Early History

Prior to 1500: Modern-day Monterey was originally inhabited by the Esalen and then the Rumsen Ohlone Native Americans.

1602: Friar Sebastian Vizcaino was the first European to land at the bay, naming it Monte Rey after the Viceroy of Spain who had ordered the voyage.

1770: Gaspar de Portola and Father Junipero Serra arrived to establish the Royal Presidio and Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in Monterey. The mission was relocated to Carmel a year later, while the Presidio remained in Monterey as a military post to defend the port.

1776: Spain named Monterey the capital of both Baja and Alta (lower and upper) California. Captain Juan Bautista de Anza brought the first settlers to Spanish California, where soldiers and their families lived at the Royal Presidio.

1818: Argentinian revolutionary Hipolito Bouchard attacked Monterey in an attempt to eliminate the Spanish presence in California. As damage from the attack was repaired, residents began to build homesteads and businesses beyond the Royal Presidio and throughout Monterey.

Political Growth

1821: Mexico’s independence from Spain resulted in Monterey being declared the Mexican capital. Monterey became California’s only port of entry, becoming an integral part of the local economy.

1827: The Custom House was completed to support prospering trade and commercial activities, attracting increasing numbers of Americans (called “Yanquis”) to the area. 

1842: Thomas Larkin arrived in Monterey to establish the first American consulate in California.

1846: Commodore John Drake Sloat raised the American flag over The Custom House and claimed California for the United States, capturing Monterey without opposition in the Battle of Monterey during the Mexican-American War.

1848: Monterey formally became a part of the United States after California was ceded by Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

1849: California delegates met at Colton Hall in Monterey to develop and ratify the state’s first constitution.

1850: California was voted to be admitted as the 31st state of the union by the U.S. Congress.

Fishing Trade

1851: Chinese fishing families arrived in Monterey, helping to expand the city’s fishing industry.

1873: The Monterey County seat of government transitioned from Monterey to Salinas.

1874: The Monterey and Salinas Valley Railroad Co. established the first railroad connecting Monterey with other cities.

1880: The Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in Monterey, connecting it with San Francisco and beyond. The luxurious Hotel Del Monte also opened, introducing tourism to the area.

1889: The city of Monterey officially incorporated.

1920s: The demand for canned fish led to the establishment of Cannery Row, and Monterey becoming known as the “Sardine Capital of the World.”

Rise of Tourism

1940s-1950s: Monterey’s sardine industry dissolved, likely due to over-fishing, pollution, and climate change.

1995: California Governor Pete Wilson declared Monterey “The Language Capital of the World” for its work and innovation in language learning, translation, and interpretation services.

Current Day:  Tourism has become the number one industry in Monterey, fueled by the city’s seaside location and natural resources, preservation of history, and reputation for environmental consciousness.