Anaheim was founded in 1857 by a group of German settlers who gave it the German name meaning "home by the river." The settlers were part of a group who first came to the United States during the German Revolution of 1848 and settled in San Francisco. Fifty members of that German community decided to move south when they learned about an abundance of cheap land that was once part of a Spanish land grant. The German colonists purchased the 1,165 acres of coastal plains for $2 an acre. Two of the Germans had a wine-making business. Attracted by the area's moderate climate, the settlers decided to make wine production the region's economic foundation. A civil engineer named George Hansen was hired to plan a carefully thought-out community with fences to protect the planned vineyards from roaming cattle. To allow future growth, specific parcels were set aside for construction of a school and other public buildings.
With the introduction of irrigation, Anaheim remained a prosperous wine producing region until the 1880s. During the period of 1860 to 1885, Anaheim wineries produced more than 1.25 million gallons of wine annually. In the 1880s, a blight completely wiped out the vineyards, destroying a thriving business. The orange and citrus industry was then developed and prospered, as did the city of Anaheim. The Southern California Fruit Growers Exchange, which was later renamed Sunkist, was organized in 1893.
The railroad had a positive effect on the city's development. Railroad service was provided by the Southern Pacific Railway, which established itself in the city in 1875. The Santa Fe Railroad followed soon after. The coming of the railroads permitted the city to expand to include other markets. Businesses prospered and the population grew.
Despite earlier failed attempts to become independent of the city of Los Angeles, Orange County was formed in 1889. Beginning in the late 1920s the city underwent rapid industrial development. A huge flood in 1938 caused the creation of a program to control the Santa Ana River, and the Prado Dam was built upstream to regulate the flow of the sometimes violent waterway.
Agriculture remained the principal industry of the city until the mid 1950s, when the legendary Walt Disney chose Anaheim as the site for construction of his world-famous Disneyland amusement park. Millions of people each year are drawn to the area to enjoy this wonderful fantasy world.
The growth of Anaheim as a recreational attraction increased in the 1960s with the opening of Anaheim Stadium—current home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball team and now called Angel Stadium of Anaheim. In 1967 the Anaheim Convention Center was opened. In December 2000, the center was expanded by 40 percent; its 815,000 square feet of exhibit space makes it the largest exhibit facility on the West Coast.
Today Anaheim/Orange County is one of the fastest growing areas in California. The city is a mix of business, residential, and resort interests.