Points of interest around Lancaster include a state poppy reserve that bursts to life in the spring and Edwards Air Force Base, which many consider the birthplace of supersonic flight. Lancaster was founded in 1876, when the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived. Before that, several Native American tribes, some of whose descendants still live in the surrounding mountains, inhabited it. The adjacent town of Palmdale (often included with Lancaster as part of the Antelope Valley region) evolved from a sleepy agricultural community into an aerospace and defense capital when Edwards Air Force Base and U.S. Air Force Plant 42 were established after World War II.

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