A partial timeline of Oakland history, and where some* of the people in Legendary Locals of Oakland fit in.




The Ohlone live in the Bay Area including what is now Oakland for thousands of years before the Spanish arrive, but the Mission era and statehood devastates the native population, reducing it to a tiny fraction of the former levels.

Today their descendants are working to rediscover their past culture.


Juan Bautista de Anza expedition arrives

From 1775 to 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza leads an expedition of soldiers, priests, and colonists from New Spain into “Alta California”. Some of the members of the expedition are Afro-Latinos from Mexico, seeking a better life.



Luis Maria Peralta granted land

On August 3, 1820, Luís María Peralta is granted 44,800 acres of the East Bay by the Spanish Crown in recognition of his forty years of military service.



gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill

On January 24, 1848, gold is discovered at Sutter’s Mill near Placerville, CA. Thousands of people come to California from all over the world seeking wealth.



California becomes a state

On September 5, 1850, California becomes a U.S. state.


Oakland becomes a town

The Town of Oakland is incorporated on May 4, 1852, based on the efforts of Horace Carpentier. Prior to passage of the bill creating the town, the area was a village known as “Contra Costa” (meaning the ‘other coast’).


Horace Carpentier becomes first mayor

On April 4, 1854, Horace Carpentier is elected Oakland’s first mayor by more votes than there are voters.


College of California formed

In 1855, the Contra Costa Academy started by Rev. Henry Durant becomes the College of California.



First transcontinental railroad constructed

Most of the dangerous and back-breaking work of pushing the first transcontinental railroad through the western mountains is relegated to poorly paid Chinese workers. Many executives of the railroad fully expect to ship the workers to China when the work is done.


Oakland Library Association formed

The Oakland Library Association is a subscription-based library started March 5, 1868.

Ina Coolbrith becomes the first librarian.


University of California established

Following the passage of the Organic Act of March 23, 1868, the University of California is formed. The College of California becomes the College of Letters and Science. The university moves to Berkeley a few years later.


Great Earthquake of 1868

On October 21, 1868, a powerful earthquake strikes on the Hayward Fault. The East Bay is sparsely populated, but the quake kills 30 people.


first transcontinental train arrives

On November 8, 1869, months after the “Golden Spike” ceremony in Utah, the first transcontinental train arrives in Oakland.

“The Last Spike” painted by Thomas Hill captures the Utah ceremony with the golden spike provided by David Hewes.



Antonio Peralta builds home

In 1870, Antonio María Peralta, one of the four sons of Luís María Peralta, builds an Italianate-style house for his family. This replaces an adobe home destroyed in the 1868 earthquake.

Today the home is the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park.


Lake Merritt becomes a wildlife refuge

On March 18, 1870, Lake Merritt becomes the first official wildlife refuge in the U.S.


Oakland schools desegregated

In 1872, Oakland and Brooklyn schools are desegregated, through the efforts of Isaac and Elizabeth Flood.


Oakland annexes Brooklyn

In 1872, voters in Brooklyn approve its annexation by Oakland.


Oakland Tribune published

The Oakland Tribune is first published on February 21, 1874.



Chinese Exclusion Act signed

On May 6, 1882, president Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law. The law prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers, and those Chinese already here had to register or risk deportation. The law wasn’t full repealed until 1943.


Anthony Chabot donates telescope

In 1883, Anthony Chabot, the “Water King”, donates for an observatory in downtown.


Heinold’s opens

On June 1, 1884, Johnny Heinold opens Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon.

A young Jack London studies there, and later Johnny loans him tuition money for college.



Hugh Dimond dies

On January 14, 1896, Hugh Dimond dies. Namesake of the Dimond district, he made his money in real estate and liquor.



1906 Earthquake

On April 18, 1906, the San Francisco Earthquake strikes, devastating the city. Thousands of people flee east to Oakland, doubling the population in a matter of days.


William Shorey retires

In 1908, Captain William Shorey, known by his crews as the “Black Ahab”, retires from whaling.


Feng Ru flies airplane

On September 21, 1909, Feng Ru is the first person to pilot an airplane on the West Coast, flying over Oakland and Piedmont.



On November 16, 1909, Oakland annexes Elmhurst, Fruitvale, Melrose, Fitchburg and Claremont, in its last and largest annexation.



new city hall building

On March 13, 1914, the new city hall building opens to the public. Called “Mott’s Wedding Cake” by the press, the building was the tallest west of the Mississippi when constructed, and the tallest in Oakland until 1960.


Children’s Hospital Opens

On September 6, 1914, the Baby Hospital opens, thanks in large part to the efforts of Miss Mabel Weed and Bertha Wright. It is now known as Children’s Hospital.


World War I

At least 170 soldiers from Oakland lose their lives in WWI. The city decides to honor them by naming Gold Star streets after them.


1918 Flu Pandemic

The 1918 Flu Pandemic kills millions worldwide, including more than 1,400 people in Oakland.



Wilhelmine Yoakum elected to council

On May 12, 1931, Wilhelmine Yoakum becomes the first woman elected to Oakland city council. Unfortunately it was more than 15 years until the next woman was elected, and more than 25 years after that in 1977 for the third, Mary Moore.


Slim Jenkins Club opens

On December 5, 1933, the day after Prohibition ends, Slim Jenkins opens his club.



Segregation through a practice known as redlining begins with the National Housing Act of 1934, but many areas of Oakland already had existing covenants and guidelines to keep blacks and other people of color from living in those neighborhoods.



Kaiser opens first Richmond shipyard

In December 1940, Henry J. Kaiser opens his first Richmond shipyard to build ships for the British government.

After the U.S. entered WWII, Kaiser expanded to 4 shipyards in Richmond, and another 3 in the Pacific northwest.


Pearl Harbor bombed

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor is bombed, drawing the U.S. into WWII.


Executive Order 9066 signed

February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066 is signed by president Franklin D. Roosevelt, ordering the removal of over 100,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Families are uprooted from their homes, schools, and businesses, including Frank Ogawa.


Fred Korematsu

Not everyone goes along with Executive Order 9066 quietly. Fred Korematsu goes into hiding, but is eventually arrested. He appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but loses. Many years later, it found that the solicitor general of the U.S. had suppressed FBI data that showed Japanese Americans were not a risk, and Korematsu’s conviction was formally vacated.


population boom

Between 1940 and 1945, the combination of wartime industries and staging for war in the Pacific causes the population of the Bay Area to boom. In Oakland, it grows from 302,163 to 405,301, more than a 25% increase. The black population of Oakland grows even faster, by more than 400%.


1946 General Strike

In November 1946, 425 mostly women workers at Kahn’s and Hasting’s department stores go on strike for wage equality. Officials bring in police and strike breakers to try to end the strike, but instead the strikers are joined by other unions and eventually 130,000 strikers shut down the city for more than two days.



Children’s Fairyland opens

In 1950, Children’s Fairyland opens. Walt Disney visits to gather ideas for his own theme park which would open 5 years later.


last Key System train crosses Bay Bridge

On April 20, 1958, the last Key System train crosses the Bay Bridge. A few years later, the last bus was sold to AC Transit.



Wee Pals first appears

The first comic strip with a diverse ethnic makeup of children appears in a newspaper on February 15, 1965. Morrie Turner’s “Wee Pals” is initially in 5 papers; following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it appeared in over 100.


Black Panther Party formed

In October 1966, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton form the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Initially focusing on police misconduct against black people, they soon added social programs, including the first ever “free breakfast for schoolchildren” program.


Frank Ogawa appointed to council

Frank Ogawa was appointed to Oakland city council in 1966 to fill a vacant seat, and was subsequently re-elected multiple times. He was the first Japanese-American on the city council, and served from 1966-1994, the longest tenure of any council member.


Dr. Raymond Eng elected to council

In 1967, not long after Frank Ogawa’s appointment to fill a vacant city council seat, Dr. Raymond Eng is elected to city council, becoming the first Chinese-American on council.



BART service begins

On September 11, 1972, service begins on BART.


A’s win the World Series

Under quirky owner Charlie Finley, the Oakland A’s win 3 consecutive World Series in 1972, 1973, and 1974.


Robert Maynard becomes Oakland Tribune editor

In 1979, Robert Maynard becomes editor of the Oakland Tribune, becoming the first black editor of a major U.S. newspaper.



Loma Prieta Earthquake

On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake strikes. Sixty seven people are killed, including 42 when the Cypress Structure in West Oakland collapses.



1991 Firestorm

On October 19, 1991, Oakland firefighters battle a 5-acre brush fire. The next day the fire explodes, spread by high winds. The Oakland firestorm kills 25 people including a firefighter and a police officer, and destroys nearly 3,000 buildings.



Oscar Grant killed by BART police

On January 1, 2009, Oscar Grant is killed by a BART police officer, shot in the back while laying face down. The shooting is captured on video and quickly spreads, leading to a national uproar and ongoing protests in Oakland.



Occupy Oakland protests begins

Growing out of the protests following Oscar Grant’s killing and protesting police brutality, Occupy Oakland begins September 11, 2011 with an occupation of the plaza in front of City Hall.

* This timeline doesn’t include all 180+ people in Legendary Locals of Oakland—for that you have to buy the book!