Pre-colonial period, up to 1771
The Los Angeles coastal area was settled by the
Tongva (Gabrieleños) and
Chumash Native American tribes. A Gabrielino settlement in the area was called iyáangẚ (written Yang-na by the Spanish), meaning "poison oak place."
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a
Portuguese-born explorer, claimed the area of southern
California for the
Spanish Empire in 1542 while on an official military exploring expedition moving north along the
Pacific coast from earlier colonizing bases of
New Spain in
Gaspar de Portolà and
Juan Crespí, reached the present site of Los Angeles on August 2, 1769.
Spanish period, 1771 to 1821
In 1771, Franciscan friar
Junípero Serra directed the building of the
Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, the first mission in the area.
 On September 4, 1781, a group of forty-four settlers known as "
Los Pobladores" founded the pueblo they called "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula"; in English, this translates as "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciúncula." The
Queen of the Angels (feast day Aug. 2) is an honorific of the
 indeed, the present-day city still retains an active
Archdiocese, and as noted below, this archdiocese of Roman Catholicism remains the largest such archdiocese in the United States. Two-thirds of the settlers were
mulatto with a mixture of African, indigenous and European ancestry.
 The settlement remained a small ranch town for decades, but by 1820, the population had increased to about 650 residents.
 Today, the pueblo is commemorated in the historic district of
Los Angeles Pueblo Plaza and
Olvera Street, the oldest part of Los Angeles.
Mexican period, 1821 to 1847
New Spain achieved its independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821, and the pueblo continued as a part of
Mexico. During Mexican rule, Governor
Pío Pico made Los Angeles
Alta California's regional capital.
American period, 1847 to the present
|Old Los Angeles
Los Ángeles Plaza in 1869, looking north towards Upper Town.
Old Aliso, giant
sycamore, historical symbol of Los Angeles.
The Covered Bridge (Macy Street)
The Calaboose (original adobe jail)
Government House, seat of the Asamblea when Los Angeles was the capital.
Clocktower Courthouse, courtroom/theatre was on the upper floor, market was on the ground floor, and clocktower was on top, with copper dome.
- St. Athanasius's
Episcopal Church, first Protestant church in Los Angeles, on Temple Road ("Salvation Alley").
Calle de los Negros
Mellus Block, Gen. Kearney's headquarters
Gov. Downey's house
Old stage road, to Cahuenga Valley & the back way to San Fernando.
Wine Street, (Calle de las vides)
Water wheel on the Zanja Madre
- Approximate run of the original
Los Angeles River bed, to current USC, through the former swamps of Leimert Park, and out to sea at Ballona Creek and Venice Beach.
El Camino Real
Mexican rule ended during the
Mexican–American War: Americans took control from the
Californios after a series of battles, culminating with the signing of the
Treaty of Cahuenga on January 13, 1847.
Railroads arrived with the completion of the
Southern Pacific line to Los Angeles in 1876.
 Oil was discovered in the city and surrounding area in 1892, and by 1923, the discoveries had helped California become the country's largest oil producer, accounting for about one-quarter of the world's petroleum output.
By 1900, the population had grown to more than 102,000,
 putting pressure on the city's
 The completion of the
Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913, under the supervision of
William Mulholland, assured the continued growth of the city.
 Due to clauses in the city's charter that effectively prevented the City of Los Angeles from selling or providing water from the aqueduct to any area outside its borders, many adjacent city and communities became compelled to annex themselves into Los Angeles.
Los Angeles created the first municipal
zoning ordinance in the United States. On September 14, 1908, Los Angeles City Council promulgated residential and industrial land use zones. The new ordinance established three residential zones of a single type, where industrial uses were prohibited. The proscriptions included barns, lumber yards, and any industrial land use employing machine-powered equipment. These laws were enforced against industrial properties after-the-fact. These prohibitions were in addition to existing activities which were already regulated as nuisances. These included explosives warehousing, gas works, oil-drilling, slaughterhouses, and
tanneries. Los Angeles City Council also designated seven industrial zones within the city. However, between 1908 and 1915, Los Angeles City Council created various exceptions to the broad proscriptions which applied to these three residential zones, and as a consequence, some industrial uses emerged within them. There are two differences from the 1908 Residence District Ordinance and later zoning laws in the United States. First, the 1908 laws did not establish a comprehensive zoning map as the
1916 New York City Zoning Ordinance did. Second, the residential zones did not distinguish types of housing: it treated apartments, hotels, and detached-single-family housing equally.
Hollywood merged into Los Angeles, with 10 movie companies already operating in the city at the time. By 1921, more than 80 percent of the world's film industry was concentrated in L.A.
 The money generated by the industry kept the city insulated from much of the economic loss suffered by the rest of the country during the
 By 1930, the population surpassed one million.
 In 1932, the city hosted the
World War II, Los Angeles was a major center of wartime manufacturing, such as shipbuilding and aircraft.
Calship built hundreds of
Liberty Ships and
Victory Ships on Terminal Island, and the Los Angeles area was the headquarters of six of the country's major aircraft manufacturers (
Douglas Aircraft Company,
North American Aviation,
Northrop Corporation, and
Vultee). During the war, more aircraft were produced in one year than in all the pre-war years since the Wright brothers flew the first airplane in 1903, combined. Manufacturing in Los Angeles skyrocketed, and as
William S. Knudsen, of the National Defense Advisory Commission put it, "We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible.
Following the end of
World War II, Los Angeles grew more rapidly than ever,
sprawling into the
San Fernando Valley.
 The expansion of the
Interstate Highway System during the 1950s and 1960s helped propel suburban growth and signaled the demise of the city's
electrified rail system, once the world's largest.
The 1960s saw race relations boil over into the
Watts Riots of 1965 which resulted in 34 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. It was the most severe riot in the city's history until the
Los Angeles riots of 1992. In 1969, Los Angeles became the birthplace of the
Internet, as the first
ARPANET transmission was sent from the
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to
In 1984, the city hosted the Summer Olympic Games
for the second time. Despite being
boycotted by 14 Communist countries, the 1984 Olympics became more financially successful than any previous,
 and the second Olympics to turn a profit until then – the other, according to an analysis of contemporary newspaper reports, being the 1932 Summer Olympics, also held in Los Angeles.
Racial tensions erupted on April 29, 1992, with the acquittal by a
Simi Valley jury of the police officers captured on videotape beating
Rodney King, culminating in
 They were the largest riots in US history causing approximately $1.3 billion in damage as well as 53 deaths and over 2,000 injuries.
In 1994, the 6.7
Northridge earthquake shook the city, causing $12.5 billion in damage and 72 deaths.
 The century ended with the
Rampart scandal, one of the most extensive documented cases of police misconduct in American history.
In 2002, voters defeated efforts by the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood to secede from the city.
Los Angeles will host the
2028 Summer Olympics and
Paralympic Games, making Los Angeles the third city to host the Olympics three times.