The fifty states that make up the United States of America, plus the District of Columbia (AKA Washington D.C.). In this case, several is used in the sense of "considered separately", rather than in the sense of "a small number of them". The Constitution is full of references to "the several states" where today we might refer to "the individual states".
There is an untrue factoid floating around, mostly in places outside of the US, that there are only 46 "states" and technically four Commonwealths (note the capital C). In actuality, all of the states have long-form titles, and some just happen to use the word "Commonwealth" instead of State. The Commonwealths of Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are all full-fledged states. If anything, it is 50 states and two commonwealths (note the lowercase c): Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, which, as commonwealths and not states, occupy a very different legal status, being similar to overseas territories and generally included with them as Dependencies.
"State" was initially a synonym for "nation", not "province" as it is now. In the early years, the original thirteen colonies were a loose coalition whose only uniting factor was the desire to be independent from Great Britain. As the central government — which bounced between cities for 27 years before the founding of the District of Columbia in 1801 — grew in power, a war was fought over slavery, and whether the federal government or the individual states should have the bulk of power. Even today, the issue of states' rights remains divisive in American politics and a chief dividing point between its two major political parties; Democrats support a stronger central government while Republicans favor more autonomy for the states (or so they say, anyways. The reality of this is debatable).
Before we start, a brief note on state borders. Apart from a Welcome sign on each side and possibly a toll booth (on toll roads), there are no practical artificial delineations between the states, though as in other countries, rivers sometimes act as natural borders; it's awfully hard to miss the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. On highways, there is often a visitors' bureau, one on each side, with about 100 pamphlets on tourist activities, and usually a volunteer to give directions to these state-revenue-enhancing locales. The differences in state laws and taxes and the absence of intra-U.S. border control create scenarios where you often see many stores on one side selling things that are either illegal or more expensive on the other side. The most common of these are fireworks, though casinos, guns, and bulk tobacco products are also quite common. This can lead to some strange situations: for instance, usually you expect prices to be higher in a major city than in its surrounding suburbia, but Philadelphia's eastern suburbs are in New Jersey, which has higher taxes than Pennsylvania (but lower than New York), meaning that people can (and do) go into the city to buy things like alcohol and cigarettes at a cheaper price. Finally, while most of these things are legal to buy in one state and take into another (i.e. cheap cigarettes legally purchased in one state may be taken to any other state without breaking any laws at all), there are occasionally exceptions, the most prominent examples being firearms and marijuana. While firearms are legal in some capacity in all fifty states, some states forbid ownership of various firearms, ammunition, and magazines by residents, and firearms usually must be purchased in the state of residence;note nonresidents driving through may typically possess firearms legal in their home state, so long as they are unloaded and inaccessible (i.e. in the trunk). Marijuana, however, is illegal on a federal level, to say nothing of the fact that possession itself remains illegal in many states, meaning you can cheerfully pay taxes to one state government and be thrown in jail by federal police or another state's police if you were to travel in the wrong direction with your new purchase, a situation that applies to almost no other object or substance.
Note that the regions below follow the official U.S. Census regions and divisions pictured above. There's no other "official" purpose of these groupings beyond what's convenient for the census (and this list), so many locals may group the states differently, such as Maryland, Delaware, DC, and occasionally West Virginia being placed in the Northeast instead of the South, the West sometimes being divided into the Northwest and Southwest (or the two subdivisions listed here being considered full regions in their own right), etc.
Nickname(s): The First State, The Small Wonder, Blue Hen State, The Diamond State
Motto(s): Liberty and Independence
Largest City: Wilmington
Other Cities of Note: Milford, Newark
Area: 1,982mi2 / 6,452km2 (2nd smallest)
Population: 989,948 (6th smallest)
Date of Admission: December 7, 1787 (1st)
Current governor: John Carney (D)
Current senators: Tom Carper (D) and Chris Coons (D)
Number of representatives: 1 (Lisa Blunt Rochester, D)
The State of Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, is the second smallest state by area (only Rhode Island is smaller), and has the fewest counties out of any state at three (Kent, New Castle, and Sussex). It's also known for a lack of sales tax, but staggeringly high tolls, as anybody who's tried to travel I-95 between Maryland and New Jersey can attest. Former vice president and current president Joe Biden grew up here and represented the state in the federal senate for 36 years. It is also home of DuPont, Playtex, and Superman, as Metropolis has been established to be located in the DC Universe version of Delaware (though Clark Kent himself lived in Kansas). More recently, Steven Universe has been confirmed to live in an Alternate History counterpart called Delmarva (after the peninsula the state's located on); show creator Rebecca Sugar based the town of Beach City off the many Delaware beach towns she went to as a child.
Delaware is also a popular place for public corporations to be chartered out of because of a quirk in the rules of American corporate governance. While individuals are subject to the laws of the state they are in when they commit a crime, a corporation only has to act with respect to its internal operations according to the laws of the state where it is chartered, not where its headquarters are located or where it operates. If a corporation is chartered in Delaware, any place that it is sued, no matter where it is, must follow the laws and court decisions of Delaware. Delaware a) has over 300 years of court decisions, giving lawyers plenty to work with, and b) is very favorable to deciding in favor of the management. For this reason, Delaware used to be very popular for banks and credit card companies, though thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions more credit card issuers now operate out of South Dakota or Nevada.
The state is largely dominated by Democrats. While New Castle County in the Philadelphia suburbs is typically the only county in the state to vote for them, said county consists of more than half of Delaware's population.
Nickname(s): The District, The American Rome, A Capital City, The Capital of the World, Chocolate City, City of Magnificent Distances (reported in the 1880s), City of Magnificent Intentions (first coined by Charles Dickens), The Federal City, Hollywood for Ugly People, Murder Capital of America (late 1980s to early 1990s), Nation's Capital
Motto: Justitia Omnibus (English: Justice for All)
Capital: It is THE capital.
Area: 68mi2 / 177km2
Population: 689,545 (metro area of 6,131,977)
Current mayor: Muriel Bowser (D)
The Federal District of Columbia—also known as Washington, D.C. (not to be confused with the state of Washington below)—is the national capital, created when the new government decided that it should have a capital city that was not part of any state and was centrally located in the border region between the North and South. The reason for this was twofold: to reduce any appearance of favoritism and to prevent a situation where the local militia could hold the government hostage (which nearly happened during the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783).
If the multiple names confuse you, the city of Washington and the District of Columbia are one and the same, but this wasn't always the case. The District was originally composed of two counties: Alexandria (land from Virginia) and Washington (land given from Maryland). There used to be several towns within the counties until Washington was consolidated as one city and Alexandria was given back to Virginia due to slavery and other disagreements, as well as the belief that the seat of government wouldn't get big enough to need it and that the District would not develop much of a local population. Both ended up happening, of course, and several major government buildings such as The Pentagon are now located across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia (the land that used to be Alexandria, DC). As for the people, over 700,000 live in DC proper, and its suburbs sprawl out quite a ways into Virginia, Maryland, and even West Virginia as the sixth-largest metro area in the US.
For all of its wealthy lobbyists and politicians, the District has a reputation for being a Wretched Hive. It once had the highest murder rate in the nation, which has since gone down, but drug use, gang violence, and HIV infection remain problematic. You may have heard about former mayor Marion Barry, who was convicted of smoking crack with a prostitute while in office, but remained popular enough to win reelection and later got elected to city council where he served until his death in 2014.
Because DC does now have a significant local population—more people than either Vermont or Wyoming, in fact, and growing at a faster percentage in The New '10s than any state—for years there's been talk of giving it statehood, since its residents lack representation in Congress (though they do vote in presidential elections, having done so since the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1961). The National Mall (the area containing The White House, Capitol, Supreme Court, and all the monuments and Smithsonian museums) would remain a Federal District, while the rest of Washington would become the State of New Columbia. Since DC is staunchly Democratnote and statehood would add two new Senate seats (and one House seat) permanently under Democratic control, Republicans favor "retrocession", returning all of DC except for the National Mall to Maryland (which donated the land in the first place). This would give the District's residents Congressional representation in the House... and permanently end any possibility of them gaining statehood. With well over 200 years of history, D.C. has formed an identity of its own and residents feel little kinship with Maryland, comparing a retrocession at this point to merging two different states for pure political gain—plus, they really want those two Senators, especially to make up for the decades they've been denied any representation. In 2016, Washingtonians voted overwhelmingly for statehood, but it has to be approved by Congress, and even with Democrats now in narrow control of both chambers, DC's unique status leaves serious questions of whether Congress even can grant DC full statehood without the support of the Supreme Court or another constitutional amendment.note DC license plates sum up their feelings on the matter perfectly: "Taxation Without Representation."
Nickname(s): The Sunshine State
Motto(s): In God We Trust
Demonym: Floridian, Floridan
Largest City: Jacksonville
Largest Metro Area: Greater Miami (MiamiFort LauderdaleWest Palm Beach)
Other Cities of Note: Orlando, Tampa Bay (Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater), Key West, Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port, Fort Myers-Punta Gorda-Cape Coral, Pensacola, Gainesville
Area: 65,757mi2 / 170,312km2 (22nd largest)
Population: 21,538,187 (3rd largest)
Date of Admission: March 3, 1845 (27th)
Current governor: Ron DeSantis (R)
Current senators: Rick Scott (R) and Marco Rubio (R)
Number of representatives: 27 (16 R, 10 D, 1 vacancynote ); gains 1 seat in 2022
The State of Florida is famous for many things, including its beaches, the city of Miami (a major center of Spanish Language media and lots of crime dramas), Cape Canaveral, strip clubsnote , Walt Disney World, the sprawling tropical wetlands of Everglades National Park, alligators, the 2000 election, and being where many old Americans go to retire. One can expect it to get hit by a hurricane every five years or so, which hasn't stopped its booming population growth one bit; it passed New York to become the country's third most populous state in 2014. This size, coupled with its unique peninsular shape, has given the state a very independent identity from the rest of the nation.
The Florida peninsula was among the first spots on the North American mainland to be settled by Europeans, with the Spanish building settlements there long before the English colonies started setting up shop. However, it was largely a backwater, and Spain eventually gave up bothering to defend it and forked the territory over to the U.S. in 1821 after the first of many wars Americans waged against the native Seminoles. It remained a mostly unpopulated afterthought until the 20th century when air conditioning made it possible for Americans to imagine living there full-time; the population exploded after that.
The northern part of the state (Jacksonville and the Panhandle) is part of the Deep South, but thanks to a large number of Northeastern immigrants, central and southern Florida are culturally distinct from the rest of the region. A common joke states that the further south you head in Florida, the further North you get, and vice versa. The unofficial line separating the two regions is Interstate 4, which connects Daytona Beach to Tampa, crossing through Orlando. St. Augustine is the oldest continually inhabited European-established city in North America. Key West, is the southernmost city in the continental United States, sitting at the end of the Florida Keys island chain that extends deep into the Caribbean Sea and contains two National Parks (Biscayne and Dry Tortugas). Despite strong competition from the Midwest, Florida is the flattest, lowest state in the Union. Its highest point is only 345 feet above sea level, the lowest high point in the nation. It is often joked that the tallest mountain in the state of Florida is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney's Magic Kingdom or Expedition Everest at the neighboring Animal Kingdom.note This, combined with the state being mostly surrounded by the sea and its high vulnerability to hurricanes, makes flooding a major problem and leaves the state particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Florida has a very diverse population, with some of the largest Black and Hispanic populations of any state. The Hispanic population here is more Cuban than elsewhere in the U.S. (with the state being not too far north from Cuba itself), which affects the state politically—Cuban Floridians historically tend to vote for the Republicans, due to many of the original immigrants being refugees from Fidel Castro's Communist regime. Their American-born descendants seemed to be trending more Democratic before swinging heavily towards Republicans after 2016.
For decades, Florida was America's quintessential swing state — its huge, diverse population drawn from throughout the country, wide range of community types (big cities, small towns, suburbs, rural areas, military bases — you name it, Florida's got it) and outsized importance in the electoral map (the third-largest haul of electoral votes in the country) made it the most fiercely contested swing state in the country. This was most most notable in the infamous nail-biter that was the 2000 election. Between 1992 and 2016, there were 51 million votes cast in presidential elections in Florida. Republicans and Democrats were separated by less than 20,000 votes during that time span.\\
In recent years, however, Florida, while remaining broadly competitive, has become more solidly Republican (possibly helped by Donald Trump, like so many aging New Yorkers, setting up his permanent residence in the state during his presidency).. Case-in-point: In 2018, as Democrats were having a good night elsewhere in the country, Republican Ron DeSantis very narrowly won the gubernatorial race against Democrat Andrew Gillum by 0.4 points, while outgoing Republican governor Rick Scott ousted three-term incumbent Democratic senator Bill Nelson by an even narrower margin. In 2020, despite Trumps electoral defeat, he improved on his 2016 performance in Florida, winning by more than three percentage points, a pretty big margin of victory in the closely divided state. Republicans have made significant inroads among (Cuban) Hispanic voters in the southern part of the state, where Democrats usually hope to run up big margins, while Trump has swung rural and exurban areas even further to the right. Current governor DeSantis has become a rising star in the GOP in recent years thanks to his staunch conservative policies and vocal support for Trump.
The state is a hotbed for Collegiate American Football, with the Universities of Miami and Florida both boasting historically strong teams. The Florida State Seminoles were one of a very small number of NCAA teams to keep their Native American-based name and imagery as the practice has fallen out of favor... mostly because the various Seminole Nations in Florida are boosters.note Their professional sports teams generally don't quite boast the same consistent pedigree.
Florida is also known as a Weirdness Magnet, which has become its own trope. The downright bizarre headlines coming out of the state have led to a Memetic Mutation creating the world's worst superhero: Florida Man! (as in "Florida Man Throws Alligator Into Fast Food Drive-Thru Window")note Florida is also known as the "Gunshine State" due to its heavy amounts of gun violence and lack of reform. Two of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history took place in the state.
Nickname(s): Peach Statenote , Empire State of the South
Motto(s): Wisdom, Justice, Moderation
Capital & Largest City: Atlanta
Other Cities of Note: Columbus, Augusta, Savannah, Macon, Athens, Albany
Area: 59,425mi2 / 153,910km2 (24th largest)
Population: 10,711,908 (8th largest)
Date of Admission: January 2, 1788 (4th)
Current governor: Brian Kemp (R)
Current senators: Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D)
Number of representatives: 14 (8 R, 6 D)
Not to be confused with the Eurasian country of the same name, Georgia is home of Coca-Cola (drinking Pepsi is blasphemy), Ted Turner and his former media empire, The Home Depot, Jeff Foxworthy, The B-52s, R.E.M. (the band, not the subconscious brain function), Ray Charles (whose famous song "Georgia on My Mind" is the state anthem), former President and current humanitariannote Jimmy Carter, and the magician (Hail Atlanta!). Southern hip-hop is based here as well. Outkast, TLC, CeeLo, Ludacris, T.I., and many others call Georgia (particularly Atlanta, or 'Hotlanta' or 'the ATL') home. Atlanta is also home to the busiest airport (by number of passengers) in the world, HartsfieldJackson Atlanta International Airport.
Atlanta, the state's capital and largest city, tends to steal a lot of the spotlight, and while it is a remarkable city, the state is vast and residents outside the Atlanta metro have been known to disown the cosmopolitan 'New South' Atlanta. Originally founded as a penal colony, Georgia is one of the deepest parts of the Deep South—this is where Deliverance was set, after all—and was the last Confederate state to rejoin the Union after the Civil War, with many residents still holding a generational grudge against the North (and, specifically, General William Sherman) for its scorched earth strategy in the state in the war's final years. The arrival of the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 led to the creation of the tongue-in-cheek 'Redneck Games' down in East Dublin.
Georgia has a rapidly-growing film industry due to the tax credits that it offers to filmmakers, leading to a lot of Georgia Doubling in movies and TV shows and the state rivaling and sometimes even surpassing California in terms of total film production. The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe all shoot in Georgia, and Tyler Perry operates the largest film studio in America in Atlanta. Prior to the recent boom, another popular TV show set in Georgia was The Dukes of Hazzard, and the highest-grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation), Gone with the Wind, is set in Civil War-era Georgia; the differences between these two eras of cultural production reflect the changes in the state in recent decades.
Historically, it's the most frequently Democratic state thanks to strong animosity to the Party of Lincoln prior to Nixon's Southern strategy. However, it generally favored Republicans from 1972 to 2016, aside from the campaigns of favorite son Jimmy Carter and Southerner Bill Clinton narrowly flipping it thanks to spoiler candidate Ross Perot. Starting in the late 2010s, Georgias large black population (second largest by percentage, behind only Mississippi), the substantial growth of the increasingly liberal suburbs of Atlanta through immigration, and the influence of former 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and her organization Fair Fight Action put it in play for both Democrats and Republicans as a battleground state. In 2020, Joe Biden surprisingly won it by a very narrow margin (the closest for either candidate in any state), and both Senate seatsnote were flipped by Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in a hotly contested runoff election, again by narrow margins. Whether or not the Democrats' recent electoral successes will continue remains to be seen, particularly with a state government still fully dominated by the Republican Party.
Nickname(s): "Old Line State", "Free State", "Little America", "America in Miniature"
Motto(s): Fatti maschii, parole femine (Literal: Manly Deeds, Womanly Words, Accurate: Strong deeds, Gentle Words)
Largest City: Baltimore
Largest Metro Area: Washington, D.C.note
Other Cities of Note: Frederick, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Burkittsville
Area: 12,407mi2 / 32,133km2 (9th smallest)
Population: 6,177,224 (18th largest)
Date of Admission: April 28, 1788 (7th)
Current governor: Larry Hogan (R)
Current senators: Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D)
Number of representatives: 8 (7 D, 1 R)
The State of Maryland lies to the north of the District of Columbia. It was founded as a haven for Roman Catholics to escape from persecution in Britain, with the Archdiocese of Baltimore being the oldest in America. While it is technically part of the South (being south of the Mason-Dixon line with the official U.S. Census regions and divisions including it in the South), it is culturally Northern and most evidence of Maryland's Southern heritage now sits buried under a sea of suburbia (referring to Maryland as Southern is now a bit of a Berserk Button to Marylanders). The exception to that would be Calvert and St. Mary's Counties, where suppression of the state's Southern heritage is the Berserk Button. Its major city is Baltimore, and roughly half of the state's residents live in its metro area. There's a joke that the legislature in Annapolis thinks its sole purpose for being is to suck money out of Montgomery County, the northern D.C. suburbs and richest part of the state, in order to pump money into Baltimore, which is one of the poorest cities in the country; Maryland as a whole actually has one of the lowest poverty rates in the nation, which speaks to how affluent those suburbs are. Annapolis is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy, while Fort Meade is the home of the National Security Agency.
Speaking of Baltimore, it's also one of a small number of "independent cities" in the U.S.i.e., cities that are not part of any county.note It's one of only three such cities in the country, to be exactoutside of Virginia, which has unique state laws regarding cities. Whatever you do, don't confuse Baltimore and Baltimore County.
Geographically, it is nearly cut in two by the Chesapeake Bay and sports a long panhandle pointing towards West Virginia; the state as a whole looks rather like a Tommy gun. Maryland is also famous for its blue crabs, eaten with Old Bay, a regional spice, and Crab Cakes that take a distinctive ball-like shape as opposed to flat patty-like crab cakes seen elsewhere. Heaven help you if you pronounce the name as "Mary-land", as the locals prefer the pronunciation "Mare-a-lend" thanks to several centuries' worth of lingual drift. Maryland's flag (based on the first Lord Baltimore's heraldic colors) is one of the most colorful and distinctive state flags in the Union. Like Massachusetts, Maryland is a fairly liberal state, though they still voted for Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican governor.
The national anthem of the United States, the Star-Spangled Banner, originates from a poem written after the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.
Nickname(s): Old North State; Tar Heel State
Motto(s): Esse quam videri: "To be, rather than to seem" (official); First in Flight
Demonym: North Carolinian (official), Tar Heel (colloquial)
Capital: Raleigh (part of the Research Triangle: Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill)
Largest City: Charlotte
Other Cities of Note: Piedmont Triad (GreensboroWinston-SalemHigh Point), Wilmington, Asheville, Fayetteville, New Bern
Area: 53,819mi2 / 139,391km2 (23rd smallest)
Population: 10,439,388 (9th largest)
Date of Admission: November 21, 1789 (12th)
Current governor: Roy Cooper (D)
Current senators: Thom Tillis (R) and Richard Burr (R)
Number of representatives: 13 (8 R, 5 D); gains 1 seat in 2022
One of the original Thirteen Colonies, the State of North Carolina can claim that its citizens were the first to proclaim independence from Great Britain, as two counties did so in 1775 (the dates are on the state flag). Conversely, it also supplied one-third of the soldiers and much of the industrial resources during the period of the Confederacy.
Geographically, North Carolina includes many types of terrain across its 560-mile (901-km) widthfrom beaches, coastal plains, and swamps in the east, through the rolling hills of the Piedmont and the Uwharrie Mountains in the center, to the Appalachian Mountains in the west. Some of the rural parts conform to Appalachia or Deep South stereotypes, but its largest city, Charlotte, is the second largest banking center in the United States. North Carolina also has the Research Triangle (the Raleigh-Durham area), home of one of the largest university research centers in the world and an important center of the biotech industry. Research Triangle is not to be confused with the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point), which is 90 miles to the west and known for manufacturing furniture and textiles.
The state public university system is one of the best in the nation, and its private schools include Duke University and Wake Forest University. The impact of its education system and growing population of young professionals has been felt in politics: long considered a lock for the Republicans (and before that, a lock for the Democrats) in presidential elections, North Carolina joined Virginia as the second battleground state in the Old South (just barely voting for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and only narrowly going to Republican candidates since) before the latter went firmly into the Democratic column. Somewhat like Florida, North Carolina has evolved into a fiercely competitive state where Republicans retain a small-but-persistent advantage, thanks mainly to their strength in rural counties and exurban communities. Democrat Roy Cooper did manage to win the governorship in 2016 and hold on to it in 2020, but Republicans have mostly won the major statewide races since Obama's 2008 victory.
North Carolina is also known for being the state that the Wright Brothers took their historic flight from Kitty Hawk (it's on their license plate and state quarter, in case you forget). NC residents are also known as 'Tarheels', which is where the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill takes its team name (Tar Heels) from. Speaking of which, the vitriol of the DukeUNC basketball rivalry can never be understated; at least one weatherman in the area has been known to describe a blue sky as being a shade precisely between Carolina blue and Duke blue, and one U.S. Representative who is a diehard Carolina fan remarked in 2012, "I have said very publicly that if Duke was playing against the Taliban, then I'd have to pull for the Taliban."note In fact, you can say Duke is home to the single most recognizable college basketball coach in the nation, Mike "Coach K" Krzyzewski... at least until the end of the 202122 season, when he retires.
Wilmington, arguably North Carolina's most prominent coastal city, is the home of one of the largest film and television production studio outside of California (though it's been overshadowed by Atlanta in recent years), which produced Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), and The Crow (so, yes, Brandon Lee died here). It's also notable outside entertainment as the hometown of Michael Jordan.note Colonial-era capital city New Bern is considered to be the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, though the company only seems to care about that when marketing the beverage to this particular state. Asheville, nestled in a river valley in the middle of the Appalachians, has gained a reputation in recent years as a New Age mecca and is also a major center for Appalachian folk art.
North Carolina passed a law in 2016 that required all people use restrooms corresponding with their sex as assigned at birth. While stated to be about preventing sexual predators and child molesters to sneak into womens bathrooms, this was widely seen as an attempt to enforce discrimination against the LGBT community. This led to a damaging economic boycott to the state, with the NBA moving its All-Star Game out of Charlotte and several musicians canceling concerts there. Republican governor Pat McCrory was narrowly voted out of office because of this.
Nickname(s): The Palmetto State
Motto(s): Dum spiro spero* (Latin), While I Breathe I Hope; Animis opibusque parati (Latin), Prepared in Mind and Resources
Demonym: South Carolinian
Capital & Largest City: Columbia
Largest Metro Area: The Upstate (GreenvilleSpartanburgAnderson)note
Other Cities of Note: Charleston, Myrtle Beach
Area: 32,020mi2 / 82,933km2 (11th smallest)
Population: 5,118,425 (23rd largest)
Date of Admission: May 23, 1788 (8th)
Current governor: Henry McMaster (R)
Current senators: Lindsey Graham (R) and Tim Scott (R)
Number of representatives: 7 (6 R, 1 D)
Yet another of the original Thirteen Colonies, the State of South Carolina is nicknamed the "Palmetto State" (that's not a palm tree on the state flag). It actually officially declared independence from Britain a full year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and governed itself as an independent state for the whole of that period. The famous Gadsden flag designnote was also the doing of a man from this state.
It's one of the archetypal Deep South states, along with the non-Atlanta parts of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. The American Civil War started here; South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union (and the last to be readmitted), and the first battle of the war took place at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Even before this, the state had a long history of chafing against the Federal Government, most notably during the Nullification Crisis of 1832 (in which it attempted to declare a federal tariff null within its borders and nearly led to Andrew Jackson leading an army into the state to enforce it). It still has a reputation for being one of the most racist states in the country. Several notable politicians with white supremacist sympathies have come from here, such as John C. Calhoun, Benjamin Tillman, Coleman Blease, Ellison Smith, and Strom Thurmond. Ironically, it is now the state with the only black Republican Senator in the country (Tim Scott) and elected its first female South Asian governor (Nikki Haley, an Indian-American Sikh who became a Methodist). More recently, it was the site of a deadly shooting at an all-black church in downtown Charleston. The perpetrators affinity for the Confederate battle flag launched a backlash against honoring the Confederacy, as it proved many South Carolinians still embraced the flag—and the racism it stood for—many years later.
On a more positive race-related note, South Carolina's coastal plains are the cultural center of the Gullah people, a black community whose ancestors were able to retain their African traditions in way that other slaves in the South were not. Their contributions to popular culture include the spiritual "Kumbaya, My Lord" and the '90s children's show Gullah Gullah Island.
Politically, South Carolina is quite a bit more conservative than its northern counterpart, as all statewide elected offices are held by Republicans; while the Congressional District around suburban Charleston unexpectedly elected a Democrat in 2018, it returned to its Republican roots two years later.
Stephen Colbert is from there (but was born in Washington, D.C.), and it is the home state of Frank Underwoodnote . Darius Rucker is a native of Charleston, and the band he fronted before establishing himself as a country star, Hootie & the Blowfish, formed at the University of South Carolina. Also, a popular 1920s dance was named after the iconic harbor city.
Nickname(s): Old Dominion, Mother of Presidents, Mother of States
Motto(s): Sic semper tyrannis (English: Thus Always to Tyrants)
Largest City: Virginia Beach (part of Hampton Roads: Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Chesapeake-Newport News)
Largest Metro Area: Washington, D.C. (including Arlington and Alexandria)
Area: 42,774mi2 / 110,787km2 (16th smallest)
Other Cities of Note: Williamsburg, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Blacksburg
Population: 8,631,393 (12th largest)
Date of Admission: June 25, 1788 (10th)
Current governor: Ralph Northam (D)
Current senators: Tim Kaine (D) and Mark Warner (D)
Number of representatives: 11 (7 D, 4 R)
The Commonwealth of Virginia was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth I and was the home of the first permanent British settlement in North America at Jamestown. With that head-start and fairly fertile land (at least past the inhospitable swamp that Jamestown was built in), Virginia grew to be the most populous of the original Thirteen Colonies and (along with Massachusetts) one of the main centers of leadership of The American Revolution and early Republic, so much so that the nation's capital was placed at its northern border. Four of the first five Presidents (and the tenth) hailed from Virginia, and the exception was the only one-term President in that group. Three other presidents were born there but elected out of other states.
New York passed Virginia in population very early in the country's history, but it remained one of the most important states in the Union until The American Civil War literally ripped it in half. Virginia's capital of Richmond, just 100 miles south of D.C., was chosen as the capital of the Confederacy, and many of the CSA's generals, most notably Robert E. Lee, were Virginians. Understandably, this meant Virginia saw some of the fiercest fighting during the war, with Lee's defeat and surrender at Appomattox normally being depicted in media as the end of the conflict.
The state's largest metropolitan area (outside of DC's Virginia suburbs in the north of the state) is the congregation of nine cities (and one town) usually referred to as Hampton Roads in the southeastern corner of the state. This area, consisting of the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, and Poquoson (plus the town of Yorktown) is the home of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, and Virginia Beach is also the largest city of the state. A number of other militarily significant places are here, too, including Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base. The exurbs of Hampton Roads and the exurbs of Richmond fuse together, and both metropolitan areas continue to grow toward each other. The result of this is what appears to be a hundred-mile-long 'dumbbell' of city lights when viewed from space. This is regarded as the southernmost part of the BosWash megalopolis (the nearly-unbroken conglomeration of cities and suburbs along the east coast stretching from Concord, New Hampshire, in the north to Hampton Roads in the south).
Remember the remark about Hampton Roads being "nine cities and one town"? Or the note in the Maryland entry that Baltimore is one of only three independent cities outside of Virginia? Here's the answer: Virginia law draws a very sharp distinction between cities and towns. Uniquely in the US, all municipalities incorporated as cities are completely separate from counties, even if they are county seats (as is the case with Williamsburg). In addition, one county (Arlington) has no municipalities at all, though state law treats it as a single entity. All other incorporated communities in Virginia are towns, which are contained within counties.
The cultural boundary between the North and South is generally considered to be somewhere in Virginia, though where exactly is hard to say. This is partly because said boundary is moving ever-further south as (mostly white-collar) Northerners pour in;. Currently, the Rappahannock River and the city of Fredericksburg are seen as the dividing line. Northern Virginia, consisting of the suburbs of Washington, D.C., has become practically indistinguishable from the Mid-Atlantic region in both its economy and its politics and is home to a number of government bodies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. Historically speaking, Virginia was once a Republican stronghold, but the arrival of transplants from DC and Maryland as well as immigrants into the northern suburbs have been largely responsible for moving the state towards the Democratic Party starting in the late 2000s. Virginia is now considered a solidly Democratic state, the party has won every presidential election since 2008 while holding all three statewide executive offices and both U.S. Senate seats. Its also the first former Confederate state to legalize cannabis, abolish the death penalty and protect gay marriage in the state constitution.
The point that the states of the United States that are named 'commonwealth' are simply a difference in name and nothing more can be proven by the fact that the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia establishes an organization named the "State Police" that is the policing agency and highway patrol for the Commonwealth. Virginia's elementary and secondary education system is also organized differently from anywhere else in America. In every other state (except Hawaiʻi; see that state's entry in the "Pacific" folder), K12 education is almost always run by local or county-based public bodies that are separate entities from local governments, and (usually) have their own powers to levy whatever taxes their states allow (even if the local government physically collects those taxes). Not so in Virginia. K12 schools are instead run by branches of city, town, or county governments legally known as "school divisions", which have no independent taxing power. Instead, the local government levies all school-related taxes and provides its school division with the funds. That said, Virginia school divisions have elected boards, just like school districts elsewhere.
Nickname(s): Mountain State
Motto(s): Montani semper liberi (English: Mountaineers Are Always Free)
Demonym: West Virginian
Capital & Largest City: Charleston
Other Cities of Note: Huntington, Morgantown, Wheeling, Parkersburg, Beckley, Clarksburg, Martinsburg, Fairmont, Weirton
Area: 24,230mi2 / 62,756km2 (10th smallest)
Population: 1,793,716 (12th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 20, 1863 (35th)
Current governor: Jim Justice (R)
Current senators: Joe Manchin (D) and Shelly Moore Capito (R)
Number of representatives: 3 (R); loses 1 seat in 2022
A bit of a difficult state to classify, West Virginia is grouped in with different regions of the nation depending on who you ask: it's either the northernmost Southern state or the southernmost Northern state. This is mainly because it was originally part of Virginia, but after it seceded during the Civil War, West Virginia counter-seceded from Virginia and sided with the Union due to having stronger political and economic ties with the North at the time. It is the only state that is considered to be located entirely within a mountain range (the Appalachians),note and is the only state that is entirely contained within the Appalachian region. The Appalachians not only caused many of the political and social differences that separated West Virginia from its parent state of Virginia; it also kept much of the state isolated from all outside advancements and influences for a surprisingly long time, an isolation that ended up characterizing the state and its citizens.note Unfortunately, this isolation has contributed to West Virginia being one of the poorest states in the country, and its population declined more than any other state by total percentage during the '10s (a -3.7% decline, about 70,000 in total) as residents sought opportunities elsewhere. In fact, it's the only state that has fewer residents now than it had in 1950... by more than 10%, at that.
Nowadays, the state is mainly known as stereotypical coal-mining and hillbilly country, as well as the setting of Fallout 76, and even today coal mines provide a sizable income and source of employment for the state. Jokes about family reunions are to be made at one's own risk despite the fact that there is a large degree of Truth in Television to these jokes. However, West Virginians pride themselves on folksy politeness and rugged self-reliance. Also to West Virginia's credit, the Appalachian Mountains are in their full glory here, and the state's natural beauty and rugged terrain make it a playground for outdoorsy types... at least, the parts that aren't being literally blown up to get at the coal underneath. Its capital is Charleston (not to be confused with the one from South Carolina above), and residents often refer to the state as "West-by-God Virginia". Notables from West Virginia include Don Knotts* , Brad Dourif* , and Jennifer Garner* .
Once a Democratic state, West Virginia has shifted hard to Republican control as the national Democratic party became much more socially liberal with less of a focus on labor (Al Gores anti-coal stance in the 2000 election certainly didnt help). Donald Trump won every single West Virginia county in both 2016 and 2020; Oklahoma was the only other state with this distinction. Still, the state has a Democratic senator in the Blue Dog conservative Joe Manchin.note Since the 2020 elections, Manchin has become a huge power broker in the evenly divided Senate, so far firmly opposing any efforts by his fellow Democrats to kill the filibuster.Explanation
Nickname(s): The Natural State (current), The Bear State (former)
Motto(s): Regnat populus (Latin: The People Rule)
Demonym: Arkansan, Arkansawyer, Arkanite, Arkie (used during The Great Depression; now considered old-fashioned)
Capital & Largest City: Little Rock
Largest Metro Area: Central Arkansas (Little RockNorth Little RockConway MSA)
Other Cities of Note: Bentonville-Fayetteville region (including, but not limited to Rogers, Springdale, etc.), Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, Texarkana, Jonesboro, Stuttgart
Area: 53,178mi2 / 137,732km2 (22nd smallest)
Population: 3,011,524 (18th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 15, 1836 (25th)
Current governor: Asa Hutchinson (R)
Current senators: Tom Cotton (R) and John Boozman (R)
Number of representatives: 4 (R)
The correct pronunciation for the State of Arkansas is 'ar-kan-saw'. No one is quite sure if it belongs in the Southwest (west of the Mississippi, neighbors Texas), Deep South (a fertile-yet-poor Delta flatter than the Great Plains), or even Appalachia (as Hollywood wants to believe). Little Rock is its capital and largest city; it's (in)famous for President Dwight D. Eisenhower having to send federal troops there in 1957 to force one school to admit nine black students. Arkansas is famous for its public diamond mine, which is depicted on both its flag and license plate. Walmart was founded and has its corporate headquarters here, namely in Bentonville in northwest Arkansas, a region that is almost always treated as a separate entity in-state. Stuttgart is home to the world's largest marketer and miller of rice, Riceland Foods, with the largest rice mill in the world being located in Jonesboro. Hot Springs has a claim to being the first national park, with the federal government setting it aside "for recreation" (rather than preservation) in 1832. The Ozark Dome region, which straddles the Missouri-Arkansas border, is similar to Appalachia in terrain and has the same "hillbilly" stereotype as West Virginia; Al Capp's Li'l Abner was from the Arkansas part of the Ozarks.
Arkansas is highly conservative, and while conservative Democrats like Bill Clinton, Mark Pryor, and Mike Beene once thrived here, they are nowadays all but extinct, and the state is now dominated by Republicans like evangelical favorite Mike Huckabee and foreign policy hardliner Tom Cotton.
Nickname(s): Bayou State, Child of the Mississippi, Creole State, Pelican State (official), Sportsman's Paradise, Sugar State, The Boot
Motto(s): Union, Justice, Confidence
Capital: Baton Rouge
Largest City: New Orleans
Other Cities of Note: Shreveport, Lafayette, Alexandria
Area: 52,378mi2 / 135,659km2 (20th smallest)
Population: 4,657,757 (25th largest)
Date of Admission: April 30, 1812 (18th)
Current governor: John Bel Edwards (D)
Current senators: Bill Cassidy (R) and John Neely Kennedy (R)
Number of representatives: 6 (5 R, 1 D)
The State of Louisiana is notable for its French influence and New Orleans. Southern Louisiana is the home of the Cajuns, descendants of French-Canadians expelled from what are now the Maritime provinces in the mid-18th century, who have become famous for their brand of cooking. Contrary to popular belief outside the state, the Cajuns are not the state's original French settlers. The first permanent European settlement in what's now Louisiana was established by the French in 1714 (hence the name, being named after the Sun King himself), and New Orleans was first settled in 1718, decades before (most of) the ancestors of the Cajuns arrived.note The descendants of the first group of settlers are the Louisiana Creole people, who have their own distinct culture and cuisine tied into the intermarrying of European, Native, and African people dating back centuries. This long history gives the region, especially New Orleans, a rich cultural identity that's very distinct among the other states. While it is not always Mardi Gras in Louisiana, they do tend to drag out the festivities to attract as many tourists as possible. Owing to the state's Catholic roots, its counties are still known as parishes.
Sitting at where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, the region was highly desired by the U.S. from the get-go in order to facilitate Western expansion and trade, hence why the "Louisiana Purchase" was named such.note Its strategic importance made the state a key battleground in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War, as river access was absolutely crucial for trade and transportation; even today, the state's location makes it an important port. However, the state's location also has severe drawbacks. The southern region of the state was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the levees broke and flooded much of the land, and while New Orleans has mostly recovered (complete with stronger anti-flooding measures), many smaller communities along the Gulf Coast still lay abandoned, and the state remains one of the absolute poorest in the country.
For the last decade or so, Louisiana has been very active in giving tax credits to filmmakers, making it one of the largest film production centers in North America. As a result, Louisiana Doubling has become quite common in the American film industry (though see New Mexico for a comparison). The stretch of the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, known as 'Cancer Alley', has enough chemical plants to make a New Jerseyan feel at home, and the parts of the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana's southern coast produce a lot of America's oil. Indeed, you might have heard about one of those oil rigs.
Although a largely conservative state, Louisiana elected a Democratic Governor in 2015 with Blue Dog moderate John Bel Edwards after Republican Senator David Vitter got embroiled in a sex scandal. Edwards narrowly won reelection in 2019. Still, all of its other statewide officers and both Senators are Republicans. Louisiana is also the first state to have elected a South Asian governor, namely Edwards' (GOP) predecessor Bobby Jindal, an Indian American Hindu convert to Catholicism who was term-limited out.
Nickname(s): Sooner State, Land of the Red Man, Native America
Motto(s): Labor omnia vincit (Latin: Work conquers all)
Demonym: Oklahoman, Okie (colloq.), Sooner
Capital & Largest City: Oklahoma City
Other Cities of Note: Tulsa, Norman, Stillwater, Edmond, Lawton, Midwest City, Muskogee, Shawnee, Enid, Bartlesville, Ponca City, Guthrie
Area: 69,898mi2 / 181,037km2 (20th largest)
Population: 3,959,353 (23rd smallest)
Date of Admission: November 16, 1907 (46th)
Current governor: Kevin Stitt (R)
Current senators: Jim Inhofe (R) and James Lankford (R)
Number of representatives: 5 (R)
The State of Oklahoma is part of the area originally known as "Indian Territory", due to the relocation of several Native American tribes to the area by the American government, and became the 46th state on November 16, 1907. While the state is vastly rural, its two biggest cities are Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the former being the eighth largest city in the United States by land area. Similarly, despite what tends to be shown on TV, the state isn't a vast flatland of wheat but has a surprising variety of scenery, from the heavily forested mountains in the southeast to the dry, arid plateaus of the panhandle. It has a blend of Southwestern, Midwestern, and Deep South heritage, in addition to the numerous Native American Indian tribes that there, many of whom operate casinos throughout the state.
Much like Kansas, Oklahoma is known for severe weather, particularly tornadoes, a reputation that is well deserved. The capital, Oklahoma City, is one of the most tornado-prone cities in the United States, being hit by a tornado, on average, once every two years. On June 8, 1974, Oklahoma City was hit by five separate tornadoes. Similarly, Oklahoma holds the record for experiencing the highest tornadic wind speeds recorded: 318 miles per hour (512 kph).
Oklahoma is the home of Carrie Underwood, Chuck Norris, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Jim Ross, the Flaming Lips, Will Rogers, and Woody Guthrie. Also Hanson. It is also the only state in the United States to have a state meal: fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecued pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken-fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas. The practice of Noodlingnote is popular in the state as well. Finally, it has the most artificially created lakes in the USA.
On a less pleasant note, the state is also the site of some of the darkest chapters in American history. In 1921, a white lynch mob attacked the black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, in what can only be described as the single worst incident of racial violence in American history; 40 people were killed, and 35 square blocks of the then-wealthiest black community in the United States were burned to the ground. While this was going on, the Osage Native American nation, which had become fabulously wealthy thanks to oil discoveries on their land, was being rocked by a series of murders. Investigation by law enforcement, including the predecessor to the FBI, found that the killings were part of a scheme by white power brokers to steal the Osage nation's oil wealth. While only about 20 of the deaths were seriously investigated, sources reported more than 60 murders from 1918 to 1931, and most modern historians conclude that several hundred Osage were killed in the scheme. In 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by Timothy McVeigh in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, killing 168 people, including 19 children in the building's daycare center.
Oklahoma is one of the most conservative states in the country; the GOP presidential candidate has won in every one of the state's 77 counties in each of the last five elections (20042020). It is the only state in the country whose senators have the same first name: James. However, it is starting to become more liberal in and around the two main cities. It is also among the poorest states in the country, in part due to the decline of the oil industry much of the state economy depends on and in part due to general lack of economic opportunity for its large Native population.
Nickname(s): The Lone Star State
Demonym: Texan, Texian (archaic), Tejano (usually only used for Hispanics)
Largest City: Houston
Largest Metro Area: DallasFort Worth Metroplex
Other Cities of Note: San Antonio, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Brownsville-McAllen-Edinburg, Laredo, Midland-Odessa, Amarillo, Lubbock, Sweetwater, Paris
Area: 268,596mi2 / 695,662km2 (2nd largest)
Population: 29,145,505 (2nd largest)
Date of Admission: December 29, 1845 (28th)
Current governor: Greg Abbott (R)
Current senators: Ted Cruz (R) and John Cornyn (R)
Number of representatives: 36 (23 R, 13 D); gains 2 seats in 2022
The State of Texas is the largest of the lower 48 states, the second largest by area after Alaska, the second most populated after California, and the state with the most counties (254). MESSING WITH IT IS NOT ALLOWED.note The state is famous for wealthy oil industry magnates and cattle ranching, which continue to drive the economy in rural areas, though tech industry is rapidly growing in the state. Texas is the birthplace of the Six Flags theme park chain, which is relevant for us here because the name comes from the six national flags that have historically flown over the state (France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States).
You read that right: the state was its own independent nation from 1836-1846, carved out of Mexico after a rebellion of American settlers from the neighboring South who wanted to preserve their right... to own slaves. The U.S. delayed annexing it for a decade in part to avoid war with Mexico and in part to keep the issue of expanding slavery from dividing the nation, but expansion was hugely popular and James K. Polk pulled the trigger, helping to start the Mexican-American War.note To encourage Texas to agree to give up being a separate country and join the United States, it got one special privilege and one special permission in its admission. First, all public domain land in Texas belongs to the State of Texas (everywhere else, public domain land remained the property of the U.S. Government). Second, without further action of Congress, Texas can, at any time, divide itself into as many as five states. The joke coming from that is that it will never happen, because none of the new states to be created could agree on which one got to keep the Alamo.
Texas is often stereotyped as a conservative stronghold (except for capital city Austin being a left-wing hippy town), but Texas is an exceptionally diverse state, and it's currently undergoing a complicated political evolution that leaves its political future in doubt. Its most widely-spoken language behind English and Spanish is Vietnamese, Houston is often touted as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, Dallas has arguably the largest LGBT community in the South, and San Antonio and El Paso have large Hispanic populations, most of whom tend to be mestizos. Long dominant in Austin, Democrats have begun to make serious inroads in and around the massive cities of Houston and Dallas, including the suburbs, which were traditionally quite red. On the flip side, the heavily Hispanic counties near the Mexican border, which used to be blue islands in the Texas sea of red, have begun trending toward Republicans. Texas can generally be described as a red state with an uncertain political future — a Democratic Presidential candidate hasn't won the state since 1976, and Republicans control all levels of government. On the other hand, Democrat Beto O'Rourke came within three points of beating Republican Ted Cruz in a ridiculously expensive 2018 Senate race, and Joe Biden's margin of defeat in 2020 was closer than any Democrat has gotten since 1996.
American Football is popular throughout the South, but high school football practically constitutes a religion in the state. Friday Night Lights (both the film and show) aren't as big a break from reality as you might believe; rural towns are known to shut down early on Fridays so everyone can watch the local high school teams play, who sometimes do so in stadiums that rival those of colleges in less-fanatical states. On the professional level, the Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in all sports, largely due to Texans' devout support for the team. The state's other professional team in Houston is actually named the Texans, but they lack the history to come close to unseating the 'Boys.
Nickname(s): The Yellowhammer State, Heart of Dixie, The Cotton State
Motto(s): Audemus jura nostra defendere (Latin) (We dare defend our rights)
Demonym: Alabaman or Alabamian
Largest City: Birmingham
Other Cities of Note: Mobile, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Auburn
Area: 52,420mi2 / 135,767km2 (21st smallest)
Population: 5,024,279 (24th largest)
Date of Admission: December 14, 1819 (22nd)
Current governor: Kay Ivey (R)
Current senators: Richard Shelby (R) and Tommy Tuberville (R)
Number of representatives: 7 (6 R, 1 D)
The State of Alabama is an archetypal part of the Deep South. It played host to many of the most remembered events from the Civil Rights Movement; Martin Luther King Jr. served for several years as a pastor in the state's capital of Montgomery before returning to his hometown of Atlanta and led important boycotts and protests against Jim Crow segregation in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. The state's largest city, Birmingham, named after the one in England, was once considered the "Pittsburgh of Dixie" for its steel production. Alabama was hit just as hard as Pittsburgh and the rest of the Rust Belt by the downward trends in that industry, though in recent years it has begun attracting foreign companies enticed by the tax breaks and abundant non-unionized labor force, including MercedesBenz (Tuscaloosa), Honda (Lincoln), Hyundai (Montgomery), Thyssen Krupp (Mobile), and Airbus (Mobile). In particular, Huntsville in northern Alabama is a major technological center thanks to the presence of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, which has the mission of designing the nation's space propulsion systems, and the Army's Redstone Arsenal. It is also home to the NASA Space and Rocket Center Museum, which houses a Saturn V rocket and is home to the U.S. Space Camp. As a result, Huntsville has the nickname of "Rocket City". Famous Alabamans include Helen Keller, Channing Tatum, Michael Rooker, Debby Ryan, Courteney Cox, Nat King Cole, Lionel Richie, Hank Williams, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee (the novel is set in Alabama), American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Octavia Spencer.
Alabama has always been a solidly conservative state, having sided with Republicans in most elections since the GOP absorbed much of the Southern Democrat base in the '70s. The state has come under fire for their recent anti-abortion bill, which would make abortions a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison, with incest and rape exceptions that were originally in it being stripped out with no vote at all. However, Alabama unexpectedly elected a Democrat in its 2017 Senate race when civil rights attorney Doug Jones edged out ultra-conservative judge Roy Moore after allegations surfaced that the latter had inappropriate sexual relationships with teenage girls. Jones would lose his bid for a full term in 2020 to former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville by one of the widest margins of defeat for an incumbent senator in U.S. history.
As Tuberville's election indicates, college football is very Serious Business in Alabama, possibly more so than any other part of the country. The University of Alabama's Crimson Tide is one of the most highly decorated programs in the history of sports. It is so consistently dominant that many believe they could compete on an even field with most professional teams, and Alabamans often hold the "Iron Bowl", the school's rivalry game with Auburn, in higher esteem than the Super Bowl. Of course, fiction's best-known Alabaman played for the Tide.
Nickname(s): Bluegrass State
Motto(s): United we stand, divided we fall, Deo gratiam habeamus (Let us be grateful to God)
Largest City: Louisville
Other Cities of Note: Lexington, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Corbin, Berea
Area: 40,407mi2 / 104,656km2 (14th smallest)
Population: 4,505,836 (25th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 1, 1792 (15th)
Current governor: Andy Beshear (D)
Current senators: Mitch McConnell (R) and Rand Paul (R)
Number of representatives: 6 (5 R, 1 D)
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is known the world over for bourbon, horses (which resulted in the very apt tourism slogan on welcome signs, "Unbridled Spirit"), Kentucky Fried Chicken (first developed in the southeastern town of Corbin), Bluegrass music, baseball bats, Fort Knox (just south of Louisville), college basketball, and Corvettes (the factory that builds them is in Bowling Green). Some famous Kentuckians include D. W. Griffith, Muhammad Ali, Hunter S. Thompson, Keith Whitley, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Chris Stapleton, and Jennifer Lawrence. Its most famous native son is probably Abraham Lincoln, though he spent most of his childhood in Indiana and launched his political career from Illinois. It's also the birthplace of Jefferson Davis, the first and only President of the short-lived Confederate States.
Kentucky has been influential in federal politics for a long time; long-serving Congressman Henry Clay dominated the legislative branch in the early 19th century and is widely considered one of the most influential politicians in the nation's history to not win the presidency (despite numerous failed attempts to do so). It was a highly contested border state during The American Civil War, being the birthplace of the presidents on both sides and a critical buffer between the North and South. Today, Kentucky's senators are some of the most notable politicians in the country: Mitch McConnell, who has held office since 1985 and led the Senate Republicans since 2007, and conservative-libertarian icon Rand Paul, the son of the legendary Ron Paul. A reliable bellwether from 1964 to 2004 (although all three Democrats to win election during that time were Southerners), Kentucky is now a very conservative state, although it very narrowly picked a Democrat governor in its last election (Andy Beshear), mainly because sitting Republican governor Matt Bevin was extremely unpopular.
Ironically for a place that produces so much renowned liquor, Kentucky contains several dry counties, areas where the local government forbids the sale of alcohol. Outside of a triangle-shaped cluster of good-sized cities in the north that contains Louisville, Lexington, and the suburbs of neighboring Cincinnati (with capital Frankfort wedged between the former two), much of the state is predominantly rural. The points east/southeast of the Lexington/Covington area are part of Appalachia and share the dubious distinction (with West Virginia) as hillbilly country. This leads to the unfortunate situation of Kentucky being perceived with the worst stereotypes of both Appalachia and the Deep South, often intersecting with jokes about the lack of availability (or worse, knowledge) of shoes. Beyond the stereotypes, Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the Union. However, it is also renowned for its natural beauty, much of which is actually below ground; with over 400 miles of explored passageways, Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest known cave system in the world.
Nickname(s): "The Magnolia State", "The Hospitality State"
Motto(s): Virtute et Armis
Capital & Largest City: Jackson
Other Cities of Note: Gulfport-Biloxi, Tupelo, Oxford, Starkville
Area: 48,431mi2 / 125,438km2 (19th smallest)
Population: 2,961,279 (17th smallest)
Date of Admission: December 10, 1817 (20th)
Current governor: Tate Reeves (R)
Current senators: Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Roger Wicker (R)
Number of representatives: 4 (3 R, 1 D)
The State of Mississippi is known as the "Magnolia" or "Hospitality" State. It shares its name with the longest river in the U.S., which serves as its western border. The Mississippi Delta region is well known for its influence on Blues music, with good reason: it has the dubious honor of having the highest rates of illiteracy, obesity, and poverty in the country.note Interestingly, Mississippi also has the highest percentage of LGBT people with children, giving the state a special focus in queer politics. Like neighboring Alabama, Mississippi is a very conservative state, but it is generally the more liberal of the two due to a considerably larger percentage of its population being black (in fact, the highest in the nation by percentage). This massive population made Mississippi a center of voter suppression; the murders of three young voting rights activists in the state by the Klan inspired the film Mississippi Burning.
In sports, the main focus is the Collegiate American Football rivalry between the state's two largest universities: the University of Mississippi Rebels, called by all and sundry "Ole Miss", and the Bulldogs of Mississippi State University, usually called just "State" within the state. Ole Miss was the school of Archie Manning, an all-time great college quarterback whose best NFL years were wasted on the then-hapless New Orleans Saints. Among the younger generation, Archie is better known as the father of NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli, the latter of whom also played for Ole Miss (Peyton went to Tennessee instead). Another notable Ole Miss football alum is former NFL offensive tackle Michael Oher, the central figure in The Blind Side and its Oscar-winning film adaptation. Three other NFL legends are from the staterunning back Walter Payton was from the southern town of Columbia, wide receiver Jerry Rice was born in State's home of Starkville and grew up not far away in Crawford, and quarterback Brett Favre was from the tiny southern town of Kiln.note
Despite having the lowest literacy rate in the Union, it is also the home to many famous writers, including William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, John Grisham, and Thomas Harris. That's right. We've got Hannibal Lecter.
Nickname(s): The Volunteer State
Motto(s): Agriculture and Commerce
Largest City: Memphis
Other Cities of Note: Knoxville, Chattanooga, Tri-Cities (BristolJohnson CityKingsport), Clarksville, Lynchburg
Area: 42,144mi2 / 109,153km2 (15th smallest)
Population: 6,910,840 (16th largest)
Date of Admission: June 1, 1796 (16th)
Current governor: Bill Lee (R)
Current senators: Marsha Blackburn (R) and Bill Hagerty (R)
Number of representatives: 9 (7 R, 2 D)
The State of Tennessee is home to Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett. Its nickname is "The Volunteer State", and its the state that's shaped like a stretched rhombus. It was the last state to join the Confederacy, an act that was extremely divisive; it furnished both more Confederate and Union troops than any other Southern state. East Tennessee in particular (like much of Appalachia) was a hotbed of pro-Union sentiment (some counties in the area have never voted Democrat), resenting the dominance of the elite planter class and voting overwhelmingly against secession in 1861. Immediately afterward, a meeting of East Tennessee political leaders denounced the secession vote as fraudulent, at which point the issue became even more divisive, as the Confederacy began a military occupation of East Tennessee to prevent the region from counter-seceding like West Virginia. Unfortunately, the region has something else in common with West Virginia: East Tennessee is known as one of the centers of rural poverty in the country.
Tennessee has a rich cultural history and is the birthplace of the blues, country, and rock 'n' roll. It's also the home of Jack Daniel's Old No.7 Whiskey, though in a fit of cosmic irony, the city of Lynchburg, where the stuff is made, is in Moore County—a dry county.note The state has two major cultural centers: the state capital of Nashville, a major recording industry center and unofficial mecca of country music as well as a gigantic (mainly religious) publishing center; and Memphis, where Elvis Presley got his start and the home base of shipping/logistics giant FedEx (formerly Federal Express). While perhaps not a "cultural" center, the eastern city of Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood, the very charming theme park of Dolly Parton, one of the state's most beloved daughters. Right next to Pigeon Forge is Gatlinburg, the gateway to the Smoky Mountains (the nation's most visited national park) and an even more shameless tourist trap. Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, known primarily for their .50 caliber sniper rifles, are based in the Nashville exurb of Christiana, with the M82 being the official state rifle (yes, they have those in the South).
Tennessee is a very Republican state, with the GOP holding every major office in the state, although Democrats do tend to dominate in Nashville and Memphis.
Nickname(s): The Garden State
Motto(s): Liberty and prosperity
Demonym: New Jerseyan (official), New Jerseyite
Largest City: Newark
Other Cities of Note: Atlantic City, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Camden, Princeton
Area: 8,723mi2 / 22,591km2 (4th smallest)
Population: 9,288,994 (11th largest)
Date of Admission: December 18, 1787 (3rd)
Current governor: Phil Murphy (D)
Current senators: Bob Menendez (D) and Cory Booker (D)
Number of representatives: 12 (10 D, 2 R)
The State of New Jersey is officially known as "The Garden State", but in modern times is home to a great many suburbs of both New York City to the north and Philadelphia to the south, which have made it the most densely-populated state (fourth smallest in size, eleventh-largest in population), as well as some very large and infamous highways. While it is still lush enough to deserve the moniker (it has the highest cranberry production in the country, for example), it has a large number of warehouses and factories and possibly giant robot cars. Home of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Woodrow Wilson, The View Askewniverse, and is a traditional location of Gotham City. The "New York" Giants and Jets of the National Football League actually play in East Rutherford, which only feeds the popular belief that much of the state is merely an extension of New York City. This is a source of much consternation on the Jerseyans' parts (especially the part of it that's an extension of Philly). Also home to Atlantic City, the eastern seaboard near-equivalent of Las Vegas, and has the dubious honor of being home to more Superfund sites (places legally identified as toxic waste dumps that need to be cleaned up) than any other state.
New Jersey is fairly diverse, but it is particularly well-known for its large population of Italians, as well as Jews. The popular HBO mob drama The Sopranos takes place here. Jersey Shore also took place here; while popular at the time, it was also extremely controversial and hated by many state residents and Italian-Americans in general. If you're actually around a New Jerseyan, try mocking them at your own risk. The Jersey Shore really is a nice place and a popular regional beach destination (going there is referred to by New Jerseyans and people from other parts of the New York and Philadelphia areas as going "down the shore"). New Jersey has many delis and pizzerias, with bagels being a particularly popular deli item, and has the highest concentration of diners of any state, especially in North Jersey. In terms of education, New Jersey is the home of Princeton University, one of the best Ivy League schools. Rutgers and The College of New Jersey are also great schools.
Due to its urban geography, New Jersey is highly Democratic (having two Democratic senators, one white Hispanic and the other African-American), although it had voted two moderate Republican governors in recent years: Christine Todd Whitman, the sole woman to lead the state, and Chris Christie, the once-beloved-but-now-despised governor before the current one, Democrat Phil Murphy.
Nickname(s): The Empire State
Motto(s): Excelsior (Latin) (Ever upward)
Demonym: New Yorker
Largest City: New York City
Other Cities of Note: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Binghamton, Ithaca, Cooperstown, Lake Placid
Area: 54,555mi2 / 141,300km2 (24th smallest)
Population: 20,201,249 (4th largest)
Date of Admission: July 26, 1788 (11th)
Current governor: Kathy Hochul (D)
Current senators: Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Number of representatives: 27 (19 D, 8 R); loses 1 seat in 2022
The State of New York is best known (with good reason) for having a very large city—New York City is by far the biggest metropolis in the United States, with a population bigger than the vast majority of states and a vast metro area that would rank in the top five by itself. Needless to say, that city dominates the state's cultural, historical, and political landscape. You'll have to read its own page to get all the details.
That said, the state is also vast and home to several other cities, a bunch of suburbs, a fair bit of rural area to the west, and some pretty mountains to the north. Even though NYC is so dominant and the upstate population is notably shrinking, say that to an upstater at your own risk. Buffalo was a very big deal back in the day after the Erie Canal was completed. Syracuse has a college which, due to its good journalism program (plus a well-known basketball team with a legendary coach and a huge stadium), often gets name-dropped in the news far more often than it probably deserves. The central village of Cooperstown long promoted itself as the birthplace of baseball; though that claim has been discredited, it is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Parts of eastern upstate New York, especially towns like Sleepy Hollow, can be considered out-of-New-England branches of Lovecraft Country. The Adirondacks, a heavily forested mountain range in the northeast, are a very popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the region. Its most famous locale is Lake Placid, site of two Winter Olympics, the second of which is most remembered for the Miracle on Ice. The other parts of it south of the Adirondacks include the Capital District, the metro area of state capital Albany. Tropers might care about Schenectady (Albany's neighbor) for trivia value, as it is home to General Electric, which parented the world's first television station and NBC's first affiliate (though they belong to CBS now). The legislature in Albany carries on a 200-year tradition of talking "very loud, and very fast, and nobody listens to anybody else, with the result that nothing ever gets done."
New York has a long history of progressive social activism. Rochester and Seneca Falls were hubs of the abolitionist and women's rights movements in the 19th century, respectively, while Stonewall Inn in New York City played host to riots that catalyzed the LGBT rights movement in the mid-20th century. It was also the first state to legalize abortion on demand in 1970, as well as the first to legalize same-sex marriage through legislation rather than court order. Even the state's conservative voting base skews in a moderate direction—for a long time, governor Nelson Rockefeller was considered an icon of the Republican Party's socially moderate, business-oriented wing—as the Democratic metropolis downstate, the upstate industrial cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany, and the liberal college town of Ithaca make hard right victories near-impossible. The religious conservatism that the modern GOP employed to great effect in the South and Midwest never gets far upstate, as some politicians have found out the hard way.note
New York is one of seven states that permits fusion voting, or cross-endorsement, in its elections, allowing candidates to win the endorsement and backing of multiple political parties and show up under each of their ballot lines, and is by far the largest of those statesnote . This was a product of 19th century social reform movements designed to give more power to minor parties and break up the two-party duopoly, and while it was eventually rolled back by the major parties elsewhere, it stuck around in New York despite efforts by the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine to get rid of it. As such, New York has a slew of third parties that actually play a major role in state politics, mainly by serving as pressure groups on the major parties to support their platform. The largest among them are the Conservative Partynote , the Independence Partynote , and the Working Families Party.note
New York is the home state of both candidates in the 2016 Presidential election, Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first time since 1944 when both major-party candidates came from the same state.note While Trump was elected President, Clinton carried New York by a 22.5-point margin, dominating downstate (outside of Staten Island and parts of Long Island) and with Trump only being seriously competitive in a handful of areas upstate. It was the worst loss that any winner in a Presidential election has ever seen in his home state, a record that would have been broken again in 2020 had Trump not relocated to Florida a couple of years beforehand (which he easily held onto even in defeat). This wasn't a shock to anyone in or outside the state: New York is fully dominated by Democrats on a statewide level, including three-term Governor Andrew Cuomo, and its two senators, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 2020 Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand. It is also home of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a.k.a. AOC), the progressive superstar who ousted a high-ranking Democratic congressman in a 2018 primary and quickly became among the most famous members of the U.S. House of Representatives apart from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Nickname(s): Keystone State, Quaker State
Motto(s): Virtue, Liberty and Independence
Largest City: Philadelphia
Other Cities of Note: Pittsburgh, Lehigh Valley (AllentownBethlehemEaston), Reading, Erie, Wyoming Valley (ScrantonWilkes-Barre), Williamsport, State College, Punxsutawney
Area: 46,055mi2 / 119,283km2 (18th smallest)
Population: 13,011,844 (5th largest)
Date of Admission: December 12, 1787 (2nd)
Current governor: Tom Wolf (D)
Current senators: Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R)
Number of representatives: 18 (9 D, 9 R); loses 1 seat in 2022
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the home of Benjamin Franklin, who was probably the most notable Revolutionary-era leader who wasn't from Virginia or Massachusetts (he was born in Boston, but left before age 20). Its largest city, Philadelphia, was once the second-largest English-speaking city in the world behind only London. It was the site of the meeting where the colonists decided to formally declare independence from Britain, and served as the second capital (after New York City) of the new nation until a NorthSouth political compromise led to the creation of Washington, D.C. Eastern and Western Pennsylvania are culturally distinct from each other — the western third being more Midwestern than Northeastern — and then there's a large rural zone that divides them. A common joke describes the state as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between."
The northeastern part of the state, the Lehigh Valley and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, used to be one of the major coal-producing regions of the country, and was especially famed for its hard, hot-burning anthracite coal. That was before 1959, however, when a notorious mining disaster wiped out the industry virtually overnight, killing twelve workers and flooding most of the interconnected mines, rendering them inoperable. Today, the area is best known for Dorney Park, Hershey Park, The Office (US), summer camps, and the ski resorts in the Poconos, with natural gas drilling replacing coal mining as the main resource extraction industry. The southwestern part of the state was also once a major center for coal mining; Andrew Carnegie built his steel empire in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. An hour's drive east of Pittsburgh is Latrobe, birthplace of Rolling Rock Beer, golf legend Arnold Palmer, and Fred Rogers. Another 20 miles northeast from Latrobe brings you to Indiana, hometown of Jimmy Stewart. Drive another 30 or so miles to the northeast and you'll find Punxsutawney, where every February 2 a certain rodent is brought out of hibernation to "predict" the end of winter. (Yes, that's the setting for the movie Groundhog Day, although that was filmed in Illinois.)
Eastern and Central Pennsylvania are home to large numbers of Amish and Mennonite residents, which gives the area a distinctive character that makes it a frequent setting for books and the screen. The southern border with Maryland is probably the only state border that gets any notable attention at all these days. The MasonDixon Line (named after the two royal surveyors who laid it out to end a colonial land disputenote ) was traditionally seen as the dividing line between the Northern and Southern regions of the country, owing to the fact that states north of the line (including Pennsylvania) largely abolished slavery prior to the Civil War while those south of it did not. Nowadays, it's probably known more as the point at which a motorist traveling north will notice the first of many potholes in the road. Speaking of the Civil War, the town of Gettysburg laid witness to a battle that irrevocably swung the tide of the war in the Union's favor. The inspiration for Silent Hill, Centralia, is located in Pennsylvania. It is a nearly abandoned borough and town (only 7 people live there) located above the Centralia mine fire, which started in 1962 and has been burning ever since, forcing most of the former inhabitants to flee the town due to the dangerous gases released by the fire and usually coating the region in a thick layer of smoke, much like Silent Hill's famed fog. Every August, the east-central town of Williamsport becomes a major focus of the US sports scene when Little League Baseball, the world's largest youth sports organization, holds its annual Little League World Series at its headquarters complex in South Williamsport. The LLWS involves 16 teams* of players no older than 12eight from the US, and the other eight from around the world.
Pennsylvania is a rather swingy state, although it tends to lean more towards the Democrats. While Donald Trump narrowly won the state in 2016, native son Joe Biden narrowly took it back in 2020; its Senate delegation has one from each party, its House delegation is evenly split, both of its state legislative chambers are GOP-controlled, and most of its state executive offices are Democrats. Democrats win huge margins in Philadelphia and, to a lesser extent, Pittsburgh (to illustrate, Biden won more than 81 percent of the vote in Philly in 2020), while Republicans dominate in the rural areas of the state. Republicans have begun to pull away in the blue collar industrial areas that used to vote for Democrats, but Democrats have countered by encroaching on the wealthy suburbs outside Philadelphia that used to be GOP strongholds. The end result is a pretty closely divided electorate and hard-fought elections.
Nickname(s): The Constitution State (official), The Nutmeg State, The Provisions State, The Land of Steady Habits
Motto(s): Qui transtulit sustinet (Latin) (He who transplanted still sustains)
Demonym: Connecticuter, Connecticutian, Nutmegger
Largest City: Bridgeport
Other Cities of Note: New Haven (home of Yale University), Newtown, Stamford, Bristol, Danbury
Area: 5,543mi2 / 14,357km2 (3rd smallest)
Population: 3,605,944 (22nd smallest)
Date of Admission: January 9, 1788 (5th)
Current governor: Ned Lamont (D)
Current senators: Richard Blumenthal (D) and Chris Murphy (D)
Number of representatives: 5 (D)
The State of Connecticut is the third-smallest state by area. Like its neighbor and fellow tiny state, Rhode Island, it was founded as a refuge from religious persecution in Massachusetts. Today, most of western Connecticut is considered part of the New York City metropolitan area, making the state something of a Mid-Atlantic/New England hybrid. Southwestern Connecticut (Fairfield County, to be more specific) is also used a lot for film locations, especially for movies about suburban dysfunction (Revolutionary Road, The Stepford Wives, etc).note This is partly because the area is infamous for its WASP population (including being the original home of the Bush family), but as with the rest of the state and Northeast, the reality is more diverse and certainly more Italian and Irish. Films are also partly shot here because Connecticut gives tax credits to filmmakers who film there.
The capital city of Hartford was the site of a political convention in 181415 where New England politicians discussed seceding from the Union over the War of 1812 and is known today for being the home for a lot of insurance companies. Together with Springfield, MA, less than 25 miles away, the HartfordSpringfield area (known as the 'Knowledge Corridor' due to the concentration of prestigious universities and hospitals) is home to nearly two million people, the second-largest urban area in New England behind Boston. Its universities include the University of Connecticut (better known as UConn) in Mansfield and Yale University in New Haven. Though Connecticut is known for being a very wealthy state (mainly due to its status as a New York bedroom community), but some of the cities such as Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, and "Gun-Wavin'" New Haven have some truly gruesome crime statistics and can resemble mini-Detroits; this rough status is one reason why the state's population has been gradually declining in recent years.
Connecticut is a key player in the sports world, though its only major league sports team is the WNBA's Connecticut Sun.note When they moved to Connecticut from Orlando in 2003, they became the first WNBA team to not share a market with a pre-existing men's team. Their financial success helped prove that women's sports can be independently profitable. Hartford formerly had an NHL team, the Whalers, but they moved to North Carolina to become the Hurricanes. UConn is also a renowned basketball school, and while the men's team are no slouches, it is best known for its women's team; the two teams won championships in the same year on two occasions, which no other NCAA Division I school has done.note ESPN has its main studios in the west-central town of Bristol, and WWE is based out of the NYC suburb of Stamford (former CEO Linda McMahon, the wife of company head honcho Vince, unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate twice).
Connecticut is one of two states in the New England region to not have county seat government (Rhode Island being the other), with the counties existing solely for geographical and statistical purposes with the state marshals taking over the functions of the sheriff's department and non-centralized courts located throughout the state, preferring the town meeting system at the local level.
Connecticut is one of several northeastern states to have become solidly Democrat as a result of the shift of Republican policies towards social conservatism over the last few decades. At the turn of the century, the state was solidly Democrat but had several fiscially conservative/socially liberal Republicans in Congress, most notably Democrat turned Independent Joe Lieberman, who served in the senate as devoted centrist figure,note , and the governorship in the 2000s was held by moderate Republican Jodi Rell. However, as the Republican Party shifted further right, these figures vanished, and in the 2010s the only competitive election on a national level was the 2018 governor's race, which was more a reflection of the then-governor's lack of popularity than any measure of the state itself. Republicans win only the rural and underpopulated Litchfield County nationally on a regular basis; the most competitive congressional district in the state, the 5th district, contains the bulk of this county, balanced out by a large chunk of more populous and Democratic surrounding counties.
Far and away the biggest news story to come out of Connecticut recently was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of December 14, 2012. The third deadliest mass shooting in history, this one particularly left a horrifying mark on the nation's consciousness as most of its victims were very young children. Today, it is remembered as a major turning point in the U.S. gun debate. That said, most of America's major firearm manufacturers are actually based in the state. Samuel Colt was born in Hartford, and the Colt Manufacturing Company, known for some of the most popular American firearms like the Single Action Army, M1911, and the AR-15 series, is also based in Hartford, though business has been going downhill for them in recent years. O.S. Mossberg & Sons and the Winchester Repeating Arms Company are based in New Haven, with both companies being known for their shotguns as well as Wild West-era rifles in Winchester's case, and Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., known for their handguns and rifles, are based in Southport.
Nickname(s): "The Pine Tree State", "Vacationland"
Motto(s): "Dirigo" (Latin for "I lead", "I guide", or "I direct")
Largest City: Portland
Other Cities of Note: Bangor, Lewiston
Area: 35,385mi2 / 91,646km2 (12th smallest)
Population: 1,362,359 (9th smallest)
Date of Admission: March 15, 1820 (23rd)
Current governor: Janet Mills (D)
Current senators: Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I-D)
Number of representatives: 2 (D)
The State of Maine is the northeasternmost of the contiguous states. Formerly part of Massachusetts, it was split off in 1820 when the free states (where slavery was illegal) needed to balance out new slave state Missouri. As such, it is the only state besides Massachusetts to celebrate the holiday of Patriots Day (third Monday in April, commemorating the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere). It was the setting of one of the shortest "wars" in American history, the Aroostook War, stemming from a boundary dispute between Maine and the neighboring British territory of New Brunswick (now a Canadian province); most of the fighting was between frontiersmen and lumberjacks rather than either side's armies, and both worked out a compromise before the militias could be sent in (in case youre wondering, Maine received most of the disputed territory, barring a strategic corridor connecting New Brunswick to the British colonies in what is now central Canada).
Today, it's best known for lobster fishermen, lighthouses, a rocky coastline dotted with islands (the most famous stretch being Acadia National Park), potatoes, and lumberjacks. It also has the distinction of being the oldest and whitest state in the U.S.; the 2010 Census lists 94.4% of the population as non-Hispanic Caucasians,note and the average age for a resident was 42.7 years old. Home of horror novelist Stephen King and setting of many of his books, to the point where it's now the part of New England most associated with Lovecraft Country (even though H. P. Lovecraft mainly wrote about Massachusetts and himself was from Rhode Island); setting a work of horror fiction in small-town Maine is an easy way to show that you are either homaging King or trying to copy him.
The largest city in the state is Portland, though it's not the largest or the most famous American city bearing that name; that would be the one in Oregon. However, it did give that Portland its name, the result of a coin toss between the Oregon city's two founders, one of whom was from Portland, Maine and the other of whom was from Boston, Massachusetts. So if not for a Mainah, we'd have two large cities named Boston, which would be awfully confusing.
Also, for some reason, it is the most popular "flag of convenience" state for trucking companies; a lot of trailers have Maine license plates even if company is actually headquartered nowhere near Maine. Also, the expiration of a Maine trailer plate can be told from twenty feet away, as they always expire on the last day of February of the year which is the first two digits of the license plate number.
While a reliable bloc for Democrat presidential candidates, Maine is more politically sporadic otherwise. Mainers, more than any other state, are willing to vote for independent candidates in large numbers and even occasionally elect them. This can create some funny results — Republicans stormed into control of the entire state government in 2010, lead by conservative governor Paul LePage, who won his 2010 race with only 37.6 percent of the vote, thanks to the anti-LePage vote being split by a Democrat and a left-leaning independent. They then lost 66% of the state government two years later due LePage's unpopularity, only to see LePage win again in 2014 thanks to the presence of an independent candidate (everyone learned their lesson in 2018, and Democrat Janet Mills cruised to victory without much drama).
For the longest time, the state had two moderate Republican senators who were very popular with the public, showing a sense of bipartisanship in the state as a whole. As of 2016, Maine is the home of one of the federal Senate's two independents, Angus King, a very popular former governor who caucuses with the Democrats. He took the seat of equally beloved aforementioned senator Olympia Snowe. The other senator, Susan Collins, is considered to be the Republican party's most moderate member and is still serving, though she isn't as popular as she used to be and had to survive a tough challenge in 2020.
Maine also has an unusual take on the Electoral College; since the 1972 presidential election, two of its electors are bound to vote for whoever wins the popular vote overall in the state, whereas each of its congressional districts (currently two) chooses an elector who then votes for the candidate who wins the most voters in that particular district. Nebraska is currently the only other state that uses this option. Maine split its electoral votes for the first time in 2016 and did so again in 2020, with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden winning the overall vote and Portland's home district, and Donald Trump sneaking in one electoral vote for winning the rural 2nd District. This reflects the state's fundamental urban-rural split: Democrats dominate in and around Portland and most of the coast, while Republicans are more competitive in the inland rural areas (Democrat Jared Golden represents the 2nd district and is one of the few remaining House Democrats to represent a district Trump won).
Nickname(s): The Bay State
Motto(s): Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (Latin) (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty)
Demonym: Bay Stater (official), Massachusite (traditional), Massachusettsian
Capital & Largest City: Boston
Other Cities of Note: Springfield, Worcester, Cambridge, Everett, Amherst
Area: 10,555mi2 / 27,336km2 (7th smallest)
Population: 7,029,917 (15th largest)
Date of Admission: February 6, 1788 (6th)
Current governor: Charlie Baker (R)
Current senators: Elizabeth Warren (D) and Ed Markey (D)
Number of representatives: 9 (D)
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the original Thirteen Colonies, founded by Puritans to escape religious persecution in Britain where they promptly set up a theocracy of their own (you may have heard of the Salem witch trials)note . Irish immigration in the 19th century turned it into a major center of Roman Catholicism in America, and today it is one of the most secular states in the Union. Many notable colleges are found here, led by Harvard University, the oldest in the United States. The country's public education system also arguably got its start here thanks to reforms of state politician Horace Mann, which all of the other states eventually copied. Famous for liberal politics, as the home of the Kennedy family. A good choice of New England state due to having modern credentials (Route 128 around Boston is essentially the Yankee Silicon Valley) while also having a lot of quaintness and history. Massachusetts is Lovecraft Country and, in fiction, often has a sort of ancient, backwards feel (though in real life the eastern half is mostly subsumed by Boston). The state is known for its sandy beaches and cranberry bogs in the east and rolling green hills in the west, as well as once being the center of whaling trade, especially on the offshore island of Nantucket.
Its capital and largest city is Boston, where colonists protested taxes (although for that fateful tea party, they were actually protesting against a tax cut) by throwing tea into the harbor while disguised as Native Americans. Boston is the bitter arch-rival of New York City in just about everything, especially sports. It is the birthplace ofand location of the relevant international Halls of Fame forbasketball (invented in Springfield in 1891) and volleyball (invented in Holyokenote in 1895), but the truly fanatic level of fandom particularly focuses on baseball and, lately, football as well. Seriously. Do not go into Boston, or anywhere in New England for that matter (aside from certain parts of Connecticut closer to NYC), wearing Yankees or Giants gear (you could maybe get away with being a Mets fan). For that matter, going into the more Irish parts of the city (especially the non-gentrified parts of South Boston) wearing orange, especially around St. Patrick's Day, is likely to get you an earful about "the cause"... on a good day. Lately, with Massachusetts giving filmmakers tax credits to shoot in the state, Boston has ironically been used to double for New York City (example: the remake of The Women).
And then there's western Massachusetts. Home of the Berkshires (known for summer camps, fall foliage, and winter resorts), the Quabbin Reservoir, some of New England's best farmland, and the state's third-largest city, Springfield (No, not THAT Springfield), western Massachusetts is typically held to be everything "westa Woostah" (west of Worcester, Massachusetts), and sometimes including that city as well. Historically a Republican stronghold in opposition to Democratic Boston, it has shifted left for the same reasons Vermont did (demographic shifts and alienation over the GOP's "southern strategy") and is arguably even more liberal than Boston nowadays. Don't think that this has lessened the region's hatred of Boston any less, though; eastern vs. western Massachusetts, particularly as it concerns the allocation of public works funds, is one of the clearest cultural and political dividing lines in the state. In the past, Springfield was vitally important from the day George Washington decided to have a national armory built there. That armory invented and produced such beloved weapons as the Springfield Rifle, M1 Garand, and M14, as well as the still ubiquitous .30-06 cartridge. It was closed in The '60s, and the locals still lament the loss of jobs and prestige. The famous Smith & Wesson company, known worldwide for their revolvers, is also based in Springfield.
It's produced a very large number of public figures, including Benjamin Franklin (born there, but much more commonly associated with Pennsylvania); John Adams and his son; John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy; George H. W. Bush; and John Kerry. Some of the country's first noteworthy writers came from the state, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Oliver Wendell Holmes (both Sr. and Jr.), Louisa May Alcott, and Edgar Allan Poe (although he spent most of his professional career in Maryland). Food associated with Massachusetts include Boston baked beansnote , clam chowder, various fish, and whatever edibles get chucked onto the field at Fenway Park whenever the Yankees show up. Media set in Massachusetts includes Boston Legal, Wings, Cheers, several years of Something*Positive, Car Talk, Misfile and Questionable Content. State inhabitants are known as Bay Staters or, less politely, as 'Massholes'.
Politically, the state consistently votes for Democratic presidents (including the only votes for George McGovern in 1972); on the national level, it is also home to probably the most popular Senator in the Democratic Party (second if you count Democratic-caucusing Bernie Sanders of neighboring Vermont), Elizabeth Warren, who has been busy making waves on the Senate Banking Committee and ran for President in 2020. However, its current governor is a Republican, the moderate Charlie Baker.
Nickname(s): "The Granite State"
Motto(s): Live Free or Die
Demonym: Granite Stater, New Hampshirite
Largest City: Manchester
Other Cities of Note: Portsmouth, Nashua, Hanover
Area: 9,304mi2 / 24,217km2 (5th smallest)
Population: 1,377,529 (10th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 21, 1788 (9th)
Current governor: Chris Sununu (R)
Current senators: Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Maggie Hassan (D)
Number of representatives: 2 (D)
The State of New Hampshire was the northernmost of the original 13 colonies. It has the lowest percentage of its population living under the poverty line of any state (and by a considerable margin, too).note The highest mountain in the northeastern USA, Mount Washington, is located here, and cars with bumper stickers reading "This Car Climbed Mt. Washington" are not an uncommon sight in the region. It's also the state with the shortest length of ocean coastline at 18 miles (29 kilometers)note squeezed in between Massachusetts and Maine.
Despite never being especially influential politically due to its smaller stature, producing only one president that most New Hampshirites would rather forget, the state has a unique niche in American political life. Since 1952, it has held the first presidential primaries.note Like Iowa, it attracts a lot of attention early in election cycles, with presidential candidates canvassing the entire state. It's also the home of the first Election Day votes during presidential elections, thanks to a law that allows small communities to open polls at midnight (Dixville Notch is the town most associated with this practice).
Like neighboring Vermont, New Hampshire's small size lets it get away with a lot more political experimentation than most states. The state is known for its libertarianism — its motto "Live Free or Die" is on the license plates (which are ironically made by prisoners), there's no state income tax (but property taxes are enormous), nor any sales tax (attracting a lot of businesses from neighboring states, though prepared food is subject to a relatively high "hospitality tax"). It's the only state that doesn't have a seat belt law for adults, and there are liquor stores in the Interstate rest areas — yes, they sell liquor to people who are driving on the highway with no requirement to buckle up, and these liquor stores are run by the state itself. Live Free or Die, indeed (of course, it is still unlawful to drink and drive, just like anywhere else). For these reasons, in 2003 a group of libertarians chose it for a "Free State Project" wherein they would colonize it with like-minded people in order to mold it into their ideal society. So far, only 1,000 of a projected 20,000 have made the move, and "Free Staters", as the group's members call themselves, make up a minority in the state Housenote . This is partly because they've been more than outweighed by the tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents turning the southern third of the state into an exurb of Boston and partly because a competing group (perhaps anticipating the aforementioned problem) chose Wyoming for a similar project. For this reason, even though it is still somewhat swingy downballot, it generally goes with the rest of the region in voting Democrat in presidential elections.
Another political note: For one of the smallest states (both by population and area), New Hampshire has America's largest legislative body outside the federal House (400 representatives and 24 senators).* Each elected official represents an average of 3,300 people, and receives a salary of $100 per year. Since there is little motivation to become a professional politician, the state House tends to be dominated by activists, producing a disproportionate number of "Only in New Hampshire" political stories. The small voter bases involved mean the House can see massive swings in power — between 2010 and 2014, the House flipped its partisan control in each election. Democrats flipped the House in 2018, only to see Republicans do the exact same thing in 2020 (while Joe Biden and Jeanne Shaheen were cruising to victory at the top of the ballot, interestingly). Reflecting its swing nature, it currently has a Republican governor (Chris Sununu) who isn't as moderate as his peers in Vermont and Massachusetts, but has two Democratic senators (both of whom were former governors themselves).
Nickname(s): The Ocean State, Little Rhody
Demonym: Rhode Islander
Capital & Largest City: Providence
Other Cities of Note: Newport, Pawtucket, Cranston
Area: 1,214mi2 / 3,140km2 (smallest)
Population: 1,097,379 (8th smallest)
Date of Admission: May 29, 1790 (13th)
Current governor: Dan McKee (D)
Current senators: Jack Reed (D) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D)
Number of representatives: 2 (D)
The State of Rhode Island (formerly known as Rhode Island and Providence Plantations before 2020) is not an island; the bulk of the state is on the mainland, though it has several islands to the south.note It's the smallest state in the country by area (usually the only thing most outsiders know about it), but before 2020 it had the longest official name of any state.note It was founded by religious dissidents from Massachusetts fleeing persecution and remains the most Catholic state in New England. Its size also makes a convenient unit of measurement for one trying to emphasize the scale of something that's big enough to be a state, as in "an iceberg/asteroid the size of Rhode Island".
The capital, Providence, is smallish at 180,000 people but has a metro area of 1.6 million due to encompassing the whole state plus southern Massachusetts. Rhode Island, along with Connecticut, has no county governments, with the counties mainly existing as geographical subdivisions for the sheriffs (which are part of the state government) and decentralized courts located throughout the state, and the state uses the local, autonomous "town meeting" system. Former mayor Buddy Cianci was convicted of racketeering while in office and resigned in 1984, but made a successful comeback run in 1991, resigned again in 2002 due to another scandal, went to prison, had a few stints as an influential local radio host, and ran for mayor again in 2014 (which marked the first time he'd ever lost a mayoral election). Part of the reason Cianci kept coming back, to the point where he was Providence's longest-serving mayor (and one of the longest serving in the US) is because of his high popularity with all sides of the political spectrum, his patronage of local arts and music, and because he revitalized the city's previously dangerous downtown. Cianci is hardly the only Rhode Island politician to be party to some shady—or even outright illegal—activities. There's a reason outsiders joke that the state motto is "In Quickrete We Trust." It is also known for being the home of Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican who ran for governor as an independent and left as a Democrat. (Otherwise, the state is a staunchly Democratic on every level; even most of their Republicans would be Democrats in the Midwest.) Providence is home to Westminster Arcade, built in 1828, America's oldest indoor shopping mall.
Rhode Island is also home to H. P. Lovecraft, Richard Hatch (the naked gay guy who won the first Survivor), Paragon City, and Eternal Darkness. The Rhode Island School of Design has many notable alumni, including Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane (the fictional Quahog is right outside Providence, and the show makes several Rhody-specific references), Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino (who were college classmates and former associates of MacFarlane), David Byrne and the other founding members of seminal New Wave band Talking Heads, heartland rocker John Cafferty, directors Gus Van Sant and Martha Coolidge, and many others.
For some reason, the state has spawned a disproportionate amount of Noise Rock bands, the most famous of which are Black Dice and Lightning Bolt. It's also the home of the Newport Folk (famous for being the site of Bob Dylan 'going electric' in 1965) and Jazz Festivals in Newport every summer.
To gamers, Rhode Island is known for being at the center of the scandal involving the collapse of 38 Studios, the game developer headed up by former Red Sox star Curt Schilling, which had received a $75-million loan from the state. Following 38 Studios' bankruptcy, the state of Rhode Island now owns the rights to all of the studio's assets, including their sole release, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Does your state own a video game company? Didn't think so.
Nickname(s): "The Green Mountain State"
Motto(s): Freedom and Unity and Stella quarta decima fulgeat (May the 14th star shine bright)
Largest City: Burlington
Other Cities of Note: Rutland, Bennington, Brattleboro
Area: 9,620mi2 / 24,923km2 (6th smallest)
Population: 643,077 (2nd smallest)
Date of Admission: March 4, 1791 (14th)
Current governor: Phil Scott (R)
Current senators: Bernie Sanders (I-D) and Patrick Leahy (D)
Number of representatives: 1 (Peter Welch, D)
The State of Vermont is the first expansion state to the Thirteen Colonies, formed out of territory that both New York and New Hampshire laid claim to in order to balance out the admittance of Kentucky to the South; it later became the first state to outright outlaw slavery. Known for food products (maple syrup, cheese, Ben & Jerry's ice cream), the rock band Phish, winter sports, very loose gun laws, environmentalism, Howard Dean, and antiwar politics, having suffered among the highest per-capita casualties in every American war (even today, whenever a Vermonter soldier is killed in action, his/her death leads the news twice, at the announcement and the funeral).
While historically Republican (its actually tied with Indiana as the most frequently Republican-voting state), it has long been one of the more progressive states and today is solidly Democratic, thanks to alienation over the GOP's socially conservative "Southern strategy" and a large influx of migrants from New York and the rest of New England; George H. W. Bush was the last GOP candidate to carry the state. It's now arguably even further left from the Democratic Party, only associating with them by default. Because of its tiny size (both in area and population), it's able to get away with a lot more experimentation in politics than almost any state; conversely, its equal representation in the Senate compared to much larger states tends to elevate the profile of said experiments and push them into the mainstream, much to the chagrin of Republicans who would prefer to see it merged into the also-tiny New Hampshire (though the fact it's larger in population than Wyoming keeps most conservatives quiet on that issue). It was the first state to allow same-sex "civil unions"note four years before gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, the last state to open a Walmart (and even then, only after Walmart agreed to renovate vacant stores rather than build new ones), and is trying to implement America's first single-payer public health care system.note It's home to the other officially independent federal Senator and the only self-described socialist in the chamber, 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The other Senator, Democrat Pat Leahy, has been the nation's most senior Senator since the passing of Hawaii's Daniel Inouye. Leahy is also one of the nation's most famous Batman fanboys, to the extent that he made cameos in all three of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy films.
Historically, it was divided east-to-west due to the waterways on each flank and the Green Mountains in the middle. People west of the mountains would take wares to market in Albany, New York City, or Montreal, drink Genesee or Utica Club beer, and were Yankees or Expos fans, while those east would go to market in Boston, Springfield, or Manchester, drink Narragansett, and root for the Red Sox (in the days of GOP hegemony, the party had an unofficial "Mountain Rule" alternating governors between both sides of the state). The construction of I-89 in The '60s and the growth of Burlington to the point where it offers pretty much everything Albany does (if not always as much of it) has pulled western Vermont closer to the rest of New England, a trend that accelerated in the 2000s with the post-9/11 hardening of the Canadian border and the Montreal Expos' move to Washington, D.C.
The lack of really major cities to absorb public works projects has led to a noticeable difference in road and other infrastructure when crossing the state line from New York or Massachusetts. The other big difference on their roads: the complete lack of billboards, which were banned in 1968.
Nickname(s): The Last Frontier
Motto(s): North to the Future
Largest City: Anchorage
Other Cities of Note: Fairbanks, Nome, Unalaska, Sitka, Utqiagviknote
Area: 665,384mi2 / 1,723,337km2 (largest)
Population: 733,391 (3rd smallest)
Date of Admission: January 3, 1959 (49th)
Current governor: Mike Dunleavy (R)
Current senators: Lisa Murkowski (R) and Dan Sullivan (R)
Number of representatives: 1 (Don Young, R)
The area which represents the State of Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867 for the sum of $7.2 million; considering that the Americans found gold and oil soon after, they got the better part of the bargain.note Noted for its cold temperatures, gorgeous untamed scenery,note military bases, and being the nearest US state to Asia/Russia, with only a small area of the Bering Strait separating it from themnote . Became a state in 1959. Over twice the size of Texas in terms of area, Alaska comprises roughly one-sixth of the United States land area by itself, and until 1983, the state spread across four time zones (they've since consolidated to two). Home of the tallest mountain in North America, Denali note , which is roughly 20,320 feet (6,194 meters) tall. Alaska is obviously the northernmost state, but since its Aleutian Islands stretch out past 180° longitude, Alaska is technically the westernmost and easternmost state as well.
Much of Alaska is physically isolated from the rest of the world, including the rest of the United States; if you needed to travel by land from the lower 48 to Alaska, you have to pass through a part of Canada to do so. Also, many of its cities (including state capital Juneau) are not directly accessible by road and can only be reached by plane and/or boat. Alaska is, however, well connected as an air hub, since Anchorage is roughly equidistant to New York City, Berlin, and Tokyo. This makes the state important for cargo and military purposes.
The state's population density is just over one resident per square mile (0.4 people per square km), mostly concentrated into three cities with lots of open space in between. Because of this, Alaska serves as a setting for many adventure stories, such as Jack London's The Call of the Wild, and more recently, reality series about the... unique job opportunities available in the state and the challenges its climate and isolation poses. Deadliest Catch is set in and around Dutch Harbor/Unalaska,note on the Aleutian island chain that projects from the state's southwest coast. Bering Sea Gold is set in Nome and its surrounding waters. Seasons three and four of Ice Road Truckers took place on the Dalton Highway, which connects the city of Fairbanks to the oil fields of the North Slope. Alaska State Troopers deals with the unique conditions of police work in the state. Due to the cost constraints, most films set in Alaska are actually filmed in Washington state or the Canadian province of British Columbia. Speaking of movies, while video stores have all but gone extinct in most of the US due to the rise of online streaming, they thrive in Alaska because internet data packages there aren't unlimited, which makes streaming video prohibitively expensive. As a result, there were seven franchised Blockbuster stores in the state that performed quite well long after the company folded elsewhere, though they all folded by 2018.
Unlike most of the country, Alaskas indigenous people were repaid for their land, as opposed to being eradicated, forcibly assimilated, or marginalized (though all had been attempted). As such, these tribes have considerable economic and political pull. You would be wise not to refer to a Native Alaskan as 'Indian', because they're ethnically distinct from the American Indians on the mainland. 'Eskimo' is considered by many an outdated slur, and 'Inuit' is a specific group and not a PC alternative.note The best and safest catch-all terms are 'Alaska Native' or simply 'Native'.
Notable Alaskans include Scott Gomez, the first Hispanic player in the National Hockey League, and pop-folk singer Jewel.note Alaska's military presence, isolated wilderness, and minor league baseball teams also make the state popular as a temporary home for the young and adventurous; painter Bob Ross and baseball players Curt Schilling and Mark McGwire briefly lived in the state before finding their fortunes elsewhere.
Like most predominantly rural states, Alaskan politics leans conservative, with Alaskans having only once voted for a Democrat for president in the state's history (LBJ, 1964). However, its current senator, Lisa Murkowski, is notable for her moderate views and penchant for bipartisanship. Murkowski was once independent In Name Only; she lost the official 2010 Republican primary as an incumbent, ran as a write-in candidate, and won, though she ultimately switched back to the party once in office. The other senator, Dan Sullivan, is much more aligned with the rest of his party. Oh, and former governor Sarah Palin was the Republican Party's nominee for the vice presidency in 2008 before becoming a Memetic Mutation thanks to Tina Fey's portrayal on Saturday Night Live.
A couple of local political notes: For starters, Alaska is the only state that is not completely subdivided into organized counties (known here as "boroughs") or their equivalents. Nearly half of the state's land area is in an entity known as the Unorganized Borough, in which all government services apart from education are provided directly by the state, a municipal government, or a Native village government. As for K12 education, some cities within the UB operate their own school districts, but schools in most of the UB are run by regional educational authorities under state guidance. Also, the state's Senate is the smallest state legislative chamber in the US, with only 20 members. Its House only has 40 members for a total of 60 state legislators, making it the smallest bicameral legislature in the US. (The only smaller legislature, that of Nebraska, has only one chamber.)
Nickname(s): The Golden State
Largest City: Los Angeles
Other Cities/Metro Areas of Note: San Francisco, San Diego, Silicon Valley (San Jose-San Mateo-Palo Alto-Cupertino), East Bay (Oakland-Berkeley), Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto-Stockton, The Inland Empire (Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario), Orange County (Anaheim-Santa Ana-Newport Beach), Marin County (San Rafael-Novato), Wine Country (Santa Rosa-Napa), Monterey, Eureka
Area: 163,694mi2 / 423,967km2 (3rd largest)
Population: 39,538,223 (largest)
Date of Admission: September 9, 1850 (31st)
Current governor: Gavin Newsom (D)
Current senators: Dianne Feinstein (D) and Alex Padilla (D)
Number of representatives: 53 (42 D, 11 R); loses 1 seat in 2022
The State of California is the most populous state of the Union by a wide margin and the third largest in terms of land mass (behind Texas and Alaska). This massive population is also the most ethnically diverse of all the states, and this land mass features almost all of the world's biomes (including nine national parks, the most of any state). Many Californians view their state as essentially its own country, and if it were to secede from the United States, it would be the world's fifth-largest economy. Southern California is famous for being the center of the United States' film, television, and video game industries (they shoot so much film here, it's a trope of its own), as well as never getting rained on. Northern California is famous largely for being the center of the computer industry and left-wing politics and getting rained on almost constantly. Every now and then, the idea comes up of dividing it into two or three states; this never happens, and likely never will, as all parts of the state benefit too much from what the other parts offer.
California currently ties with Texas for having the most cities whose populations rank among the top ten in America, with three: Los Angeles ranks #2, San Diego is #8, and San José is #10. It has a total of 73 cities with populations of at least 100,000, nearly twice as many as the second-highest total (Texas, at 38) and almost a quarter of the total for the entire United States (307). There are simply too many important and interesting cities to describe here; you'll have to view the state page for more.
California is one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country, and a massive storehouse of Democratic votes — Joe Biden won more than 11 million votes in California in 2020, more than 13.5 percent of his total national popular vote. This wasn't always the case — historically it was a critical swing state and even, at one point, a Republican stronghold (being the place where both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan started their political careers). Orange County, part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, is essentially the birthplace of modern American conservatism, having not voted for Democrats on the presidential level until Donald Trump's two races. Huge swathes of the state still vote strongly for Republicans, though these red areas are utterly swamped by the blue tint of California's massive urban areas. This legacy still impacts the state today — there are a complicated array of laws on the books that somehow manage to be some of the most and least regulatory in the country, and the current leaders of both the House caucuses (Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy) hailing from the state. California also famously ousted its governor, Gray Davis, in a recall election in 2003 and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger to his position from a field of 135 candidates. The national media painted the election as a circus and a farce (a stripper was one of the candidates), but many Californians felt it was a perfect example of democracy in action, with the people being able to hold their elected leaders accountable for their conduct.
California is also the leading agricultural producer for the entire nation due to its sunny climate. However, this also means that water is a major concern in state politics, with constant complaints that non-agricultural users are subsidizing the cost of water to farms. Examining California's climate in more detail makes water an even more contentious issue. Most of the state has a Mediterranean precipitation pattern of moist to wet winters coupled with mercilessly dry summers. Also, much of the important agricultural regions are in the rain shadow of the Coast Ranges, making them semi-arid at best and full-blown deserts at worst. There are a lot of hard feelings over water; the politically powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) imports water all the way from Arizona (which has sued California in the U.S. Supreme Court four times since the 1920s over how much water it gets from the Colorado River) and Northern California, which is not happy about the amount of water the south uses. The residents in the north seem to think the southland wants to drain it dry, while the south thinks the northerners want them to die of thirst.
California is, unfortunately, a little Cursed With Awesome economically; all it has to offer has made it such a desirable place to be for so long that its average cost of living is the highest of any state in the country besides Hawaii. This, combined with its aforementioned tax situation, has led to the state having many serious fiscal problems despite the size of its economy (the state government actually ran out of money once in the 1980s and again in the late 2000s) and for its once booming population growth to start to slow down a bit.note Really, that's just made California even more influential in the rest of the country; practically every other state has been impacted in some way by the waves of Californian migrants seeking a less expensive place to live.
California's areas can be divided as such:
- Southern California: Home to Los Angeles and San Diego, this is a metropolitan area known for being home to much of the entertainment industry and heavily influenced by Mexican immigration. Politically, Los Angeles is heavily liberal, while San Diego and Orange County trend more conservative.
- Desert: To the East, a sparsely-populated area with Death Valley National Park, the Sierra Nevada mountain range and close enough proximity to Nevada to often be mistaken for it. Highly conservative; some areas are practically part of the Deep South.
- The Valley: Usually refers to the Central Valley and, while it technically contains cities that are located in the Northern (e.x., Sacramento), residents usually mean it to refer to cities located south of Sacramento—Modesto, Fresno, and Bakersfield are some examples. This is essentially the heart of agriculture in California; this region alone produces over half of all fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the entire United States.
- 'Northern' California: Referred to as 'Central' by those in the below category, this holds San Francisco and the state capital, Sacramento. Known for its computer industry and highly liberal politics.
- North State/'The Mythical State of Jefferson': For the most part, a highly conservative area often forgotten by the rest of the state if not for its inclusion of Humboldt County (the one area of highly liberal politics in the area). Important cities are Redding, Chico, and Eureka. One attempt to break California into several states proposed the North State become 'Jefferson', which some locals have adopted, in varying degrees of seriousness, as the name for the whole area. Attempts to create a state of Jefferson almost succeeded back in 1941, when they came together with like-minded separatists in southwestern Oregon, but the Pearl Harbor bombing put such efforts on indefinite hold.
Nickname(s): The Aloha State (official), Paradise of the Pacific, The Islands of Aloha
Motto(s): Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono ("The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness")
Demonym: Hawaiian (but see below)
Capital & Largest "City": Honolulu (the capital, but Hawaiʻi has no citiessee below)
Other Communities of Note: Hilo, Kailua-Kona
Area: 10,931mi2 / 28,313km2 (8th smallest)
Population: 1,455,271 (11th smallest)
Date of Admission: August 21, 1959 (50th)
Current governor: David Ige (D)
Current senators: Mazie Hirono (D) and Brian Schatz (D)
Number of representatives: 2 (D)
The State of Hawaiʻi has the nickname The Aloha State, named for the Native Hawaiian word that means "hello", "goodbye", and "I love you". A former independent kingdom, then an independent republic (the mostly U.S.-born landowners deposed the queen when she attempted to establish universal suffrage), Hawaiʻi is the most recent state to enter the Union. It consists of a volcanic island chain in the Pacific Ocean and is the only state not geographically part of North America. Its capital Honolulu is technically the most isolated major city in the world. The closest comparable city, San Francisco, is 2,387 miles away.note Its highest peak Mauna Kea is also technically the tallest mountain on Earth at 33,500 feet, but unlike Mt. Everest, most of it lies below sea level.
The inhabited islands of Hawaiʻi are (west to east) Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi (commonly known as the Big Island to avoid confusion). The islands other than Oʻahu, where over two-thirds of the population live and where Honolulu is located, are also known as the "Neighbor Islands", and residents often talk about the dichotomy between 'big-city' Oʻahu/Honolulu and the 'rural' Neighbor Islands. Hawaiʻi is best known in the rest of the country as a vacation spot, due to its tropical climate, the non-necessity of a passport, and prevalence of English speakers. Oʻahu is littered with resorts, and Maui and the Big Island both feature large national parks around their volcanoes. The tropical latitude also means that daylight saving time has no practical use, and it's one of two states (the other being Arizona) that does not participate in it.
In reflection of a long history of being a place where people across the Pacific immigrated, no single ethnic group holds a majority among the population. It is the only state where Caucasian residents do not compose the majority—the largest percentage of Hawaiʻi's population is of Asian descent, with very large Japanese and Filipino communities. Note that the term 'Hawaiian' is never used within the state to refer to people who are merely residents but is always used to refer to people who are specifically Native Hawaiian (descendants of the people who were already in the islands prior to European contact in 1778, around 10% of the current population). Debate rages as to whether or not Native Hawaiians should be given all the same rights and entitlements as Native Americans and Alaskans, and that's not even getting into the debate over the state's colonial origins and whether the islands should seek to regain sovereignty. Proper terms for non-indigenous residents of the state are: "Kamaʻāina" (literally "child of the land", most often used to describe those born in the state), "Islander", or simply "Hawaiʻi Resident". Hawaiʻi is the birthplace of the first non-white U.S. President, Barack Obama, and is traditionally the most solidly Democrat state in the country.
The state flag notably sports the United Kingdom's Union Jack in the canton, a holdover from a time when the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi sought to align itself with the UK rather than the U.S. However, when the time came to choose a design to represent the state on a quarter, the state went with one that included the founder of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, King Kamehameha the Great (who also has a statue in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall).
The only legally constituted governments in Hawaiʻi below the state level are its five counties. Even Honolulu is governed as the "City and County of Honolulu", an entity that includes the entire island of Oʻahu plus all of the state's islands that lie northwest of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau. The area that is commonly thought of as "Honolulu" is merely the main urban core of the City and County and is officially designated by the U.S. Census Bureau as a "census-designated place" (CDP). All populated places in the state are in fact CDPs. Another unique quirk about the state is that it has no local or even county-run school districts; all public education is run directly by the state.
Nickname(s): Beaver State
Motto(s): Alis volat propriis (Latin: She flies with her own wings)
Largest City: Portland
Other Cities of Note: Eugene, Corvallis, Bend, Medford
Area: 98,378mi2 / 254,799km2 (9th largest)
Population: 4,237,256 (24th smallest)
Date of Admission: February 14, 1859 (33rd)
Current governor: Kate Brown (D)
Current senators: Jeff Merkley (D) and Ron Wyden (D)
Number of representatives: 5 (4 D, 1 R); gains 1 seat in 2022
The State of Oregon is located smack dab in The Other Rainforest, and, like the other West Coast states, is known for its liberal politics, which come in an especially weird flavor in Oregon. It is the only state to have a flag with two different sides and one of the few to have minted their own money. Famous for being the first (and before Washington legalized it in 2008, only) state to legalize assisted suicide, as well as being one of two states (New Jersey being the other) that doesn't let people pump their own gasnote and one of five with no sales tax. Oregon was the first state to implement the system of direct legislation and referendum that is now used by over half of the states (causing it to be called the 'Oregon System'), as well as being the first state to conduct its voting entirely by mail, the first state to implement a glass bottle return bill, the first state to decriminalize drugs, and the first state to make its entire coastline public property (meaning private landowners cannot own beaches, although they can own the land one would use to access the beaches). Oregonians are fond of correcting outsiders who pronounce the name of the state 'or-uh-gon'. It's 'or-uh-gin' (with the hard 'g' sound) and don't you forget it!note
Historically, the state was known for its salmon and timber, but technology has rapidly become more important to its economy. Oregon is home to the Silicon Forest, AKA where Silicon Valley moved to when California got pricey. Intel's largest facilities are all in the Portland area, along with primary R&D lines. Cheap electricity due to the Columbia River leads to massive aluminum refineries along the Columbia.
Oregon's largest city is Portland, a hippie-liberal college-weirdo city populated by indie rock bands, erudite stoners and granola girlslike Austin, TX, only in a similarly liberal state that elects Democrats to almost all their statewide offices.note Its reputation for environmentalism goes back quite a waysback in The '70s it gained notoriety for demolishing a freeway and replacing it with a park (now considered a major milestone in urban planning), and it's got a better-developed mass transit system than many cities three times its size. Much like Seattle, its sister city to the north, it's also known for its rain and an accompanying sports drought.note One unique feature about Portland is that it has more microbreweries than any other city on Earth. The presence of the largest independent bookstore in the world (Powell's City of Books, literally taking an entire city block) and a library system with the second-highest circulation of materials in the USA (after New York City's) has also given it a reputation of being a city of readers and writers. In recent years the city has attracted the attention of foodies, both through its award-winning restaurants and also the sheer diversity of food carts available everywhere in the city. Its nicknames include "Stumptown", due to tons of logging when the area was first settled, and "Bridgetown", because... it has lots of bridges. If you drive around Portland, some of the street names may seem familiar: this is because Portland-born Matt Groening used a lot of them for last names of characters from The Simpsons. Reportedly, the dream of the '90s is still alive and well in Portland.
If any of the smaller cities that surround Portland (Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Troutdale, etc.) are mentioned, it is usually by Portlanders snickering at them for being backwards, "uncool", and conservative. This is not appreciated by residents of these cities, and there have been several politicians in significantly more conservative Clackamas County, just to the south of Portland, who have built their careers on preventing "Portland creep" into their metropolitan areas. Also found in this area: the Oregon Vortex, a tourist trap that contains an optical illusion of rocks rolling uphill, and Crater Lake, the state's sole national park and the deepest lake in the U.S. (nearly 2,000 feet), formed out of a collapsed volcano that has filled with rain water over the last several millenia.
Nickname(s): "The Evergreen State" (unofficial)
Motto(s): Al-ki or Alki, "bye and bye" in Chinook Jargon (unofficial)
Largest City: Seattle
Other Cities of Note: Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver (not that Vancouver), Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah, Pullman. Aberdeen
Area: 71,297mi2 / 184,661km2 (18th largest)
Population: 7,705,281 (13th largest)
Date of Admission: November 11, 1889 (42nd)
Current governor: Jay Inslee (D)
Current senators: Patty Murray (D) and Maria Cantwell (D)
Number of representatives: 10 (7 D, 3 R)
The northwesternmost state in the continental United States, the State of Washington is not to be confused with the nation's capital (for this reason, it is sometimes referred to as "Washington State"). If you want to trigger the Berserk Button of a native, confuse the two, or just refer to D.C. as 'Washington'. Nicknamed "The Evergreen State" for the temperate rainforests that cover almost its entire western half, between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The region's cultural and commercial hub, Seattle, sits off of the Puget Sound, a massive sea inlet in the northwest of the state. Seattle is the home of Nintendo of Americanote , Microsoft,note Boeing,note Starbucks,note Costco,note grunge music, and the Space Needle. It doesn't always rain there, like some believe, but usually looks like it's about to. Also has a museum that's had several names, now called the Museum of Pop Culture, which looks like a cross between a giant electric guitar and a shoggoth.
The state capital, Olympia, is located on the southern end of the Puget Sound and is home to The Evergreen State College (and yes, the definite article is part of the name), a real life Berserkeley. Tacoma, the state's third largest city, lies between the two. Since The '90s, western Washington has increasingly become a place of refuge for expat Californians fleeing high housing prices. Residents are occasionally referred to as/call themselves 'Washingtonians'. Other prominent natural attractions in western Washington include Mount Rainier (originally known as Tacoma, now a national park and an active stratovolcano that volcanologists agree is in real danger of destroying its namesake city someday), Mount St. Helens (which actually did erupt in 1980 in the deadliest and most destructive eruption in U.S. history), and the Olympic and Northern Cascades National Park (Bigfoot lives somewhere in one of them). Every few years, a different small town in the state becomes a tourist mecca after being used in a Hollywood production: Snoqualmie served up damn fine pie, Roslyn had moose wandering around, and Forks is the home of sparkly vampires.
Then there's the eastern half of the state, which is mostly high prairie or desert. The Columbia and Snake Rivers have extensive dam systems that provide power and water to turn said prairie into fertile farmland; apples are a major crop. This region is home to Spokane, the second largest city in the state, and Hanford, birthplace of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Much more conservative than the part of the state not in the rain shadow, some residents occasionally build enough resentment to try to secede from the rest of the state (sometimes coming together with nearby Eastern Oregon and the Idaho Panhandle to propose a greater 'State of Lincoln'). Also, whenever the Republic of Cascadia pops up in popular fiction, Washington is one of the founding entities, along with (usually just Northern) California, Oregon, and British Columbia, with someone occasionally trying to make it a reality. Needless to say, these efforts haven't worked yet and probably never will.
With the majority of the population in the very liberal Puget Sound region, Democrats dominate Washington politics, holding every statewide office except for Secretary of State, held by the popular Kim Wyman. East of the Cascades tends to be Republican, and coastal areas can swing either way. In fact, Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula currently holds the longest bellwether streak in America for presidential elections, having voted for every winning candidate since 1980. Historically, Republicans are more competitive down ballot — Democrat Christine Gregoire won the 2004 gubernatorial election by exactly 133 votes, for example, at the same time that John Kerry was easily beating George W. Bush in the state. That dynamic is fading as polarization across the country has mostly destroyed ticket splitting.
Nickname(s): The Grand Canyon State, The Copper State
Motto(s): Ditat Deus (God enriches). Unofficially, "...But it's a dry heat!"
Capital & Largest City: Phoenix
Other Cities of Note: Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott, Yuma, Kingman, Tombstone, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe
Area: 113,990mi2 / 295,234km2 (6th largest)
Population: 7,151,502 (14th largest)
Date of Admission: February 14, 1912 (48th)
Current governor: Doug Ducey (R)
Current senators: Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Mark Kelly (D)
Number of representatives: 9 (5 D, 4 R)
The southwest and most populated 'Four Corners' state, the State of Arizona was officially recognized on February 14, 1912. Arizona is the 48th state to join the Union, making it the last of the contiguous states. It is well known for its desert climate, and thus shows up in Westerns a lot (the shootout at the OK Corral took place in Tombstone, Arizona). However, in truth, there is more to Arizona than just desert. Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the country and is often considered "Los Angeles without the ocean" (warm weather, Latin-flavored culture, sprawling suburbs, though the cost of living is much lower than SoCal) meets "Las Vegas without the casinos" (sandy and hot, though there are a handful of Native American-run casinos in the area). In northern Arizona, at a much higher altitude, the climate is cold enough to allow skiing in the winter.note Since Indiana changed over, Arizona is now one of two states that do not participate in Daylight Saving Time.note And, of course, there's the Grand Canyon, with a name that somehow understates its immense size and splendor.note
A traditionally conservative state, Arizona has often been depicted as 'Alabama with cacti' thanks to the state declining to officially observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day from 1987 to 1992note and for a highly restrictive anti-illegal immigration law that the state passed in 2010 that inflamed passions on both sides of the issue. The state is also home to the controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs), who has gained notoriety for his anti-illegal immigration stance and his... colorful handling of the prison systemnote (he was voted out in 2016). Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain represented the state in the U.S. Senate for more than 30 years until his death in 2018. In part due to McCain's deeply personal feud with Donald Trump dividing the party and in part due to a steady flow of migrants from both Mexico and neighboring California, the state has shown signs of moving leftward in recent years. In 2018 and 2020, the state elected two centrist Democrats to the Senate: Kyrsten Sinema (a Blue Dog fiscal conservative and the first openly bisexual senator, who has been a major obstacle towards the Democrats' legislative agenda after Biden took office) and Mark Kelly (a famed former astronaut and husband to former representative Gabby Giffords, who miraculously survived being shot in the head in a 2011 assassination attempt, leading to the couple becoming gun control activists). In the latter year, Joe Biden became only the third Democrat presidential candidate to carry the state since World War II, narrowly defeating Trump (who had previously won the state). As with Georgia, it remains to be seen if this represents a long-term trend in the state's politics.
The television show Medium is set here, as is the Chick Flick Waiting to Exhale. Notable Arizonans include Linda Ronstadt, Barry Goldwater (John McCains direct predecessor; despite losing badly in his 1964 presidential campaign, his strong fiscal conservatism ultimately paved the way for Ronald Reagan), Jordin Sparks, Dierks Bentley, Stevie Nicks, Stephenie Meyer, the Gin Blossoms, and Alice Cooper (though he got his start in Michigan).
Nickname(s): The Centennial State
Motto(s): Nil sine numine (English: Nothing without providence)
Demonym: Coloradan, Coloradoan
Capital & Largest City: Denver
Other Cities of Note: Colorado Springs, Aspen, Boulder, Pueblo, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Aurora
Area: 104,093mi2 / 269,601km2 (8th largest)
Population: 5,773,714 (21st largest)
Date of Admission: August 1, 1876 (38th)
Current governor: Jared Polis (D)
Current senators: Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D)
Number of representatives: 7 (4 D, 3 R); gains 1 seat in 2022
The northeast 'Four Corners' state, the State of Colorado is usually known for its mountains, the ski resorts on said mountains, the Columbine shootings, the 2012 The Dark Knight Rises shooting, Trey Parker and Matt Stones classic South Park, Senator Armstrong, and its pioneering marijuana legalization. The eastern half of the state consists of flat prairie more reminiscent of neighboring Kansas than our usual perception of mountainous terrain. However, it still has some of the highest mountains in the country (only Alaska and California have higher) and the highest average elevation of any state, with its lowest point still approximately 3,300 feet above sea level (higher than many states' highest points and the only lowest point more than 1,000 meters above sea level). The thin, clean air and the abundance of outdoor activities may explain why, statistically, Colorado has the lowest obesity rate◊ in America. Its state capital, Denver, is the largest city for 500 miles in any direction, which says something about how sparsely populated the region outside the Front Range Corridor is.
Colorado is where the traditional values of the Midwest begin to shift into the relatively libertarian values of the West (current governor Jared Polis was the only Democratic member of the libertarian House Liberty Caucus). Casino gambling, while not widespread, does not suffer the same stigma is does in the Midwest (Colorado is one of 15 states to permit commercial gambling). Colorado shares a reputation with the West Coast as being extremely marijuana-friendly, having been one of the first two states (together with Washington) to legalize the herb. The state also has a standing tradition as a center for the beer industry; Coors is by far the most widely sold, but the cities are absolutely awash in tap houses, brewpubs, and microbreweries.
However, the state may be best known nationwide for sports, athletics, and outdoor recreation. Colorado Springs is home to the US Olympic Training Center, thanks in no small part to having some of the finest parks in the world, including four national parksnote , though the "Garden of the Gods" public park is arguably more famous than any of them due to its distinct rock formations. Denver is home to a truly impressive number of professional sports teams, many with storied histories.note Aspen, Vail, and the other resorts are among the most famous and visited ski locations in the country. The Rocky Mountains attract literal armies of hikers and mountaineers every year; the most hiked mountains, like Longs Peak, actually have lines leading up the trail to the summit on peak days. There are 52 official Fourteenersnote —mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation—found in Colorado, and hundreds over 13,000, making for a very significant location for climbers. Recreational athletes such as cyclists and marathon runners favor the high elevation and hilly terrain, not to mention the mountain backdrop.
Politically and culturally, the 'red/blue state' divide runs straight through Colorado, historically making it a fairly important swing state. The eastern and western parts of the state are ruby red and deeply conservative, and the city of Colorado Springs, which hosts multiple major military installations, several major parachurch organizations, and a number of megachurches, has historically been a conservative stronghold. However, Denver (easily the largest city in the state), Boulder (a.k.a. "The People's Republic of Boulder"), and the various ski resort towns in the mountains are famously liberal and secularnote , and are filled with hippies, Granola Girls, and, in the case of the ski towns, rich Hollywood celebrities making a second home. Historically, the suburbs of Denver were Republican leaning, which gave the GOP the advantage in the state. However, since Barack Obama won Colorado in 2008, those suburbs have swung hard toward Democrats (with Douglas County, between Denver and the Springs, being the only suburban area that still votes Republican), giving the party a strong numerical advantage — essentially, Democrats dominate the parts of the state where most people live, while Republicans dominate the most sparsely populated regions. As a result, Colorado has evolved into a solidly Democratic state — Democratic presidential candidates have won it four elections in a row, and as of 2021, every statewide elected official is a Democrat. Even Colorado Springs and Douglas County, while still voting for Republicans, have begun trending in a blue direction. This has created a sharp urban-rural divide in the state, with resentments strong enough that there's an ongoing secession movement in northern Colorado among conservatives who either want to form their own state or latch onto neighboring Wyoming.note
Colorado is the location of ADX Florence, which contains a supermax-class prison often called The Alcatraz of the Rockies, where the federal government keeps many of the most dangerous people convicted, including the Unabomber, Zacarias Moussaoui, and many other terrorists and mass murderers. NORAD is located under Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, making it one of the most fortified locations on earth, intended to be able to survive a direct strike from a nuclear weapon or an alien invasionnote .
Nickname(s): Gem State
Motto(s): Esto perpetua (Latin for Let it be perpetual)
Capital & Largest City: Boise
Other Cities of Note: Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Coeur d'Alene, Soda Springs, Preston, Moscow, Ketchum
Area: 83,568mi2 / 216,443km2 (14th largest)
Population: 1,839,106 (13th smallest)
Date of Admission: July 3, 1890 (43rd)
Current governor: Brad Little (R)
Current senators: Jim Risch (R) and Mike Crapo (R)
Number of representatives: 2 (R)
The State of Idaho grows lots of potatoes as well as wheat, and is where russet potatoes originated from. While the state is not in the West Coast, it is still considered part of the Pacific Northwest, and the Idaho Panhandle uses the Pacific Time Zone while the rest of the state uses the Mountain Time Zone. Has a reputation for being very conservative and white, to the point that it has been known to attract literal neo-Nazisthe Aryan Nations had their headquarters in Hayden Lake from the '70s until they were sued into bankruptcy in 2001, and the Ruby Ridge siege took place just two counties over. On a more positive note, it's become famous in recent years as the setting of Napoleon Dynamite, so much that the state legislature moved to pass a resolution thanking director Jared Hess for "raising Idaho awareness". The state also has the second-highest Mormon population (by percentage) after neighboring Utah, found mostly in eastern Idaho. Boise State University is also home to the first Collegiate American Football stadium in the country with a non-green/brown playing field (its artificial turf is blue). After the school went on an unexpected run, a few other schools have since followed suit.
The state is also home to the the U.S.'s only captive Geyser, the Soda Springs Geyser, and Rigby is where the world's first fully functional and complete all-electronic television was invented by Philo Taylor Farnsworth.
It has a 'fake' name. That is to say, the name 'Idaho' has no Indian pedigree as it may appear, but was made up by a mining lobbyist who thought an exotic, Indian-sounding name would attract lots of settlers.
Nickname(s): Big Sky Country, The Treasure State
Motto(s): Oro y Plata (Gold and Silver)
Largest City: Billings
Other Cities of Note: Butte, Great Falls, Missoula, Whitefish, Bozeman, Glendive
Area: 147,039mi2 / 380,831km2 (4th largest)
Population: 1,084,225 (7th smallest)
Date of Admission: November 8, 1889 (41st)
Current governor: Greg Gianforte (R)
Current senators: Jon Tester (D) and Steve Daines (R)
Number of representatives: 1 (Matt Rosendale, R); gains 1 seat in 2022
The massive State of Montana consists of miles of beautiful, mostly untamed wilderness that is either being strip-mined, clear-cut, occupied by fanatical gun-toting militia groups, or snapped up by rich Hollywood types looking for a scenic holiday spot. Glacier National Park is one of the most stunning landscapes in the world (it spills over into Alberta, Canada). If one were to look at an outline of the state, one could see the profile of a face looking southwest into Idaho.
It seems that the generally untruthful perception of gun-toting fanatics is wider than some would hope. The whole state is taken over by them in Far Cry 5. The fourth-largest city (population around 40,000), Bozeman, has been mentioned in the CSI Verseit is the birthplace of both Catherine Willows from CSI and Lindsay Monroe from the New York spinoff. Also, keep your eyes open in 2063 when humanity's first successful warp-capable ship will depart from here. Colin Meloy of The Decemberists is a native of the capital, Helena, and has strong links to Missoula, location of the University of Montana. Glendive (population 4,900) is the smallest TV market in America, ranked #210 by Nielsen (209 spots below New York City).
Montana is generally a conservative state, having only voted for the Democrat presidential candidate twice in the last 70 years: once in 1964 with Lyndon Johnsons 44-state landslide and again in 1992 when Ross Perot split the conservative vote (although it was decided by less than 3% in 2008). However, Montanans are more open to voting for Democrats downballot, like current Senator Jon Tester, and had Democrat governors from 2005-2020. Historically, Montana's most notable politician was Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to hold federal office in the United States who won a seat in the House in 1917, two years before women even had the right to vote in most of the country, and introduced the legislation that eventually granted that right. She was also an ardent pacifist and voted against America's entry into both World Wars, being the only vote to oppose entering World War II; this killed her political career but conveyed a profound degree of moral courage and principle that reflects the state's highest ideals.
Nickname(s): Silver State (official), Sagebrush State, Battle Born State
Motto(s): All for Our Country
Capital: Carson City
Largest City: Las Vegas
Other Cities of Note: Reno, Elko, Winnemucca, Laughlin, Henderson
Area: 110,571mi2 / 286,380km2 (7th largest)
Population: 3,104,614 (19th smallest)
Date of Admission: October 31, 1864 (36th)
Current governor: Steve Sisolak (D)
Current senators: Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Jacky Rosen (D)
Number of representatives: 4 (3 D, 1 R)
The State of Nevadanote was one of the two states to join the Union during the Civil War (the other being West Virginia), both for its silver reserves and Abraham Lincoln's need for electoral votes. It would still be just a couple of silver mines and a whole lot of empty desert if not for the state's decision to legalize gambling in 1931. Now it has the tourist black hole of Las Vegas, the smaller gambling mecca of Reno close to the state capital in Carson City and scenic Lake Tahoe, and a few other small gambling outposts. All of these cities are clustered close to the interstate borders; while the state as a whole is quite vast, around three-fourths of the entire population lives in the southern tip around Vegas, and nearly 90% live either there or around Reno. The rest of the state is comprised of a few mining towns, some (legal!) brothels, and a whole lot of still very empty desert. If you're planning to drive through that desert to enjoy the state's natural beauty (including Great Basin National Park), make sure you fill up with plenty of supplies—you can go a long, long way without seeing another human face.
The state capital of Carson City is another of the country's three independent cities (outside of Virginia).
Nevada is popular for banks because it has the same rule as South Dakota: they can charge any interest rate they want. Nevada is also popular for private corporations because it has no state income tax, is the only state that refuses to share information with the IRS, and has corporate operating rules that are very favorable to management. There have been complaints about this because Microsoft has its licensing division chartered in Nevada rather than Washington State, saving it millions of dollars of taxes it would have to pay if it was chartered in Washington where the parent company is located.
Nevada has a good bellwether status; it has voted for the overall winner of each election since 1912, except for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Donald Trump in 2016. Nowadays it tends to lean more Democratic than Republican; it currently has two Democrats in the Senate and both state legislative chambers are under Democratic control, though its still more competitive than Colorado and Virginia have become. As recently as the 2010s, the state still had Republican governors and senators. A county map of Nevada is basically a sea of red with a tiny speck of blue around Las Vegas and a narrow strip of blue on the northwest border that includes Reno. In 2020, for example, Joe Biden won exactly two counties in the state, Clark and Washoe (also losing in Carson City). However, since Clark County (home to Vegas) accounts for 74 percent of the state's population, and Washoe County (Reno) has more than half of the remaining population, that was more than enough for Democrats.
For such an empty region, fiction sure finds a lot of stories to tell about it thanks to Vegas (and possibly because of all the aliens). It's the setting of CSI, Fallout: New Vegas, Casino, Reno 911!, and plenty of Westerns.
- "Hold your horses, Smithers! There's a New Mexico, you say?"
Nickname(s): Land of Enchantment
Motto(s): Crescit eundo (English: It grows as it goes)
Demonym: New Mexican
Capital: Santa Fe
Largest City: Albuquerque
Other Cities of Note: Las Cruces, Roswell, Taos, Los Alamos, Alamogordo, Clovis
Area: 121,590mi2 / 314,917km2 (5th largest)
Population: 2,117,522 (15th smallest)
Date of Admission: January 6, 1912 (47th)
Current governor: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)
Current senators: Martin Heinrich (D) and Ben Ray Lujan (D)
Number of representatives: 3 (2 D, 1 R)
The southeast and least populated 'Four Corners' state, the State of New Mexico has its motto printed on its license plates, "Land of Enchantment". Its distinctive yellow and red flag sports a sun symbol used by the Zia, an indigenous group of Pueblo people. The flag reflects the state's massive Native population, the largest by percentage in the contiguous U.S.note . Much of the northwestern quarter of the state is comprised of reservations of Navajo and Pueblo people. The majority of the state's residents identify as Hispanic, the only state with that distinction.
New Mexico used to be one of the wildest parts of the Wild West; Cimarron is one of the few towns that really lived up to the hype. The state has working cattle ranches to this day. Also known as the home of Roswell, where, erm... something happened in 1947, and the birthplace of the first nuke in Project Y of The Manhattan Project as well as the area of the subsequent first nuclear test, Trinity, took place in. Alamogordo is the grave of many copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, buried in a landfill there until being recently dug up in 2014. It is also home to White Sands Missile Range (the largest military installation in the US), Holloman Air Force Base (home to the German Air Force Flying Training Center and the world's longest and fastest high speed test track), the national parks Carlsbad Caverns (home to the largest cave chamber in North America) and White Sands (where Scorponok attacked those army guys), the New Mexico Museum of Space History, the American Armed Forces Museum, and the Alameda Park Zoo (which is the oldest zoo in the American Southwest). The state puts "New Mexico USA" on its license plates just in case someone thinks it's part of that other Mexiconote , though the state does border actual Mexico in the southwest and has the highest population of Hispanics of any state in the U.S. at 48% of the state's population. New Mexicans who travel can attest that this issue is very much Truth in Television, to the point where New Mexico Magazine has a long-running column entitled "One of our Fifty is Missing" devoted to instances of this mistake.note
Breaking Bad, High School Musical, and In Plain Sight are set in Albuquerque, the state's largest city, which shows the multifaceted nature of The Duke City. The show Roswell is also set in New Mexico (of course), so is the first video game in the Half-Life series and the beginning of Hunt Down the Freeman, Sunshine Cleaning, and parts of Terminator Salvation. Several films, including some of those aforementioned, have been produced in New Mexico as the state has a number of very attractive rebate programs and tax incentives to encourage motion picture production. These incentives plus the relative closeness to California has made it a much more popular place to film than some others such as Louisiana.
Despite Missouri and Ohio's greater fame as a presidential bellwether, New Mexico has actually voted more reliably for the person declared president in each election since it attained statehood in 1912. The lone exceptions came in 1976, 2000 (when it was actually even closer than Florida), and 2016 (though Bush Jr. made up for it when he was reelected in 2004). The state has become more of a Democratic stronghold in recent years, largely thanks to its massive Hispanic population. Conversely, the economic challenges faced by many of the state's Hispanic and Native residents, especially those living in rural areas, make the state one of the poorest in the country.
While much of the state is desert, there are also a number of mountains, leaving it as the state with the third-highest average elevation (behind Colorado and Wyoming). If you see saguaros (the big cactus with arms), then someone has gotten it confused with neighboring Arizona. Also, if someone there asks you "Red or green?", answer "Christmas". (They're arguing over which chilies are better.)
Nickname(s): Beehive State (official), The Mormon State, Deseret
Demonym: Utahn (the preferred form in Utah) or Utahan (used by outsiders)
Capital & Largest City: Salt Lake City
Other Cities of Note: Provo (and its neighboring city Orem), Ogden, Logan, St. George, Cedar City, Park City, Moab, and the SLC suburbs of West Valley City, Sandy, and West Jordan
Area: 84,896mi2 / 219,882km2 (13th largest)
Population: 3,271,616 (21st smallest)
Date of Admission: January 4, 1896 (45th)
Current governor: Spencer Cox (R)
Current senators: Mitt Romney (R) and Mike Lee (R)
Number of representatives: 4 (R)
The northwest 'Four Corners' state, the State of Utah was founded by Mormon pioneers when they were driven out of the United States into Mexican territory, which was then promptly sold to the U.S. after the Mexican-American War. Salt Lake City—or Sal Tlay Ka Siti, if you prefer—was the first city founded by the pioneers, named for the Great Salt Lake, the American version of the Dead Sea. It remains the state capital, its largest city, and its main cultural and economic center. One-third of the state's population lives in Salt Lake County, and about 80% lives in the Wasatch Front, a narrow 90-mile (140 km) strip with Salt Lake City in the middle. The state boasts the second-lowest poverty rate in the nation and is rapidly growing, with the highest percentage increase in population of any state in the The New '10s.
Utah remains the center of the Mormon world, and about 60% of the population still belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, making it the only state with the majority of its population belonging to one church.note For this reason, Mormonism dominates state culture and politics, sometimes leading to conflict with non-Mormon residents. The joke used to be that Salt Lake City is the only place where even Jews are called "Gentiles" (since early Mormons used this term for non-Mormons). However, the region is nowhere near as homogenous as it once was, thanks to job opportunities and Mormon proselytizing attracting an influx of former California residents and immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and even far-flung regions like the Pacific Islands and Africa to the desert. While outsiders often call Utah "the whitest state in America", it's actually not even in the top 10 anymore, and the Mormon population of Salt Lake County has dipped below 50% in recent years. SLC, as the largest city for hundreds of miles in any direction, is also a haven for LGBT individuals in not just Utah but the border regions of the surrounding Mountain states. Jackie Biskupski, who's openly lesbian, served as the city's mayor from 20162020. Though the state remains staunchly conservative overall, state politics are now basically just one big fight between religiously diverse Salt Lake City and still heavily Mormon Provo (home of church-run Brigham Young University).
Despite (or perhaps because of) its residents' social conservatism, Donald Trump isn't especially popular here. Trump finished third in the 2016 Republican caucus and couldn't clear 50% in the general election that year, thanks mainly to third-party candidate (and Utah native) Evan McMullin getting over 20% in the state. Trump carried Utah easily in 2020, but Joe Biden's 38% was the highest vote share for a Democrat since 1964.note Its two Republican senators are also both non-traditional: Mitt Romney, himself a former presidential candidate, has been one of Trumps most vocal critics, and Mike Lee is a libertarian-conservative in the vein of Ron and Rand Paul.note
Utah is well known for its beautiful national parks, having the third most of any state (only California and Alaska have more) at 5 (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion). NASA tends to use Utah as a training ground for Mars, to test rockets, and to land space probes, while the military used it to test (and later destroy) biological and chemical weapons. Everyone else comes to hike, ski, or ride bikes (stereotypically mountain bikes). It is relatively cheap to film here, so you've probably seen chunks of Utah's southern half doubling as the Old West or various alien planets due to much of it being interestingly colored or shaped (or both). The famous landscape Monument Valley sits along the border between Utah and Arizona; it has been featured in many western movies, particularly those made by director John Ford. The Sundance Film Festival is held in Park City every January and has also contributed to Utah being a destination for the film industry.
Some people argue that the true state religion of Utah is the Utah Jazz. As the only "big 4" pro sports franchise in the state, practically everyone is a fan. College sports are also popular. If you're in Salt Lake, don't wear anything blue or with cougars on it, and if you are in Provo (home of BYU), for the love of every being ever worshipped, avoid wearing red or a giant 'U' (for University of Utah, the secular state-run school based in Salt Lake City). It is for your own safety. College rivalries can get scary.note
Nickname(s): Equality State (official), Cowboy State, Big Wyoming, Wonderful Wyoming
Motto(s): Equal Rights
Capital & Largest City: Cheyenne
Other Cities of Note: Casper, Laramie, Rock Springs, Gillette, Sheridan, Jacksonnote
Area: 97,813mi2 / 253,335km2 (10th largest)
Population: 576,851 (smallest)
Date of Admission: July 10, 1890 (44th)
Current governor: Mark Gordon (R)
Current senators: John Barrasso (R) and Cynthia Lummis (R)
Number of representatives: 1 (Liz Cheney, R)
The least populous state in the Union, the State of Wyoming bears the nickname "The Equality State" because it is the state where women have longest held a continuous right to vote.note Despite its sobriquet, the state became infamous for the murder of Matthew Shepard (which led to a spectacular display of asshattery by the Westboro Baptist Church), and this incident may have been the reason why Brokeback Mountain was set in Wyoming.
Wyoming is one of the most conservative states in the country, with over twice as many people voting for Republicans in presidential elections as for Democrats. It gave Donald Trump his biggest margin of victory in both 2016 and 2020, and Democrats don't bother competing for the state's lone House seat or two Senate seats (Dems came within a couple thousand votes of winning the House seat in their 2006 wave year, but haven't come close since). This has led more than one Democrat, frustrated at Republican efforts to merge the more-populous (and heavily-Democratic) D.C. back into Maryland rather than give it statehood, to call for Wyoming to be merged with one of its neighbors.note Dick Cheney grew up and launched his career from Wyoming, where he's set up a small political dynasty; his daughter Liz is currently the state's sole Representative in the House.
Wyoming is well-known for its beautiful and unique natural wonders. The massive Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming (with smaller, marginal portions located in Idaho and Montana) was the nation's first official national park and is known for its unique wildlife, gorgeous natural scenery, and distinct geothermal activity generated by a massive supervolcano that probably won't blow up the continent any time soon. (Probably.) Grand Teton National Park, located just to the south of Yellowstone, is often overshadowed but is similarly stunning. And then there's Devil's Tower, a giant monolithic rock column that was a crucial location in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
If you're into the cowboy way of life, Wyoming is also rich in Wild West heritage and history. It was also the state that invented a popular alternative to the corporation, the Limited Liability Company, in 1987.
Nickname(s): Land of Lincoln, The Prairie State
Motto(s): State sovereignty, national union
Largest City: Chicago
Other Cities of Note: Joliet, Naperville, Peoria, Elgin, Rockford, ChampaignUrbana (home to the main campus of the University of Illinois), BloomingtonNormal, three of the five Quad Cities (Moline, East Moline, Rock Island)
Area: 57,913mi2 / 149,995km2 (25th largest)
Population: 12,812,508 (6th largest)
Date of Admission: December 3, 1818 (21st)
Current governor: J. B. Pritzker (D)
Current senators: Dick Durbin (D) and Tammy Duckworth (D)
Number of representatives: 18 (13 D, 5 R); loses 1 seat in 2022
The State of Illinois (the "s" is silent, making it 'ill-i-NOY') is home to Chicago, the third-largest city in America (also known one of the centers of the American Mafia), but its state capital is actually Springfield. No, not the Simpsons one or the one in Massachusetts. Most of what Illinois is known for is Chicago; more than half the state's population lives in the city's metro area. The rest of the state is mostly rural, and conservatives in central and southern Illinois often resent being lumped with Chi-town. Abraham Lincoln started his political career here, which is why any Illinois child is brought up to worship the first Republican president. However, Democrats (mostly from Chicago) have controlled the state for years, and it is now easily the party's greatest stronghold in the Midwest. Barack Obama, who settled in Chicago after law school, represented the state in the U.S. Senate before being elected president.
Laconically, Illinois has three parts: Chicago, suburbs (which can be divided into more liberal ones close to Chicago and the rural southern ones), and corn. Also, there's a stretch of giant corporate buildings at the southern border of Lake County for companies that want to be close to the city but don't want to pay Cook County taxes.
The state has a reputation for political corruption, with a long-serving house speaker notorious as a symbol of machine politics and four of the last eight (and two of the last three) governors serving prison time. Governor Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office not long after Obama's election to the White House for apparently attempting to sell his vacant Senate seat. At one point, prosecutors had framed so many people for death penalty cases that on the last day of his term, Governor George Ryan commuted the sentences of all 156 persons on death row to life imprisonment. This might be the reason that Governor Pat Quinn would later sign a bill that eliminated the death penalty in Illinois.
Several factors—perhaps most notably the political corruption, fear of violent crime in Chicagonote , and higher state taxes passed by Democrat elected officials—have led to Illinois experiencing the greatest population decline of any state in recent years in total numbers and second greatest per capita outside of only West Virginia. Since 2014, the population has dropped by greater numbers each succeeding year, resulting in a net loss of a quarter million people in the last decade. Most of that decline seems to be coming from outside of Chicago, whose population has mostly stayed steady, indicating that the long running frustration of suburban and rural Illinoisans has perhaps hit a boiling point.
Nickname(s): The Hoosier State
Motto(s): The Crossroads of America
Capital & Largest City: Indianapolis
Other Cities of Note: Fort Wayne, Evansville, South Bend, Gary, Lafayette, Bloomington, Warsaw, Milan, Terre Haute, Monticello, Columbus, Jeffersonville, Auburn
Area: 36,419mi2 / 94,326km2 (13th smallest)
Population: 6,785,528 (17th largest)
Date of Admission: December 11, 1816 (19th)
Current governor: Eric Holcomb (R)
Current senators: Todd Young (R) and Mike Braun (R)
Number of representatives: 9 (7 R, 2 D)
The smallest Midwestern state by area, Indiana is known for its passion for basketball ('Hoosier hysteria'note ), Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, The Jackson 5, Indiana Jones' first name, and hosting the Indy 500. Indiana is nicknamed the Crossroads of America due to being located right between Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, and perhaps more importantly today is a major hub of the Interstate Highway System.* In 1929, a pair of sociologists declared Muncie, Indiana, to be the countrys most typical small town. As a result, a lot of marketing testing used to be conducted there. Jim Davis, creator of the comic strip Garfield, comes from Muncie, as does David Letterman. Numerous works meant to represent wholesome "Middle America", including A Christmas Story, Parks and Recreation, and Stranger Things, take place in Indiana. The aforementioned passion for basketball is most notably chronicled in the film Hoosiers, very loosely based on the actual 1954 state high school champions from the small southeastern town of Milan.
Indiana is sort of an aberration among the Great Lakes states, mainly because of politics. It is often derogatorily referred to as the "Northern Southern State", very often by its own inhabitants, for being politically to the right of the rest of the Great Lakes region and generally having more cultural affinity with southern neighbors like Kentucky than its northerly ones. Its reputation is only partially deserved: up until recently, the state was actually a swing state, had several Democratic senators through the '90s, and even voted for Obama in 2008. In recent years, much to the chagrin of its more liberal neighbors, it has gone totally in favor of the Republican Party, largely due to its former governor Mike Pence being Trump's vice president. Historically, its currently tied with Vermont as the most frequently Republican-voting state in presidential elections. It's also home for the only execution chamber for the Federal Government (most executions are handled on the state level).
For a long time, Indiana was one of three states (Arizona and Hawaiʻi being the others) that did not use Daylight Saving Time. It is still split into two time zones—the northwest corner and coast of Lake Michigan, around Gary, is so tied to nearby Chicago by urban sprawl that it was considered inconvenient to be on Eastern Time, and the same holds true for the southwest corner around Evansville, in this case because it's the main economic center for a decent-sized chunk of Illinois and western Kentucky. Discussing the time zone issue—or any other 'Northwest Indiana vs. the Rest of the State' topic—is likely to start a Flame War. As that implies, Indiana can typically be divided into 4 zones: Northwest Indiana (known to natives as "the Region", which shares its cultural ties with Chicago and is home to Gary, one of the most economically depressed cities in the nation); Northern Indiana, which is primarily represented by the towns of Fort Wayne and South Bend (home to the University of Notre Dame, a massive Catholic school known for its Fighting Irish football team, plus the first openly gay presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, who rose to national prominence after his tenure as the city's mayor); Central Indiana, which contains the state capital; and Southern Indiana, often referred to as "Kentuckiana", which is best known for having a real life Christmas Town named Santa Claus (which collects thousands of children's letters to St. Nick and is home to Holiday World, a very successful independent Theme Park known for its world-class roller coasters and free soda). At the time of the 2010 census, the median center of the United States population was in Pike County; this point has not yet been released for the 2020 census.Definition Natives of Indiana are properly referred to as "Hoosiers", though the origin of the word has been lost to time.
Contrary to popular belief, Indiana produces much more than just corn. It is also a leader in the production of soybeans, poultry (including a majority of the countrys duck products), steel, and cars. Auto manufacturer Studebaker produced horse-drawn wagons, and later cars, in South Bend from 1852 until its closing in 1964. The state ranks second in number of biopharmaceutical jobs of all the states and fifth in total sales and shipments of pharmaceutical products. Mead Johnson Nutritionals, best known for producing infant formula, has its main operations center in Evansville,note and pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is based in Indy. Pence's hometown of Columbus (not the one from Ohio) is a major tourist attraction for architecture buffs. Diesel engine maker Cummins has its headquarters in the city, and a foundation created by the company's founding family has paid distinguished architects to design numerous public buildings in the city. The state also has the third largest population of Amish in the US after Pennsylvania and Ohio. The city of Warsaw is known as the "Orthopedic Capital of the World" due to the world's first manufacturer of orthopedic appliances, DePuy Manufacturing, being founded there in 1895. The creators of Terraria, Re-Logic, are also based in Indiana, and Papa John's Pizza originated in Jeffersonville, though they've now moved their main headquarters to the Atlanta area.note
Nickname(s): "The Great Lake(s) State", "The Wolverine State", "The Mitten State", "Water (Winter) Wonderland"
Motto(s): Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice (English: "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you")
Demonym: Michigander, Michiganian, Yooper (for residents of the Upper Peninsula)
Largest City: Detroit
Other Cities of Note: Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Flint, KalamazooBattle Creek, Marquette
Area: 96,713mi2 / 250,487km2 (11th largest)
Population: 10,077,331 (10th largest)
Date of Admission: January 26, 1837 (26th)
Current governor: Gretchen Whitmer (D)
Current senators: Debbie Stabenow (D) and Gary Peters (D)
Number of representatives: 14 (7 D, 7 R); loses 1 seat in 2022
The State of Michigan is known for bordering four of the five Great Lakes, having a sizable German population, and being broken into two parts, its southern part resembling a mitten (expect locals to point at parts of their hands as a visual aid for where they live). Once lost a war with Ohio over Toledo, but got its upper peninsula as a consolation prize, which tends to be ignored by "Trolls"those who live "under the bridge"excuse us, "under da bridge"in the lower half. The proper term for a resident of Michigan is 'Michigander'.note Residents of the UP (Upper Peninsula) are sometimes called 'Yoopers' and have a distinct accent; depending on who you ask, they either sound like Minnesotans or Canadians. Michiganders have had a big impact on the country; Detroit, the Motor City, is the seat of the American auto industry and is known for its contributions to popular music which, among many others, includes Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Eminem, Kid Rock, and Motown Records, which held a pantheon of R&B artists in the 1960s and '70s. Michigan also made substantial contributions to Punk Rock in the form of the MC5 and, more famously, Iggy Pop and the Stooges in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then the garage rock revival in the early 2000s with the likes of The White Stripes. Butch Hartman of Danny Phantom, Fairly Oddparents and Johnny Bravo fame is also from Highland Park.
Despite once being a shining beacon of industry and culture, Detroit has become better known as the poster child for urban squalor in the public imagination (notably the dystopian future as depicted in RoboCop), hence the alternative nickname "Murder City". Michigan was hit pretty hard by the economic changes of the late 20th century, as the stagflation crisis and outsourcing led a peninsula once known for its strong unions of auto workers struggling to adapt when the factories left (though the "Big Three" American automakers Ford, GM, and Chrysler have kept their headquarters in Detroit). The city of Flint took this even harder than Detroit; it has been listed as the one of the worst places to live in the country starting in the '80s, as captured in Roger & Me, the documentary about downsizing's devastating effects that made left-wing filmmaker/provocateur Michael Moore (who grew up in one of Flint's slightly-less-godawful suburbs) famous. Things only got worse from there following the Great Recession and the bankruptcy of many of the automakers, which eventually led to Detroit itself filing for bankruptcy. To top it all off, Flint soon found out their drinking water was full of lead, which was caused by (and responded to with) egregious government mismanagement.
Though it will take some time to live down that period of disaster, things seem to finally be stabilizing a bit in Michigan. Grand Rapids, the state's second-largest metro area, is the Furniture Capital of the U.S., has a burgeoning medical field, and generally weathered the economic storm fairly well. The city of Ann Arbor is the home of the University of Michigan, a college whose reputation as a Berserkeley is only topped by its reputation for wishing the Ten Plagues on everyone in Columbus, Ohio.note The capital, Lansing, would probably be rather like Detroit and Flint (General Motors has a couple of factories and such in the area) but for the fact that the state government and Michigan State University (in its immediate eastern suburb, East Lansing) are located there, which keeps things relatively OK.note
Michigan's tremendous size and natural beauty is often downplayed in its media depictions, but its sprawling shoreline, especially in the north and the UP, are highly visited summer vacation destinations by Midwesterners. Much of this region is thinly populated, and the remote Isle Royale, located on the far north of Lake Superior, is the least visited national park in the contiguous US.
Michigan is historically a pretty swingy state, and its governorship still tends to swing between moderate Republicans and Democrats despite the state generally backing Democrat presidents (save for Donald Trump in 2016). It was the first state and the first English-speaking jurisdiction in the world to abolish the death penalty (in 1846). The state of Michigan has not executed anyone since statehood, and only one person has been executed on Michigan soil since then (in 1938 by the federal government).
Nickname(s): The Buckeye State, The Mother of Presidents, Birthplace of Aviation, The Heart of It All
Motto(s): With God, all things are possible
Demonym: Ohioan, Buckeye (colloq.)
Capital & Largest City: Columbus
Largest Metro Area: Cincinnati (largest metropolitan area that includes Ohio territory), Cleveland (largest entirely within Ohio)
Other Cities of Note: Toledo, Akron-Canton, Dayton, Youngstown
Area: 44,825mi2 / 116,098km2 (17th smallest)
Population: 11,799,448 (7th largest)
Date of Admission: March 1, 1803 (17th)
Current governor: Mike DeWine (R)
Current senators: Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R)
Number of representatives: 16 (12 R, 3 D, 1 vacancynote ); loses 1 seat in 2022
The State of Ohio is either yet another flat state full of corn if you're from the coast or the beginning of the 'Urban East' if you're from this flat state full of corn. Ohio is far more urban than most writers realize; it has three large cities with metro areas home to over two million a piece, several other medium-sized cities, and is the most densely populated state outside the East Coast. Ohio has arguably the most distinctive flag in the country, being the only one pennant-shaped.
Ohio was once a crucial swing state and presidential bellwhether — prior to Biden's victory in 2020, the last time it had voted against the eventual presidential victor was in 1960, when John F. Kennedy won the presidency but lost the Buckeye state. Furthermore, no Republican has ever won without first taking Ohio since Lincoln first ran in 1860. Democrats would dominate in Cleveland and the blue collar industrial towns, while Republicans ran up big margins in the rural areas, and elections would come down to turnout and struggles for the suburbs. However, Ohio has swung hard to the right in recent years, with Donald Trump winning by nearly identical high single digit margins in 2016 and 2020, and Democrats almost completely locked out of statewide power (the only exception being Senator Sherrod Brown). Democrats continue to dominate in Cleveland (though population decline there has hurt the party) and now thrive in Columbus, which is the fastest growing and most economically vigorous part of the state. But Trump made major inroads into the formerly industrial parts of Ohio that used to vote for Democrats in big numbers, and blue collar voters without college degrees are now the core of the Republicans coalition in Ohio.
The three biggest cities all start with a 'C'. Cleveland is the most (in)famous for several reasons: its largest river caught on fire, the city government went bankrupt, the term 'rock 'n' roll' was coined here, Halle Berry is from here, and it was the first major city in the U.S. to elect a black mayor (Carl Stokes, and it wasn't during his term that first two events happened). Reportedly, one must be tough to live here. Next is Cincinnati, the first major inland city in the U.S. Despite giving us Hustler magazine and electing Jerry Springer mayor,note they've also concocted a weird, yet satisfying, version of chili: it includes cinnamon and cocoa powder, and is traditionally served atop a mound of spaghetti. Last but not least, Columbus, the capital, is basically the world's biggest college town. It lacked professional sports teams until the creation of Major League Soccer in 1996, when the Columbus Crew began play, soon followed by the creation of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000,note but they love college football like nothing else. The Ohio State University is the third largest school in the U.S. by enrollment, and God help you if you wear a University of Michigan shirt in city limits. Columbus is also one of the most affluent cities in the Midwest and was relatively unaffected by the economic recession. However, the city is almost never seen in fiction compared to quirky Cincinnati and gritty Cleveland, the main exception being the sitcom Family Ties (actually set in its suburbs).
Ohio can lay claim to eight Presidentsnote , hence the nickname "The Mother of Presidents" (which Virginia shares, though Virginia has only had six Presidents. Virginia did get four of the first five Presidents, however), though most of them have been forgotten by the general public. The shooting of Vietnam War-protesting students at Kent State University by members of the National Guard in 1970 inspired the famous protest song "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Chagrin Falls (a suburb of Cleveland) is home to cartoonist Bill Watterson, author of Calvin and Hobbes. The city of Sandusky is home of Cedar Point, generally considered the nation's best amusement park (sometimes the world's). The state also has the second largest population of Amish next to Pennsylvania, and is the birthplace of multiple aviation pioneers, including the makers of the first airplane, the first American to orbit the earth, the first man on the moon, and the pilot of the first atomic bomb mission. Snarkier observers may suggest that there is something about this fair state that makes people want to leave the planet, though the growing neo-Nazi presence certainly isn't helping.
Nickname(s): Badger State, America's Dairyland (no official nickname)
Largest City: Milwaukee
Other Cities of Note: Green Bay, Racine, Ripon, Appleton, Kenosha, Wausau, Eau Claire, Beloit
Area: 65,496mi2 / 169,635km2 (23rd largest)
Population: 5,893,718 (20th largest)
Date of Admission: May 29, 1848 (30th)
Current governor: Tony Evers (D)
Current senators: Tammy Baldwin (D) and Ron Johnson (R)
Number of representatives: 8 (5 R, 3 D)
Initially settled when miners discovered huge lead deposits in the 1830s and 1840s, the State of Wisconsin is now known as "The Dairy State". While California actually beats it out for total diary production, Wisconsin does lead the nation in cheese, the city of Monroe being the only producer of Limburger cheese in the US and Colby being the origin of Colby cheese. This is the reason why fans of the state's most famous sports team, the Green Bay Packers, are known as "Cheeseheads" and wear their cheese-shaped headwear. Wisconsin as a whole is very proud of its Packers, who hold the best record and most titles in the NFL, represent the smallest city in all top-level US professional sports,note and possess a unique public ownership model that give the city's residents (and Wisconsinites at large) a much more personal interest in the team's operations than any other sports fandom.
Besides football and cheese, the state is known for being... well, a little cheesy, with depictions of the state typically focusing on its image as a place full of small dairy farms, safe suburbs, and wholesome values. (Think Happy Days and That '70s Show). However, there's a lot more to the state than cheese and football. Its largest city, Milwaukee, was notable for having three mayors from the Socialist Party serve for 38 years between 1910 and 1960. It's also the birthplace of several brewing companies like Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller and was once the "Beer Capital of the World" (hence the naming of their baseball team "the Brewers", though the most of the actual brewing has long been relocated). The capital and second-largest city, Madison (named in honor of Founding Father James Madison), is a Berserkley University town; its party college reputation and political history has given it the appropriate nickname "Madtown". The state is also the birthplace of Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Orson Welles and the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company, so watch it, eh? Wisconsin also produces the majority of the country's paper and is home to the Ocean Spray cranberry company (with the state producing no less than 52% of the entire country's annual cranberry supply each year).
The city of Racine is where malted milk was invented and is home to InSinkErator, the first garbage disposal. Racine also has the largest Danish population in continental North America (Greenland has more if you include the entirety of North America), with the city being nicknamed The Kringle Capital of America and Kringleville after the Scandinavian kringle pastries available there, and is home to several major industrial corporations like J. I. Case (heavy equipment), S. C. Johnson & Son (cleaning and chemical products), Dremel Corporation, Reliance Controls Corporation (time controls and transfer switches), Twin Disc, Arthur B. Modine (heat exchangers), Kohler Co. (best known for kitchen and bathroom fixtures), and the Mitchell-Lewis Motor Company. Kenosha, its neighbor to the south near the Illinois state line, was home to Nash automobiles and Kelvinator refrigerators, and after Nash's merger with Hudson in 1955, hosted the main manufacturing facility of American Motors Corporation (although the corporate offices were in Detroit). The city of Appleton (and its suburbs along the Fox River, collectively known as the "Fox Cities") was the site of the first operation of a commercially successful electric streetcar company, and is home to the nation's first hydro-electric central station, the Vulcan Street Plant on the Fox River, as well as the first residence in the world powered by a centrally located hydroelectric station, the Hearthstone House. The Valley Fair Shopping Center, often called the first modern enclosed shopping mall (the Northgate Mall in Seattle was the other claimant of the title) was also built there, though it was demolished in 2007. Beloit is where the speedometer and cheese puffs were invented, and Ripon is where the Republican Party was created.
The generally left-leaning character of Wisconsin's cities has made it fairly dependable Democrat base in presidential elections since the late '80s, though there are signs that might be changing. Democratic strength in Madison and Milwaukee is largely offset by GOP dominance in rural areas and many of the suburbs, leaving the state closely divided politically — Trump won the state by about 22,000 votes in 2016, while Biden won by about 20,000 votes in 2020, and the governorship tends to flip back and forth between parties. Wisconsin was the second state to abolish the death penalty (in 1853). Much like Michigan, only one person has ever been executed in post-statehood Wisconsin, although that was by the state government; the hanging (in 1851) proved to be such a gruesome spectacle that public revulsion led the legislature to outlaw the practice.
Nickname(s): The Hawkeye State
Motto(s): Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain
Capital & Largest City: Des Moines
Other Cities of Note: Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, the other two Quad Cities (Davenport, Bettendorf), Ottumwa, Iowa City
Area: 56,272mi2 / 145,746km2 (25th smallest)
Population: 3,190,369 (20th smallest)
Date of Admission: December 28, 1846 (29th)
Current governor: Kim Reynolds (R)
Current senators: Chuck Grassley (R) and Joni Ernst (R)
Number of representatives: 4 (3 R, 1 D)
The State of Iowa consists of gently rolling hills and plains and is home to a lot of farmers, though the majority of the state's population is actually urban at 61%. It is often considered the quintessential boring Midwestern state, a title it shares with Kansas and Nebraska. For some strange reason, it gets to go first on the presidential selection process, resulting in many presidential candidates turning up to a lot of farm shows the year before the election hoping to win the caucuses there. Since Iowa is one of America's leading corn producers, this is often cited as the reason why so many politicians support corn ethanol programs despite their questionable effectiveness—support for ethanol is a great way to win the Iowa caucuses and gain a head start in the primary cycle.\\
Iowa used to be a fiercely contested swing state, closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, and even leaned toward Democrats in presidential elections. In fact, it was considered something of an imperative for Iowa to elect one Republican and one Democratic Senator to ensure the state (heavily dependent on agricultural subsidies) always had a voice in Washington. It was also the first state outside New England to legalize same-sex marriage, to the surprise of many who only knew Iowa as "that state with all the corn." But the Hawkeye State has swung hard to the right in recent years, beginning in 2014 when Iowans broke the "one Senator from each party" rule and elected Republican Joni Ernst to the previously Democratic seat and continuing through 2016 and 2020, when Donald Trump cruised to easy victories, and Ernst was easily re-elected in 2020. Meanwhile, three out of the four house seats in the state are held by Republicans (one of which the GOP carried by only six votes), with the lone Democrat, Cindy Axne, having only won her 2020 race by a little over a percentage point.
Some good ones for quiz night: the town of Riverside is where James T. Kirk will be born in 2233. Radar O'Reilly from M*A*S*H had his hometown in Ottumwa. Travel writer Bill Bryson came from Des Moines, the state capital (somebody had to). Heavy metal band Slipknot is from Iowa, and their second album is even named after their home state. The Music Man takes place here. Buffy writer Jane Espenson is from Ames, while Davenport is home to WWE wrestler Seth Rollins. Lastly, the state has produced one President: Herbert Hoover, with Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon also living in the state (though, ironically, all three later became more associated with California).
Nickname(s): The Sunflower State (official), The Wheat State, The Free State
Motto(s): Ad astra per aspera (Latin for To the stars through difficulties)
Largest City: Wichita
Other Cities of Note: Overland Park, Kansas City (both big suburbs of the Missouri city), Dodge City, Lawrence, Leavenworth
Area: 82,278mi2 / 213,100km2 (15th largest)
Population: 2,937,880 (16th smallest)
Date of Admission: January 29, 1861 (34th)
Current governor: Laura Kelly (D)
Current senators: Roger Marshall (R) and Jerry Moran (R)
Number of representatives: 5 (3 R, 1 D)
The State of Kansas is the geographic center of the 'continental' 48 states and is therefore often said to be the true "heartland" of the country (there's a reason Clark Kent landed in the Kansas town of Smallville). Located entirely within the Great Plains, it consists mostly of flat farmland (actually tested to be flatter than a pancake), with the western part being particularly boring flatness (though the parts bordering Missouri have some curvature). It's also associated with tornadoes for some reason, though that is Truth in Television. Some Kansans believe that Kansas is Oz, down to U.S. Highway 54 in that state (running from Fort Scott to Liberal and Dorothy Gale's house) being called 'The Yellow Brick Road'.
Despite its current reputation for sleepy wholesomeness, the state has a dark and violent history. 'Bleeding Kansas' was the scene for a warm-up bout just before the Civil War. Back when the Kansas and Nebraska territories were about to be carved up into official U.S. states, it was vitally important that new states entering the Union, which got to vote on whether they'd be free or slave states, didn't disrupt the existing balance of slave and free states. Because of its proximity to Missouri, a slave state, Kansas became Ground Zero for protracted fights about slavery as pro- and anti-slavery activists rushed to settle the state, complete with bloody riots when it came time to vote. It was also where John Brown of "John Brown's Body" lived before he went to Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Ironically, only one actual Civil War battle was fought in the state proper.
The capital of Kansas is Topeka which, unfortunately, is home of the Westboro Baptist Church, who are notorious for protesting at funerals and their "God Hates ["X"]" picketing signs; before that, the capital was the subject of some of Bleeding Kansas' bleeding. Surviving former capitals include LeCompton—barely—and Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas and its Jayhawks. The largest city in Kansas is Wichita, which is where Pizza Hut originated (though they are now headquartered in Plano, Texas), as well as the billionaire oil producers (and conservative power players) the Koch brothers. Wichita is also a major manufacturing hub for aircraft, being nicknamed the Air Capital of the World; its main airport is named for WWII Supreme Commander and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who grew up about an hour and a half to the north in Abilene. The next three largest cities are all part of the Kansas City metro area (Overland Park, Kansas City, Olathe). Leavenworth is known throughout the country as the location of a famous federal prison, and Dodge City is one of the most iconic Old West towns. Important note: while Kansas City, KS, is one of the largest cities in the state, the neighboring city of the same name in Missouri is significantly larger; the Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City International Airport are all in Missouri. KCK has to make do with Kansas Speedway, home to two NASCAR races each year, and Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer.
The state is generally very conservative, though it is willing to elect Democratic governors pretty often. It's often said that there are three political parties in Kansas: Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans, and the battles between the latter two factions are often more ferocious than inter-party fights between Republicans and Dems — former conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback once lead a campaign to replace moderate legislators from his own party with more rock-ribbed conservatives. Democrats are beginning to make serious inroads in the formerly bright red suburbs of eastern Kansas, but they are still utterly swamped by the red tint of everything west of Topeka. In 2005, Kansas earned itself a ton of mockery by allowing the teaching of intelligent design in public-school science classes, leading to the "Open Letter to the Kansas Board of Education" that spawned the Parody Religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster adored by Hollywood Atheists everywhere. Fortunately, the people of Kansas voted out the pro-ID crowd on the state board of education the following year, partly as a backlash against their change to the curriculum.
Nickname(s): Land of 10,000 Lakes, North Star State, The Gopher State, Agate State, State of Hockey
Motto(s): L'Étoile du Nord (French: The Star of the North)
Capital: St. Paul
Largest City: Minneapolis
Other Cities of Note: Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Bemidji
Area: 86,935mi2 / 225,163km2 (12th largest)
Population: 5,706,494 (22nd largest)
Date of Admission: May 11, 1858 (32nd)
Current governor: Tim Walz (D)
Current senators: Amy Klobuchar (D) and Tina Smith (D)
Number of representatives: 8 (4 D, 4 R)
The State of Minnesota is the northernmost contiguous state, with its Northwest Angle across the Lake of the Woods being the only part of the 48 contiguous states lying north of the 49th parallel. It is popularly called the Land of 10,000 Lakes (though if you count the lakes over 10 acres it's closer to 12,000). According to Hollywood, most of these lakes are frozen for six months at a time and are surrounded by vast expanses of nothingness.note Home of the Twin Cities: St. Paul, the capital, and Minneapolis, the state's largest city (and home of the musician Prince). Asking which city is better is not advised. Its third-largest city of Rochester is home to the Mayo Clinic, and its fourth-largest city of Duluth's (birthplace of Bob Dylan) position at the westernmost tip of the Great Lakes allows it to be a major shipping port in the middle of the continent.
The state has one of the lowest poverty rates in the nation, a mark that becomes the lowest when adjusting for the state's low cost of living. As a result, the state is famous for its residents' extreme politeness, to the point where we have a trope about it. Also, includes one county which does not appear on maps, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children... are above average. Speaking of Prairie Home Companion, the state's appreciation for public radio is unrivaled in the nation outside of maybe New York. Public Radio International (PRI), distributor of This American Life (among countless other programs) and one of the largest public radio organizations in the country, is based in Minneapolis, while Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), maker of Companion, has the largest audience of any public radio network in the U.S. and listener support that is only matched by WNYC in the Big Apple (keep in mind that MPR reaches barely half as many people as WNYC does).
The state tends to lean left; it hasn't voted for a Republican president since Nixon, the longest streak of any state (if we're not counting D.C.). Minnesota is fairly competitive downballot, with Republicans and Democrats usually fighting pretty close elections for House seats, the governor's mansion and control of the legislative chambers. Republicans enter most presidential elections convinced that they can compete in Minnesota, due to its high population of rural white voters, but the blue tint of the Twin Cities gives Democrats a persistent advantage — Donald Trump came closer than any Republican since Ronald Reagan to winning Minnesota in 2016, but the state shifted back hard to the left four years later. However, the state's political atmosphere can better be described as populist, even more so than the rest of the Midwest; the local affiliate of the Democratic Party is still officially named the DemocraticFarmerLabor Party (or DFL for short), voter turnout is regularly among the highest in the nation, and they voted in Independence Party pro wrestler Jesse Ventura for governor before California ever had their own interesting recall. "The Body" isn't the only notable Minnesota officeholder: the House district that contains Minneapolis proper elected Keith Ellison, a faithful Muslim, as its representative for six terms until he left to successfully run for the state's attorney general, subsequently replacing him with the hijab-wearing Ilhan Omar; a suburban/rural House district elected a controversial radio host in 2016 before kicking him out in 2018; and Saturday Night Live alumnus Al Franken was the state's junior senator for nine years. The state's senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, regularly has approval ratings in the 70s, making her one of the most popular politicians in the country. (While we're at it, we sincerely apologize for Michele Bachmann; we really have no clue how she stayed in office for so long. The people of St. Cloud have a lot to answer for, although she barely won her last term despite her very conservative district.)
Anything else? Hm... Oh yah, not everyone in Minnesoota talks in that funny, sorta-Swedish accent, but it does happen, don'cha know?
Nickname(s): Show Me State, Cave State, and Mother of the West
Motto(s): Salus populi suprema lex esto (Latin)
Capital: Jefferson City
Largest City: Kansas City
Largest Metro Area: Greater St. Louis
Other Cities of Note: Springfield, Columbia, Ferguson, Branson
Area: 69,706mi2 / 180,540km2 (21st largest)
Population: 6,154,913 (19th largest)
Date of Admission: August 10, 1821 (24th)
Current governor: Mike Parson (R)
Current senators: Roy Blunt (R) and Josh Hawley (R)
Number of representatives: 8 (6 R, 2 D)
The State of Missouri is known as the "Show-Me" State, nicknamed for its residents' reputation for skepticism, and is sometimes also called the "Mother of the West" due to its major role in the westward expansion of the US, as memorialized by the Gateway Arch. The state was the starting place of the California, Oregon, and Santa Fe Trails (all in Independence, a satellite city of Kansas City). Independence was also home to Harry Truman. Other famous Missourians include Chuck Berry (St. Louis), Sheryl Crow (Kennett), Rush Limbaugh (Cape Girardeau) and Mark Twain (Florida—yes, there is/was a town called Florida, Missouri; there's also one called Nevada, pronounced "Ne-VAY-dah"). Walt Disney also lived here in Marceline after his family moved from Chicago when he was four. Speaking of cities, the largest city is Kansas Cityor maybe St. Louis, home of a very important World's Fair.note The capital city is Jefferson City, more or less smack-dab between the two. As of the most recent 2020 census, Wright County is the current mean center of the United States population.Definition
St. Louis is the last of the country's three independent cities (outside of Virginia). Much like Baltimore, don't confuse St. Louis and St. Louis County if you value your eardrums.
Missouri is famous for having tons of barbecue places (predominantly in Kansas City and St. Louis), unpredictable weather, and lots of rednecks—including people who fly Confederate flags—possibly stemming from the state's divided loyalties during the Civil War. To this day, it's argued whether Missouri should be considered Midwestern or Southern.
As is the case with a lot of heavily white and rural midwestern states, Missouri used to be a closely contested swing state but has become a safely Republican stronghold. In fact, until 2008 (the first year a Democrat won the White House without it), the state had a near-unbroken string of voting for the person declared triumphant in the national presidential election dating back to 1904 (the only failure being 1956), which gave it the modern nickname "Bellwether State". Even in 2008, Missouri was the closest state in the country (Obama lost it by less than 4,000 votes), and it easily elected a Democrat as Governor. Since then, however, the state has sprinted hard to the right, Democrats have stopped competing there in presidential elections and Republicans control every level of government — Democrats still do well in Kansas City, St. Louis and the college town of Columbia, but those are literally the only three locations in the state where Democrats are viable.
85% of the non-nuclear components of the United States nuclear bomb arsenal are also manufactured in Missouri, in the Honeywell Kansas City Plant, and the majority (19 out of 20) of US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are based in Missouri (at Whiteman AFB; the sole B-2 not based in Missouri is based at Edwards Air Force Base in California).
Missouri gained some notoriety in 2014 over the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. Details of the shooting are hotly debated, but Wilson was cleared of all charges, which led to several days of protests and rioting that gave momentum to the Black Lives Matter Movement, which seeks to bring attention to police brutality against African-American victims.
Missouri doesn't have the largest caves in the U.S. (that would be Kentucky) or the most famous (either Kentucky or New Mexico), but it has more of them than any other state, hence the nickname "Cave State"; in the southern half of the state you're unlikely to drive fifteen miles along the highway without seeing a billboard for one or another of them. Southern Missouri has a particular type of geology and topography that is incredibly well suited for the development of caves.
Southern Missouri is the northern part of the Ozark Dome region, which as mentioned under Arkansas is the stereotypical home of hillbillies (The Beverly Hillbillies were from the Missouri Ozarks). Also of note in the region is Branson, a small town with a huge presence in the tourist industry, thanks mainly to its Highway 76 corridor jam-packed with "music shows" (mainly country) and businesses that sprang up to separate the tourists going to the music shows from more of their money. Branson also has the Silver Dollar City Theme Park nearby, which is one of the most acclaimed in the country (specifically, it's themed to an 1880s mining town—and, yes, it has a big cave).
Nickname(s): Cornhusker State
Motto(s): Equality before the law
Largest City: Omaha
Other Cities of Note: Bellevue, Grand Island, Nebraska City, Hastings, North Platte, Columbus, Scottsbluff
Area: 77,347mi2 / 200,330km2 (16th largest)
Population: 1,961,504 (14th smallest)
Date of Admission: March 1, 1867 (37th)
Current governor: Pete Ricketts (R)
Current senators: Deb Fischer (R) and Ben Sasse (R)
Number of representatives: 3 (R)
Offers tend to be void here...
The State of Nebraska, though located on the Great Plains, is not entirely flat. There are bluffs in the east, buttes in the west, small canyons in the south, and the Sand Hills (grassy sand dunes) in the north. With no ocean or Great Lakes to temper it, the weather is best described as 'psychotic'. Part of what was the Oregon Trail is now I-80, which cuts east to west through the state. Most of the land is given over to ranching and farming, though telecommunications is major business, and STRATCOM is based outside Bellevue, Nebraska. Then there's, um... corn? Nebraska is also the only triply-landlocked state in the US, being the furthest state away from an ocean/gulf/bay and requiring travel through at least three states (or two and Manitoba in the case of Hudson Bay) to get to one.
Nebraska is the only state to have a unicameral (single-house) legislature. What everyone else does with two houses is beyond them. It also has the country's smallest state legislature, with only 49 members.* The population is pretty evenly split between Omaha Metropolitan Area () and the rest of the state, both of which pretend the other doesn't exist. As noted above in the discussion of Maine, Nebraska is one of two states that can split its electoral vote, using the same system: two electors bound to vote for the overall popular vote winner, with each of its congressional districts (currently three) choosing an elector who then votes for the winner in that district. Nebraska first used this system in 1992 and has split its votes twice, in 2008 and in 2020. In both instances, the district containing Omaha put up a single vote for the Democrat while the rest of the state went Republican. The state's single uniting factor is the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football team: no matter where you're from, the quickest way to be liked is to wear Husker red.
Famous Nebraskans include Terry Goodkind, Johnny Carson, Malcolm X, William Jennings Bryan, US President Gerald Ford (though he grew up in Michigan), Warren Buffett (the world's fourth wealthiest man, who still lives in Omaha), and Larry the Cable Guy. Nebraskans also invented bobby pins, locking pliers, Kool-Aid, and TV dinners. The First Transcontinental Railroad was built there, as well as the Enola Gay and Bockscar aircraft used in the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Nickname(s): Peace Garden State, Roughrider State, Flickertail State
Motto(s): Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable
Demonym: North Dakotan
Largest City: Fargo
Other Cities of Note: Minot, Grand Forks, Williston, Rugby
Area: 70,698mi2 / 183,108km2 (19th largest)
Population: 779,094 (4th smallest)
Date of Admission: November 2, 1889 (39th)
Current governor: Doug Burgum (R)
Current senators: John Hoeven (R) and Kevin Cramer (R)
Number of representatives: 1 (Kelly Armstrong, R)
The State of North Dakota entered the Union on the same day as South Dakota below in 1889. Officially, North Dakota, home of Fargo and the geographic center of North America, is the 39th state, and South Dakota is the 40th state, although it is unknown in which order Benjamin Harrison signed the papers to admit them. The reason for their division has to do with a bunch of local political squabbles that boil down to southern residents of the Dakota Territory having to wait for the government in the north to apply for statehood despite the south having enough residents to do so for years. It has been said that if the United States admits another state (Puerto Rico and D.C. being the biggest candidates), North and South Dakota should unite to become Dakota, just to keep the number of states at a nice even 50. While such a move seems like it would be opposed due to its ramifications in the federal Senate and the loss of local control, North Dakota actually considered this in the 2000s, due to its drastically declining population. Several stories cropped up about Dying Towns and Ghost Towns throughout the state, and it is the least visited of all the states. With the merger, it would also get mentioned sooner in alphabetical listings of the states.
However, North Dakota went through an oil boom in the first part of The New '10s, as the Bakken oil formation in the western part of the state, once too deep and too expensive to get at economically, became profitable thanks to rising oil prices and improved technology. Williston, the town at the center of the boom, briefly had the highest average apartment rents in the country—even higher than the notoriously expensive New York City and San Francisco! The boom ended for the time being with a dramatic decline in oil prices in the second half of 2014, partly due to the new supply coming in from places like North Dakota. Nonetheless, the boom and the conservative lending practices of the state's publicly-owned central bank meant that North Dakota emerged from the late '00s recession nearly unscathed... except, of course, for developers in places like Williston who put up new housing and other buildings expecting the boom to continue.
Though both Dakotas are strong Republican bases, having not voted for a Democrat president in over half a century, North Dakota used to have a fairly strong moderate third party, the "Nonpartisan League". It merged with the Dems in the '50s, giving the state branch the Artifact Title "Democrat-NPL party", and it has seen some success in getting moderates elected; through the '90s and '00s, both of the state's senators were Democrat-NPL.
Don't let the state's reputation as an empty wasteland fool you. You may have heard of its biggest city, which sits on the border with Minnesota (where most of the film is actually set). Theodore Roosevelt National Park served as the inspiration for the president's conservationist policies. The KRDK-TV mast in Galesburg is the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere and fourth tallest in the world after the Burj Khalifa, Tokyo Skytree, and Shanghai Tower.* And there's also the... World's Largest Buffalo? Yeah, ok, maybe there's something to that reputation...
Nickname(s): The Mount Rushmore State (official)
Motto(s): Under God the people rule
Demonym: South Dakotan
Largest City: Sioux Falls
Other Cities of Note: Rapid City, Aberdeen, Wall, Mitchell, Hot Springs, Brookings, Vermillion
Area: 77,115mi2 / 199,729km2 (17th largest)
Population: 886,667 (5th smallest)
Date of Admission: November 2, 1889 (40th)
Current governor: Kristi Noem (R)
Current senators: John Thune (R) and Mike Rounds (R)
Number of representatives: 1 (Dusty Johnson, R)
The State of South Dakota is home to Gutzon Borglum's large-scale sculpture project Mount Rushmore, which you may have heard of and gives the state its nickname, as well as one of the largest Tourist Traps in the United States, "Wall Drug" (Store), which runs ads for 500 miles in every direction advertising free ice water. Another tourist trap, the Corn Palace multi-purpose arena/facility in Mitchell, features murals made from corn kernels that are changed every year. It's not all so dreary, however; Badlands and Wind Cave are two of the most distinctive American national parks, with both featuring unique rock work above and below ground. South Dakota also has the second-highest proportion of Native Americans and the third-highest of indigenous Americans of any state behind Alaska (where the local indigenous people are called Alaska Natives) and New Mexico.
The state is one of the most dedicated conservative states in the country, which has made it nationally popular among certain businesses. South Dakota changed its laws to be extremely friendly to credit card issuers by eliminating usury, so a credit issuer can charge any interest rate they want. A U.S. Supreme Court decision also said that a credit issuer can charge whatever interest rate the state it is chartered by permits, even if the laws of the state where the customer is located set a lower limit on interest that can be charged; this has made South Dakota an extremely popular place for credit card issuers to incorporate. The state is also a very reliable Republican stronghold throughout its electoral history having voted only three times for the Democrats (William Jennings Bryan in 1896, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932-36, and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964).note In 2018, South Dakota elected its first female governor, Kristi Noem, who won a surprisingly close gubernatorial race against paraplegic Democratic candidate Billie Sutton by four points. Noem has seen her political profile elevated to national stardom thanks to her staunch and vocal support of Donald Trump, similar to Ron DeSantis of Florida above.
Motto: "Joannes est nomen ejus" (Latin) ("John is his name")
Demonym: Puerto Rican (formal), Boricua (colloq.)
Capital & Largest City: San Juan
Other Cities of Note: Ponce
Area: 5,324mi2 / 13,791km2
Current governor: Pedro Pierluisi (New Progressive)
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a holdover from the Spanish-American War, fought near the turn of the 20th Century to free the people there from Spanish rule... and put them under American rule. It culturally has more in common with Latin America than the USA and often sends representatives to world events separate from the American ones, but it's not quite independent and its residents are U.S. citizens. This also means the term "Puerto Rican immigrant" a misnomer, as Puerto Ricans are free to move to the continental United States (likewise for mainlanders to Puerto Rico; the island has a sizable retiree population). It is the largest of the island territories in both population and size by a huge margin, and mainlanders often underestimate just how many people live there; it has a higher population density than any state save New Jersey, and if it were a state it would be #30 in population (the other territories combined have less people than Wyoming, the least populous state). However, the island's population has been on a dramatic decline over the past decade, dropping every year from 2005-2018 as well over half a million Puerto Ricans have fled worsening poverty (nearly 50% below the poverty line, far beyond even the poorest current states) to seek jobs on the mainland. Puerto Rico is still the most likely territory to 'graduate' in the near future, but whether that means statehood or independence is a matter of fierce ongoing debate.
There have been multiple referendums in the island's history regarding its future. Almost all since the '90s have shown slight majority support for statehood, but with generally low voter turnout and a very sizable and vocal pro-independence movement, getting beyond that point has been a challenge. For its part, Congress is technically supposed to start the statehood process but have been hesitant to do so without stronger support from Puerto Ricans for a few reasons. Besides reservations about upsetting pro-independence citizens and reshaping the political landscape in a manner that would likely harm the GOP, Puerto Rico's high poverty rate (worsened by 2017's Hurricane Maria, which killed over 2,000 and decimated the country's infrastructure) would become a major problem for the country to face. Pro-statehood voices argue that's the point and the reason the island needs direct representation rather than continue to be left to fend for itself; pro-independence voices respond that the poverty is a legacy of colonial rule and the reason Puerto Ricans should be allowed to forge their own destiny.
If one were to visit to appreciate the island's culture and tremendous tropical beauty, a working knowledge of Spanish will help (though each younger generation is more fluent in English than the last), as will a working knowledge of metric, since road distances are in kilometers, although speed limits are still in miles per hour. The island has generated a number of famous names in entertainment from Ricky Martin to Benicio del Toro.
Motto: "United in Pride and Hope"
Demonym: Virgin Islander
Capital & Largest City: Charlotte Amalie
Area: 732mi2 / 1,898km2
Current governor: Albert Bryan (D)
The Virgin Islands of the United States note are a cluster of Caribbean islands that were bought from the Danes to keep Germany from snapping them up in World War I. The Danish influence is still apparent in the names of the towns, roads, and people's surnames.note The Islands' population is predominantly Afro-Caribbean, with whites and Hispanics as the largest minority groups. Tourism is big here, as you need neither a passport nor working knowledge of another language to get by and there are some gorgeous beaches and a pristine natural park. Since it's right next to Puerto Rico, it is sometimes suggested that the two territories politically merge should PR become a state ("Puerto Virgo" being a possible name for the new entity), though this doesn't take into account that Virgin Islanders may lose representation in this arrangement, given the huge difference in population between the territories. Nonetheless, they do have the same ZIP code prefixes.
Fun trivia: It's the only part of the U.S. that drives on the left, as that's the norm in the region. However, most vehicles have the steering wheel on the left (U.S.-style), rather than the right-side steering wheels typical in most left-driving countries. And due to the territory's ethnic makeup, the University of the Virgin Islands is counted among the US's Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Motto: "Samoa, Let God Be First", "Sāmoa, Muamua Le Atua" (Samoan)
Demonym: American Samoan (official), Samoan (colloquial)
Capital & Largest Village: Pago Pago
Area: 581mi2 / 1,505km2
Current governor: Lemanu Peleti Magua (D)
Not to be confused with the independent island nation that is also called Samoa. It is the only inhabited US territory in the Southern Hemisphere, and three of the territory's five islands are set aside as a National Park. Over half of the residents live below the poverty line, the highest percentage of any U.S. territory. Not coincidentally, American Samoa has the highest rate of military enlistment of any state or territory, as it's seen as an easy way to make money and get a free trip off the islands. They've also spawned a good amount of players which have appeared in the NFL (87 currently), as well as pro wrestlers and hilarious moments on The Price Is Right.
Interestingly, American Samoa is the only remaining unincorporated territory in the US whose residents are nationals rather than citizens. What this means is that while American Samoans are free to live and work in the fifty states and DC, they cannot vote in state or federal elections unless they become naturalized citizens (though the process is expedited for them). This once held true for all the island territories, but the others gained citizenship for its residents through various acts of Congress. The flip side is that federal court rulings don't automatically apply to American Samoa unless specified. While plenty of American Samoans—especially those living in the States—see US citizenship as long overdue, others accept the arrangement and fear that full citizenship would strip American Samoa of its indigenous identity.
Capital & Largest City: Hagåtña
Area: 570mi2 / 1,478km2
Current governor: Lou Leon Guerrero (D)
Separate from the Northern Marianas, Guam is an island in the Asian Pacific under American rule. Invaded in Tom Clancy's novel Debt of Honor, where the Japanese (yes, this is set in modern times, taking Japan Takes Over the World in a less typical direction) cite the fact that the island is a lot closer to Tokyo than San Francisco. Known more among broadcasters as having the farthest affiliates of the American networks (15 hours from Eastern Time); Monday Night Football is truly Tuesday Morning Football here.
Demonym: Northern Mariana Islander (formal), Chamorro (colloquial)
Capital & Largest Island: Saipan
Area: 1,975mi2 / 5,117km2
Current governor: Ralph Torres (R)
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are part of the same island chain as Guam, but a separate territory politically. After Spain ceded Guam to the U.S. they tried to sell these islands. When America wouldn't buy them, Spain sold them to Germany. Some time before World War II, Germany gave them to Japan. Afterwards when a number of Pacific islands that had been occupied by Japan where placed under temporary control of the U.S., the Northern Marianas chose to pursue closer ties with the U.S., instead of independence or free association. Covered in Brown Tree Snakes, which have had a devastating effect on the indigenous wildlife and regularly damage infrastructure.
Saipan is notorious in Irish sporting culture as the site of a 2002 pre-World Cup training camp held by the Republic's national soccer/football team, during which star midfielder Roy Keane had a bitter falling-out with manager Mick McCarthy and either left or was sent home, depending on the source.
The Other Territories
Other U.S. territories include:
- A military base in Cuba called Guantanamo Bay that you've probably heard of. It was where the death in A Few Good Men took place.
- The United States Minor Outlying Islands, which have no permanent residents. Located in the Pacific Ocean (except for one in the Caribbean), many of them are protected wildlife sanctuaries and receive little attention. The Sea Wind murders in the mid-'70s occurred on Palmyra Atoll, one of the constituent islands.
- Interestingly, Palmyra Atoll differs from the other territories that it is an incorporated territory, i.e. it is fully and forever part of the United States and the entire U.S. Constitution applies. This is because Palmyra Atoll was formerly part of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and was annexed by the U.S. along with the rest of Hawaiʻi, but was specifically excluded from the State of Hawaiʻi in the statehood bill. In the unincorporated territories,note Congress and the courts decide which parts of the Constitution apply in these territories, and independence is a possibility. For example, anyone (if ever) born on Palmyra Atoll would be a natural-born citizen of the United States by virtue of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, while people born in e.g. Puerto Rico are citizens because Congress says so,note and as mentioned earlier, American Samoans are not citizens (unless they have a citizen parent) but are instead nationals because Congress hasn't come around to giving them citizenship.
- Wake Island, a former US military base, is one of them. Is officially uninhabited with restricted access. Claimed by the Marshall Islands. Location of a famous WWII battle.
The aspect of Native reservations best-known to most Americans is tribal casinos. Many reservations lie within states that do not allow commercial gambling, but since the reservations are not bound by those laws, they are able to build massive gaming resorts that rival—and in some cases exceed—the ones in Las Vegas. In fact, WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation, is currently the largest casino resort in the world.note The casinos not only provide jobs, but the profits often go towards hospitals, schools, and other social services within the rez.
The unfortunate downside is that reservations without casinos or some other tourist attraction are not nearly as well-off, as reservations tend to be located in (read: the Natives were historically forced at gunpoint to live in) barren wastelands far from major cities, meaning they benefit from neither agriculture nor urban commerce. This results in levels of poverty not normally associated with the United States: ramshackle homes lacking electricity and/or running water, families living on less than $11,000 a year, rampant alcoholism and drug abuse, etc. This has led to many Natives leaving the rez for economic opportunities in the closest town or city, causing such reservations to become Dying Towns (more so than they already were).
As always, That Other Wiki has more information.
- Cuba. Following the Spanish-American War, the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines were ceded to the U.S. Cuba was granted independence in 1902, albeit under a U.S.imposed constitution that essentially turned it into a vassal state; this was rectified in 1934 with the Treaty of Relations, part of FDR's Good Neighbor policy towards Latin America. The United States still has the very controversial naval base/prison on the southeastern shore of Cuba, Guantanamo Bay; the Cubans have made it extremely clear that the base/prison is no longer welcome, but the lease was perpetual and the Cubans don't have the power to force the Americans out.
- The Panama Canal Zone, obtained after the United States "helped" Panamanian revolutionaries gain independence from Colombia in 1903, in return for the rights to build a canal in that nation. Returned in 1999 after an agreement was signed in 1977 due to increasing tensions between Panama and the US. Was brought back into slight prominence in 2008 as the area where presidential candidate John McCain was born, setting up the first general election where both main party candidates were born outside the Lower 48.
- Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands: After the end of World War II, the United States was given most of the old Japanese colonies and League of Nations Mandates in the Pacific to administer "in trust" for the United Nations, with the idea being shepherding these poor territories into a track of peaceful, democratic development and readiness for self-determination. These islands in the South Pacific were eventually given their choice of independence or commonwealth with the United States; of them, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau opted for independence in "free association" with the United States, while the Northern Mariana Islands (as noted above) opted to become a commonwealth.
- The Philippines. Obtained after the Spanish-American War of 1898, immediately became the site of a fourteen-year insurgency against American rule by Filipino nationalists who had originally seen the American soldiers as liberators. Democratic reforms began in 1907 but didn't receive significant Presidential support until Woodrow Wilson and the Jones Act of 1916, which established the authority of a democratically-elected Senate of the Philippines. Was granted autonomy with the TydingsMcDuffie Act of 1934 (which also reclassified over 120,000 Filipinos living in the U.S. as aliens, as they had retroactively been born in another nation), which also provided for independence in 10 years. Despite the delay engendered by a minor scuffle in the Pacific, formally gained independence in 1946.