security benefits because of an oversight by Congress. Protesting for equality, the senior citizens gather at the Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks Recreation Center to band together.
1991 Motorist Rodney King is pulled over on Foothill Boulevard in Lake View Terrace where 15 LAPD officers in patrol cars converged on him. A local resident videotapes the beating, which becomes a national discussion on police brutality.
1992 The Rodney King trial takes place in Simi Valley with a jury of ten whites, one Latino, and one Asian. The jury acquits the officers. Upon hearing the verdict, hundreds of Los Angelenos begin a protest that turns into a “live” televised six-day riot where 53 people die and the total cost of damages equals $1,000,000,000.
1994 – 57 people lose their lives in the wake of the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake. With twenty billion dollars in damage, it is one of the costliest natural disasters in United States history.
1996 Unrest occurs at California State University Northridge when Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke speaks on campus.
2002 Measure F is designed to approve secession from Los Angeles. Although it initially gains momentum, the measure ultimately fails to garner enough votes.
Over 1,800,000 people live and work in the San Fernando Valley. If the 300 square mile area that is the Valley were a single city, it would be the 5th largest in the nation. Until now, there has been no one museum or institution to document, preserve, and celebrate the full scope of the collective history, culture, and arts of such an important place until the 2005 incorporation of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley.