The history of the region of Franca begins at the time of the Bandeirantes explorers. The bandeira or entrada of Anhangüera (the son) in 1722 established the “way of Goias,” a trail from Sao Paulo to the gold mines in Goias. Along this and other trails settlements were made, becoming the so-called "landings" or way-stations for the gold seekers. Franca was known at the time of the Bandeirantes as the “catfish landing.”
At the end of the 18th century, settlers had dispersed into the region in several of these landings. In 1779, around 1000 people lived in the area around Franca . To better organize the settlement, a Decree Company was created and the Portuguese Captain Manoel de Almeida was put in charge. At the beginning of the 19th century, the sons of Manoel de Almeida (Antonio Antunes de Almeida and Vicente Ferreira de Almeida) donated lands for the construction of a chapel, which in turn was blessed by the priest Joaquin Martins Rodrigues. With the decline of mining activity in Minas Gerais and Goias, more settlers migrated to the "Belo Sertao do Rio Pardo" (beautiful valley of the Pardo River), under the sponsorship of the governador of Sao Paulo, Antônio José de Franca e Horta, after whom the city and municipality are named.
In 1816 the "village of Franca" was officially founded by King Joao VI. In 1821, Minas Gerais attempted to annex the region, but due to local resistance, the attempt failed. The city motto stems from this time. The city's name was changed to "Vila Franca do Imperador", but it was shortened afterwards to "Franca".
With the expansion of coffee plantations throughout northeastern Sao Paulo state, many immigrants, mainly Italian, arrived in Franca. From the knowledge and hard work of these immigrants, the city's first industry, shoe manufacturing, was developed in the 1920s.
Franca took part in the Constitutional Revolution of 1932, in which six of her citizens died for Sao Paulo.
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