Hawthorne's first known residents were Indians of the Shoshonian linguistic group, occupying the Southbay area as early as the 1500s. Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo was the first known visitor to the area during 1542. In 1769 title to all land in California became vested in the King of Spain, and the Southbay lands were used for grazing cattle. In 1822, Mexico obtained title to California from Spain.
One of the ranchos subsequently formed was Sausal Redondo, named after a round clump of willows in the area. Sausal Redondo consisted of approximately 22,460 acres and included the present-day cities of El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Manhattan Beach, Playa del Rey, Redondo Beach, and Torrance. In 1837 Governor Alverado of Mexico granted title to Sausal Redondo to Don Antonio Avila. When California became a United States territory in 1848 and a state in 1850, disputes arose over the ownership of the rancho. Finally, in 1855 Avila was issued a U.S. Land patent for the rancho and thus became the first legal and recorded owner of the land of present-day Hawthorne. Five years later, Sir Robert Burnett of Scotland purchased Sausal Redondo and it became a thriving farm that specialized in fruit and eucalyptus production along with sheep and cattle. Daniel Freeman took over the ranch when Burnett moved back to Scotland. During a severe drought in 1875-76 Freeman lost most of his cattle and fruit trees, which prompted him to transition to cultivating barley. By 1880 the land was producing a million bushels per year.
The city was incorporated in 1922 and today has a thriving population of approximately 85,438 residents. Its location near the Los Angeles International Airport and its connection by rail to the Port of Los Angeles makes it an ideal location for business and those seeking a life just outside the city of Los Angeles. Although Hawthorne itself is not a beach community, it is a part of the L.A. area deemed the "South Bay", which is adjacent to the city of Manhattan Beach and other waterfront towns such as Redondo Beach.
Noteworthy attractions in the area include The Western Museum of Flight located at the Hawthorne Municipal Airport-- which restores and displays historic aircraft-- and the Beach Boys Historic Landmark. Hawthorne has also been the setting for scenes from several movie productions which include The Fast and the Furious, Pulp Fiction, and Speed. Hawthorne is known to rock and roll fans as the home of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. The Wilson brothers' boyhood home was demolished in the late 1980s during the construction of the Century Freeway, although it was honored by the dedication of the Beach Boys Historic Landmark in May 2005.
The City of Hawthorne Commercial Rehabilitation Program has transformed a large portion of the business districts in the city, making it a prime location within the dynamic South Bay area market, with established regional retail complexes, excellent schools and a business-friendly city government. The revitalization and investment that is occurring throughout the South Bay region is apparent in Hawthorne as new employers and industry begin to replace the aerospace sector as the foundation of the local economy. Some of these businesses include Northroup Grumman, Hawthorne Plaza, and Mattel.