San Jose’s American past can be divided in several distinct periods. Each of these periods is characterized by a dominant culture or activity. The names and dates of these cultural periods are approximate and suggestive rather than precise and definitive. Within the discussion of a historical era, recurring themes are identified and characterized by landscape features or resources that were introduced in, or were peculiar to, that particular temporal period. An emphasis has been placed in the narrative on historical events and developments during the earlier temporal periods. Geographical patterns of land use also emerge throughout the historical narrative.
It is recognized that a multitude of ethnic groups made major contributions to the development of the Santa Clara Valley. For the purposes of this overview, however, the specific contributions of various ethnic groups were noted only if the culture group characterized a particular period in the development history. Ethnic, as well as other demographic considerations, should act as an overlay to the thematic and temporal model.