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With an estimated 2016 population of 1,015,785, it is the third most populous city in California (after Los Angeles and San Diego) and the tenth most populous in United States.

Before the arrival of the Spanish, the area around San Jose was inhabited by the Ohlone people.

With the Spanish colonization of California, the majority of the Tamyen came to inhabit Mission Santa Clara de Asís and Mission San José.

California was claimed as part of the Spanish Empire in 1542, when explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo charted the Californian coast.

In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally ceded California to the United States, as part of the Mexican Cession.

Following World War II, San Jose experienced an economic boom, with a rapid population growth and aggressive annexation of nearby cities and communities carried out in the 1950s and 1960s. Census indicated that San Jose had officially surpassed San Francisco as the most populous city in Northern California.Though not affected as severely as San Francisco, San Jose also suffered significant damage from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.Over 100 people died at the Agnews Asylum (later Agnews State Hospital) after its walls and roof collapsed, and San Jose High School's three-story stone-and-brick building was also destroyed.Numerous prominent historical figures were among those granted rancho lands in the Santa Valley, including James A.Forbes, founder of Los Gatos, California (granted Rancho Potrero de Santa Clara), Antonio Suñol, Alcalde of San Jose (granted Rancho Los Coches), and José María Alviso, Alcalde of San Jose (granted Rancho Milpitas).

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