Santa Clara County is a county located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay Area in the U.S. state of California. As of 2010 it had a population of 1,781,642. The county seat is San Jose. The highly urbanized Santa Clara Valley within Santa Clara County is also known as Silicon Valley. Santa Clara is the most populous county in the Bay Area region, and one of the most affluent counties in the United States.
Santa Clara County was one of the original counties of California, formed in 1850 at the time of statehood. The original inhabitants included the Ohlone, residing on Coyote Creek and Calaveras Creek. Part of the county's territory was given to Alameda County in 1853.
In 1882, Santa Clara County tried to levy taxes upon property of the Southern Pacific Railroad within county boundaries. The result was the U.S. Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394 (1886), in which the Court extended Due Process rights to artificial legal entities.
Once promoted as the "Valley of the Heart's Delight", after two centuries of an agricultural economy started by the Spanish missionaries, the focus has shifted to technology. This trend is not new. Hewlett Packard was founded in 1939, and IBM selected San Jose as its West Coast headquarters in 1943. Varian Associates, Fairchild Semiconductor, and other early innovators, were located in the county by the late 1940s and 1950s. The U.S. Navy had a large presence in the area and began giving large contracts to Silicon Valley electronics companies. The term "Silicon Valley" was coined in 1971. The trend accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, as agriculture has been nearly eliminated from the northern part of the county. Today, Santa Clara County is the headquarters for such companies as Apple, Facebook, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard, Google, Yahoo, eBay, Cisco Systems, Intel, AMD, and many others. The valley is currently home to approximately 6500 high technology companies. Most of Silicon Valley's (Santa Clara Valley) high tech companies are located within the county, with some adjoining tech regions in San Mateo, Alameda, and Santa Cruz counties also being considered Silicon Valley.
Note: The 1850 total is incomplete; the returns for Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties were lost before reaching Washington; those for San Francisco County were destroyed by fire. The State census of 1852 showed a population of 2,786 for Contra Costa, 36,154 for San Francisco, and 6,764 for Santa Clara; the 1852 State total was 215,122, excluding El Dorado County, whose population was not enumerated but was estimated at 40,000.