Voters ratified California's new state constitution, paving the way for statehood a year later.
As part of the bargains established by the Compromise of 1850, California entered the Union as the 31st state, free of slavery.
John C. Frémont and William M. Gwin, both of San Francisco, presented their credentials and took the oath of office, becoming California's first two United States senators. The senators then drew lots to determine their class assignments. Senator Frémont drew Class 1, with a term to expire on March 3, 1851. Senator Gwin drew Class 3, with a term to expire March 3, 1855.
Former senator John C. Frémont was the first ever presidential nominee of the new Republican Party. An unsuccessful candidate, Frémont ran on a ticket with former New Jersey senator William L. Dayton. They lost to another pair of former senators, Pennsylvania's James Buchanan and Kentucky's John C. Breckinridge.
The Senate elected George C. Gorham as secretary of the Senate. Born in New York, Gorham moved to California amidst the 1849 gold rush. Quickly tiring of the hunt for gold, he became law clerk to Stephen J. Field, edited newspapers, and became an owner of the Central Pacific Railroad. Gorham became secretary of the Senate with assistance from California senator John Conness.
Albert Bierstadt's painting, "Entrance into Monterey," was purchased for the Capitol art collection. It now hangs in the House wing, west corridor, by the members' private staircase.
California governor and future senator Hiram W. Johnson of San Francisco ran unsuccessfully for vice president of the United States on the Progressive ticket with Theodore Roosevelt, losing the election to Woodrow Wilson and Thomas R. Marshall.
Hiram W. Johnson became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), a position he held from 1930 to 1933.
Congress officially unveiled statues of Thomas Starr King by artist Alexander Doyle and Father Junipero Serra by artist Ettore Cadorin, as California's contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection. King's statue was replaced in 2009 by a statue of Ronald Reagan.
Senator Hiram W. Johnson, California's longest-serving senator, died while in office. Johnson had been a senator since March 4, 1917.
Richard M. Nixon of Whittier began service in the United States Senate. Elected to the Senate on November 7, 1950, for the term beginning January 3, 1951, Nixon was subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Sheridan Downey and served from December 1, 1950, until his resignation January 1, 1953, to become vice president.
Senator Richard M. Nixon was elected vice president of the United States on the Republican ticket with Dwight E. Eisenhower. Nixon and Eisenhower were reelected in 1956, and Nixon served as vice president until January 20, 1961.
Senator William F. Knowland was elected Republican floor leader at age 45, becoming the youngest Senate majority leader in Senate history. He served as Republican leader until his retirement from the Senate on January 3, 1959.
Future senator Pierre E. G. Salinger of San Francisco joined the staff of Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy. In 1960 Salinger became Kennedy's press officer during the presidential campaign. When Kennedy became president in January of 1961, Salinger became his press secretary. Salinger remained in the White House after Kennedy's death in 1963 and continued to serve as President Lyndon B. Johnson's press secretary until March 19, 1964. He subsequently was appointed to the Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Clair Engle, and served from August 4, 1964, to December 31, 1964.
The Senate voted to end debate on the Civil Rights Act--the first time the Senate had ever invoked cloture on civil rights legislation. The legislation was co-managed by Republican Whip Thomas Kuchel. Clair Engle was brought from the hospital to the Senate Chamber in a wheelchair to cast his vote. Unable to speak due to advanced brain cancer, he dramatically cast his "aye" vote by pointing to his right eye. The Civil Rights Act was eventually passed on June 19, 1964.
The Senate voted to seat Pierre E. G. Salinger. Appointed on August 4, 1964, to fill the seat left vacant when Senator Clair Engle died, Salinger presented his credentials to the Senate on August 5. Immediately, objections arose as to the legality of Salinger's appointment. California state election law required that any person appointed to the Senate had to have been a resident of the state for at least one year. Salinger, a former Virginia resident, had lived in California less than 12 months. Following an investigation, the Senate voted to seat Salinger, noting that he met the constitutional requirements for a U.S. senator, and that only the U.S. Senate, not state law, could be the judge of a member's qualifications.
Former senator and vice president Richard M. Nixon was elected as the 37th president of the United States. Nixon was sworn into office on January 20, 1969, was reelected in 1972, and remained in office until his resignation on August 9, 1974.
Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco was elected in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Pete Wilson of San Diego. She took the oath of office on November 10, 1992, becoming the first woman to represent California in the U.S. Senate.
Barbara Boxer of Greenbrae became a U.S. senator. Joining sitting senator Dianne Feinstein, Boxer's election marked the first time that a state was represented simultaneously by two women in the U.S. Senate.
The Senate elected Sheila P. Burke, a native of San Francisco, as the secretary of the Senate. Burke had served as chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole from 1986 until her election as one of the Senate's officers.
Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco became the first woman to chair the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. She held this position until 2009, when she became the first woman to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.