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 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 is... highly debatable, especially nowadays).
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 for states; 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 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. The last one 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 to transport across any state line, even if both states permit sale and possession - 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 another 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
Note that the regions below follow the official U.S. Census regions and divisions pictured above. Some definitions may differ, such as Maryland and Delaware being placed in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast instead of the South Atlantic and South below, there sometimes being additional subregions like the Southwest, etc.
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: 693,972 (metro area of 6,131,977)
Current mayor: Muriel Bowser
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 theories 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 buildings such as The Pentagon are across the Potomac River in what is now known as Arlington, Virginia. As for the people, over 600,000 live in DC proper, and its suburbs sprawl out quite a ways into Virginia and Maryland, and even into West Virginia, as the seventh-largest metro area in the US. For fun trivia, residents of DC proper enjoy a little-known perk: they may attend any public college in the US and (effectively) pay only in-state tuition.The whole story
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—for years there's been talk of giving it statehood. 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. In 2016, Washingtonians voted overwhelmingly in support of such a measure, but it has to be approved by Congress, which is unlikely given that Congress has a Republican majority and DC is staunchly Democrat.note Statehood would add two new Senate seats and one House seat permanently under Democratic control.note In the meantime, DC license plates sum up the matter perfectly: "Taxation Without Representation."
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: 8,470,020 (12th largest)
Date of Admission: June 25, 1788 (10th)
Current governor: Ralph Northam
Current senators: Tim Kaine and Mark Warner
The Commonwealth of Virginia was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth I. One of the original Thirteen Colonies, and (along with Massachusetts) one of the main centers of leadership of The American Revolution and early Republic. In particular, 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.
The capital city is Richmond, which also served as the capital of the Confederacy. The largest metropolitan area (outside of DC's Virginia suburbs) is the congregation of nine cities (and one town)note 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).
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; there was a time when Baltimore was considered thoroughly Southern, but not anymore. 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 has largely been responsible with moving the state towards the Democratic Party), and is home to a number of government bodies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. As of 2019, Virginia is now considered a solidly Democratic state, having won every presidential election since 2008, while holding all three statewide executive offices and both U.S. Senate seats.
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 organized differently from anywhere else in America. In every other state (except Hawaii; see that state's entry in the "West" folder), K12 education is almost always run by local or county-based public bodies that are separate entities from local governments, and 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): "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: 6,052,177 (19th largest)
Date of Admission: April 28, 1788 (7th)
Current governor: Larry Hogan
Current senators: Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen
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, but please don't hold that against the rest of the state. 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. Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy, while Fort Meade is the home of the National Security Agency.
Geographically, it has a bay that nearly cuts the state in two, plus 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 highly liberal state with a moderate Republican governor in office (Larry Hogan).
Nickname(s): Peach State, Empire State of the South
Motto(s): Wisdom, Justice, Moderation
Capital & Largest City: Atlanta
Other Cities of Note: Columbus, Augusta, Savannah, Athens, Albany
Area: 59,425mi2 / 153,910km2 (24th largest)
Population: 10,429,379 (8th largest)
Date of Admission: January 2, 1788 (4th)
Current governor: Brian Kemp
Current senators: David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler
Despite being nicknamed the Peach State, the State of Georgia is ranked third in production of said fruit, behind South Carolina and California. The state is not to be confused with the Eurasian country of the same name. Outside of Atlanta, the state's capital and largest city, Georgia is one of the deepest parts of the Deep Souththis is where Deliverance was set, after all. Proud Southerners have been known to disown the cosmopolitan, 'New South' Atlantathe arrival of the Olympic Games in the city in 1996 led to the creation of the tongue-in-cheek 'Redneck Games' down in East Dublin. It was originally founded as a penal colony, and contains the Chattahoochee, Chattanooga and Chickamauga Rivers and the Okefenokee Swamp.
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, 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.
Georgia has a good-sized film industry due to the tax credits that it offers to filmmakers, leading to a lot of Georgia Doubling in movies and TV shows, though it's not as big as in nearby Louisiana. One of the most popular shows currently shot in Georgia is The Walking Dead, and another popular Georgia TV show is The Dukes of Hazzard. The highest-grossing movie of all time, Gone with the Wind, is set in Civil War-era Georgia.
Once a solidly conservative state, Georgias growing black population and liberalizing suburbs of Atlanta are putting it in play for Democrats. That being said, Republicans won every statewide election in 2018 (albeit narrowly) and still hold both U.S. Senate seats.
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: 10,273,419 (9th largest)
Date of Admission: November 21, 1789 (12th)
Current governor: Roy Cooper
Current senators: Thom Tillis and Richard Burr
One of the original Thirteen Colonies, the State of North Carolina supplied one-third of the soldiers and much of the industrial resources during the period of the Confederacy, and still has a strong industrial base. 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 bio-tech 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 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 has joined Virginia as the second battleground state in the Old South (just barely voting for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, just barely voting for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, and going with Republican Donald Trump by only a slightly wider margin in 2016) before the latter went firmly into the Democratic column. As a result, North Carolina has come to symbolize the 'New South', having a Democratic governor but two Republican Senators.
North Carolina can also 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). Possibly most widely 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). North Carolina 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.
Wilmington, arguably North Carolina's most prominent coastal city, is the home of the largest film and television production studio outside of California (though it's not East Coast Hollywood just yet), which produced Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), and The Crow (so yes, Brandon Lee died here). 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 LGBT people. This, in turn, 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: 5,024,369 (23rd largest)
Date of Admission: May 23, 1788 (8th)
Current governor: Henry McMaster
Current senators: Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott
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 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 it 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 was also the site of the first successful submarine attack on an enemy ship. 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.
South Carolina 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), with its other senator (Lindsey Graham) being the subject of long-running rumors about his sexuality. More recently, it was the site of a deadly shooting at an all-black church in downtown Charleston. The perpetrators affinity of the Confederate battle flag launched a backlash against honoring the Confederacy, as it proved people were still embracing it for racist reasons. But governor Nikki Haleys response to the shooting greatly boosted her national profile, leading to her becoming UN Ambassador two 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 90's 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, although a Democrat surprisingly won a traditionally Republican U.S. House district in 2018.
Also, a popular 1920s dance was named after the iconic harbor city.
On Interstate 95 at the border between North and South Carolina is one of the largest Tourist Traps in the country, South of the Border, probably best known as a big seller of fireworks.
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: 961,939 (6th smallest)
Date of Admission: December 7, 1787 (1st)
Current governor: John Carney
Current senators: Tom Carper and Chris Coons
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 Joe Biden represented the state in the federal senate for 36 years. Also home of DuPont, Playtex, and Superman, as Metropolis has been established to be located in 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 you as an individual are subject to the laws of the state when you do something, 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. So when you set up the headquarters of your corporation in Florida, charter it in Oregon, and someone in Georgia sues the operation, the Georgia court will use the laws of the State of Oregon in determining whether the business is operating correctly. So if a corporation is chartered in Delaware, any place that it is sued, to determine whether the corporation is operating in accordance with the laws, the court, no matter where it is, must follow the laws and court decisions of Delaware. Delaware has over 300 years of court decisions and is very favorable to deciding in favor of the management. Delaware used to be very popular for banks and credit card companies, but thanks to Supreme Court decisions more credit card issuers now operate out of South Dakota than Delaware, with (for other reasons) Nevada being second place.
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 its population.
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: 20,984,400 (3rd largest)
Date of Admission: March 3, 1845 (27th)
Current governor: Ron DeSantis
Current senators: Rick Scott and Marco Rubio
The State of Florida has a number of things that it is famous for, including its beaches, Miami (a major center, along with Los Angeles, of Spanish Language media), Cape Canaveral, Walt Disney World, the Everglades, 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. The Latino population here is more Cuban than elsewhere (with the state being not too far north from Cuba itself), which affects the state politicallythey historically tended to vote for the Republicans, due to the original immigrants' harsher line on Fidel Castro's Cuba, though their American-born descendants have steadily become more Democratic (although they have a Republican senator in Marco Rubio). Lately, Florida has become a major swing state, with the Democrats and Republicans splitting the last six presidential elections 50/50note , including the the infamous nail-biter that was the 2000 election. In 2018, however, it was known for being the one state that resisted that years Democratic landslide, making it the bluest state in the country without a Democratic senatornote after longtime incumbent Bill Nelson was upset by Governor Rick Scott, and ex-congressman Ron DeSantis being elected as Scotts successor in Tallahassee despite having trailed almost every poll beforehand. As of 2019, the only Democrat in statewide elected office is Agricutural Commissioner Nikki Fried, which Democrats picked up the same year they lost the Senate seat and who won her seat by a narrower margin than any other statewide officeholder.
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. Key West is the southernmost city in the continental United States, while St. Augustine is the oldest continually inhabited European-established city in North America. The Florida State Seminoles were one of a very small number of NCAA teams allowed to keep its Native American-based name and imagery after a recent crackdown... mostly because the various Seminole Nations in Florida are boosters.note
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
Despite strong competition from the Midwest, Florida is the flattest, lowest state. 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 the Magic Kingdom, or Expedition Everest at Disney's 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 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 took place in the state.
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: 1,815,857 (12th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 20, 1863 (35th)
Current governor: Jim Justice
Current senators: Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore Capito
A bit of a difficult area to classify, the State of 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 of the Northern states. This is mainly due to the fact that it was originally part of Virginia, but after Virginia 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 as it is defined as well. The Appalachians not only were the cause of 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 outside advancements and influences for a surprisingly long time, an isolation that ended up characterizing the state and its citizens.note
Nowadays, the state is mainly noted as the 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. West Virginia natives on the other hand like to pride themselves on folksy politeness and rugged self-reliance, due to its rural isolation in many areas of the state. 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".
Once a Democratic state, West Virginia has shifted hard to Republican control as the national Democratic party became much more liberal. Still, the state has a Democratic senator in the rather conservative Joe Manchin.note
West South Central
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: 28,304,596 (2nd largest)
Date of Admission: December 29, 1845 (28th)
Current governor: Greg Abbott
Current senators: Ted Cruz and John Cornyn
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). Formerly an independent countrythe Republic of Texasprior to joining the United States in 1845. MESSING WITH IT IS NOT ALLOWED.note The birthplace of the Six Flags theme park, the name coming 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). The state is famous for wealthy oil industry magnates and cattle ranching, which continue to drive the economy in rural areas.
Texas is often stereotyped as a conservative stronghold except for capital city Austin being a left-wing hippy town, but Texas is much more diverse in people and belief than most outsiders realize: 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, and Dallas has arguably the largest LGBT community in the South. Further, the most populous counties (read: the ones containing its largest cities) are either Democrat or moderate, as are the counties on or near the Mexican border, while the smaller cities and rural areas are more Republican. And even though the state tends to favor the Republican candidate for President, election results are generally 55-45, not quite a landslide. The state's social and political makeup is...complicated to say the least. Although Republicans still hold every statewide office in Texas, they had some of their closest calls in 2018, including the highly publicized battle for Senate.
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.
The Texas Ranger Division is one of the most famous non-federal law enforcement agencies in the nation, acting in many of the big events in Texan and Old West history, including the Indian wars, The Mexican Revolution and the capture of Bonnie and Clyde. Despite two attempts to disband them (once during Reconstruction, and again in the 1930s in a political dispute), they remain part of the state's law enforcement, functioning as a Texan version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are the source of the saying and trope, "One Riot, One Ranger".
Contrary to popular opinion outside the state, the Rangers are not the primary state-level police force, despite having full police powers. The main state-level police force is the Texas Highway Patrol, often locally referred to as "DPS". The Highway Patrol has an order of magnitude more sworn personnel than the Rangersmore than 2,800 sworn troopers, compared to fewer than 200 commissioned Rangers. DPS refers to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the parent body of both the Rangers and Highway Patrol, plus several other divisions. The Criminal Investigations Division, another DPS body little-known outside the state, itself has more than three times as many officers as the Rangers.
Texas is tied with California for having the most cities whose populations are among the ten largest in the country, with three: Houston is #4, San Antonio is #7, and Dallas is #9. As of 2018, Austin sits just outside at #11.
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: 4,684,333 (25th largest)
Date of Admission: April 30, 1812 (18th)
Current governor: John Bel Edwards
Current senators: Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy
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 settlersthe first permanent settlement in what's now Louisiana was established by the French in 1714 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. Owing to the state's Catholic roots, its counties are known as parishes. The southern region of the state was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and while New Orleans has since recovered (complete with stronger anti-flooding measures), many smaller communities along the Gulf Coast lay abandoned.
For the last decade or so, Louisiana has been very active in giving tax credits to filmmakers, making it the fourth-largest film production center in North America behind Hollywood, New York City and Vancouver. 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 recently.
Although a largely conservative state, Louisiana elected a Democratic Governor in 2015 with 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.
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: 3,930,864 (22nd smallest)
Date of Admission: November 16, 1907 (46th)
Current governor: Kevin Stitt
Current senators: Jim Inhofe and James Lankford
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 a number of Native American casinos throughout the state.
Much like Kansas (see below), Oklahoma is known for severe weather, particularly that of tornadoes, which is well deserved. Fun fact: 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. The state also has the most artificially created lakes in the USA. 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 supposedly popular in the state as well.
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; in which 40 people were killed, and 35 square blocks of the then-wealthiest black community in the United States were burned to the ground. 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 (the 2017 Las Vegas shooting has a higher casualty number although fewer fatalities), killing 168 people, including 19 children in the building's daycare center.
Oklahoma is one of the most conservative states in the country, with Trump winning every county in the state in 2016 (a feat only matched in West Virginia). 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, with a Democrat now representing Oklahoma City in the U.S. House and a governors race that was decided by barely 10 points in 2018.
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: 3,004,279 (18th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 15, 1836 (25th)
Current governor: Asa Hutchinson
Current senators: Tom Cotton and John Boozman
The correct pronunciation for the State of Arkansas is 'ar-kan-saw'; this Southern state is the birthplace of Bill Clinton. Walmart also has its corporate headquarters here, namely in Bentonville, and 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. 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. Famous for its public diamond
dirt field mud pit mine, which is depicted on both its flag and license plate. Isn't 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). Northwest Arkansas, no matter how big it seems, is almost always treated as a separate entity in-state. 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 have 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 hardiner Tom Cotton.
East South Central
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: 4,874,747 (24th largest)
Date of Admission: December 14, 1819 (22nd)
Current governor: Kay Ivey
Current senators: Richard Shelby and Doug Jones
The State of Alabama is an archetypal part of the Deep South. It played a key role in 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 major protests in Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma. Birmingham was considered the "Pittsburgh of Dixie" for its steel production, and was named after the one in England.
In recent years, Alabama 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".
Although it is one of the most Republican states in the country, 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.
Alabama have also 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. Similar bills in other states largely include those protections.
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: 2,984,100 (16th smallest)
Date of Admission: December 10, 1817 (20th)
Current governor: Tate Reeves
Current senators: Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker
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, and the Mississippi Delta region is well known for its influence on Blues music. Over half of the state is forested, and Mississippi also has the dubious honor of having the highest rates of illiteracy and obesity in the country, contributing to a large number of Deep South stereotypes. 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. The only Democrat to win statewide election in Mississippi has been longtime Attorney General Jim Hood. However, Hood ran for governor in 2019 and fell short, while Republicans flipped the AG seat he left behind with little trouble.
In sports, the main focus is the 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' most famous alum (and biggest fan) is arguably Fox News anchor Shepard "Shep" Smith, a Mississippian born and bred known for being arguably the loudest critic of President Donald Trump on the GOP-friendly network. However, football fans may beg to differOle Miss was also 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. Legal thriller author John Grisham is an alum of both schoolshe got his bachelor's degree at State and his law degree at Ole Miss. 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
Jackson is the capital of the state, as well its largest city.
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): 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: 4,454,189 (24th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 1, 1792 (15th)
Current governor: Andy Beshear
Current senators: Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is mostly known 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, Fort Knox (just south of Louisville), college basketball and Senator-for-Life Mitch McConnell, who has been the Senate Majority Leader since 2015 and has a reputation as the least popular Senator in the country even in his highly conservative home state. (McConnell isn't the only unpopular GOP figure in the stateMatt Bevin was the country's least popular governor when he narrowly lost his reelection bid in 2019, while all other statewide offices went to the GOP, some by ridiculous margins.) Its other Senator is considerably more popular conservative-libertarian icon Rand Paul, the son of the legendary Ron Paul. It also contains several dry counties, areas where the local government forbids the sale of alcohol. The points east/southeast of the Lexington/Covington area tend to be known as part of Appalachia, which shares 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.
Here's a good one for trivia night: the factory where Chevrolet manufactures its famous Corvette sports car is located in Bowling Green.
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: 6,715,984 (16th largest)
Date of Admission: June 1, 1796 (16th)
Current governor: Bill Lee
Current senators: Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander
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 troops than any other state and more Union troops than any other Southern state. East Tennessee in particular (like much of Appalachia) was a hotbed of pro-Union sentiment, 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.
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).
Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, known primarily for their .50 caliber sniper rifles, are based in the Nashville exurb of Christiana, with the M82 becoming the official rifle of the State of Tennessee on February 26, 2016.
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 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: 19,849,399 (4th largest)
Date of Admission: July 26, 1788 (11th)
Current governor: Andrew Cuomo
Current senators: Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand
The State of New York has a very large city, a bunch of its suburbs, several other cities, a fair bit of rural area to the west, and a bunch of pretty mountains to the north. Nowadays, nobody really remembers that anything outside of New York City exists ("not like there's anything up there anyway", but say that to an upstater at your own risk), although 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 (which actually covers only Major League Baseball). 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 skew 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 GOP 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. Similarly, the state is fully dominated by Democrats on a statewide level, including three-term Governor Andrew Cuomo, and its two senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and 2020 Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand. It is also home of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive superstar who ousted a high-ranking Democratic congressman in a 2018 primary, and in just her first year has become the arguably the most famous member 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: 12,805,537 (5th largest)
Date of Admission: December 12, 1787 (2nd)
Current governor: Tom Wolf
Current senators: Bob Casey and Pat Toomey
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.)
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.
Pennsylvania also has a quirk in its rules about fireworks. It's illegal for residents to have fireworks, but if you're not a resident, you can visit a fireworks store, show your drivers license, and, so long as you spend at least $50, buy as much as you want, as long as you're taking your goods out of the Keystone State.
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. However, Donald Trump narrowly won the state in 2016 and its Senate delegation has one from each party, but its statewide executive officers are all Democrats as of 2020.
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: 9,005,644 (11th largest)
Date of Admission: December 18, 1787 (3rd)
Current governor: Phil Murphy
Current senators: Bob Menendez and Cory Booker
The State of New Jersey is officially known as "The Garden State" and is the fourth-smallest state in the country. In modern times, home to a great many suburbs of both New York City and Philadelphia, which have made it the most densely-populated state, as well as some very large and infamous highways. Also home to Atlantic City, the eastern seaboard near-equivalent of Las Vegas. 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 Philadelphia. North Jersey is the half that is part of the New York City area, while South Jersey is the half that is part of the Philadelphia area (Monmouth and Ocean Counties, while geographically being in the south, culturally identify with NYC more than Philly due to many of their residents being transplants from the northern half). Also 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.
- Why is it that New Jersey has the most toxic waste dumps and Washington, D.C. has the most lawyers?
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. The reality show MTV's Jersey Shore also took place here, but while popular, it was also extremely controversial and hated by many state residents and Italian-Americans in general, saying it cast them in a bad light and did not truly reflect either of those groups. It did make some people want to mock New Jersey, but if you're actually around a New Jerseyan, do so 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. The GOP has been all but obliterated in New Jersey, as the party holds only one of twelve US House seats (until a Blue Dog in the delegation switched to the GOP in late 2019), an incumbent Democratic Senator was easily re-elected despite being deeply mired in corruption, and no Republican has served in the state in decades barring a brief tenure of a Christie appointee to replace Senator Frank Lauternberg after his death.
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: 6,859,819 (15th largest)
Date of Admission: February 6, 1788 (6th)
Current governor: Charlie Baker
Current senators: Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey
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, and which is the bitter arch-rival of New York City in just about everything, but 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 been used to double for New York City (example: the remake of The Women), which has only intensified the rivalry on the Boston side.
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 Springfieldnote ), 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 F. Kennedy and Robert F. 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 is running for President in 2020. However, its current governor is a Republican, the moderate Charlie Baker.
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: 3,588,184 (21st smallest)
Date of Admission: January 9, 1788 (5th)
Current governor: Ned Lamont
Current senators: Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy
The State of Connecticut is the third-smallest state. Like neighboring 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, 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.
Also home to the University of Connecticut (better known as UConn) in Mansfield and Yale University in New Haven. Original home of the Bush family, though they're more associated with Texas. Connecticut is widely known for a being 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. 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, Massachusetts 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.
Connecticut's 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 proved that women's sports can indeed be independently profitable. Hartford formerly had an NHL team, the Whalers, but they moved to North Carolina to become the Hurricanes. UConn is more known for basketball than football, as the latter are considered a B-team at best — even then, while the men's team are no slouch, it is the women's team they're better known for; the two won championships in the same year on two occasions, which no other NCAA Division I school has done.note That said, the state has two arguably more famous sporting locationsESPN 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 as 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, and Connecticut has lately been a very liberal state, having always voted Democrat in presidential elections in recent times, and having a governor, both senators, and all representatives from the blue party. 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 children. Today, it is remembered as a major turning point in the U.S. gun debate. The then-Representative for Sandy Hook's congressional district, Chris Murphy, had just been elected as Senator when the shooting happened, and has since made gun control his signature issue.
Speaking of guns in Connecticut, most of America's major firearm manufacturers are based there. 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 due to several stupid business decisions by the executives. 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 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: 1,342,795 (9th smallest)
Date of Admission: June 21, 1788 (9th)
Current governor: Chris Sununu
Current senators: Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan
The State of New Hampshire 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 presdiential elections, thanks to a law that allows small communities to open polls at midnight (Dixville Notch is the town most-associated with this practice). 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. The state is known for its libertarianism — the state 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 this reason and because of its fairly low population, 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.
Also, 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 28 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. Its the least Democratic state in New England, having a Republican governor (Chris Sununu) who isnt as moderate as his peers in Vermont and Massachusetts, but still having two Democratic senators (both of whom were former governors themselves).
It's also the state with the shortest length of ocean coastline at 18 miles (29 kilometers)note squeezed in between Massachusetts and Maine.
Nickname(s): The Ocean State, Little Rhody
Demonym: Rhode Islander
Capital & Largest City: Providence
Other Cities of Note: Newport, Cranston
Area: 1,214mi2 / 3,140km2 (smallest)
Population: 1,059,639 (7th smallest)
Date of Admission: May 29, 1790 (13th)
Current governor: Gina Raimondo
Current senators: Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse
The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is technically not a single island; the bulk of the state is on the mainland and 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 has 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. It also serves as a convenient unit of measurement, as in "an iceberg/asteroid the size of Rhode Island". Home of 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.
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, since county government doesn't exist) 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 infamous 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 shadyor even outright illegalactivities. 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.
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 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: 1,335,907 (8th smallest)
Date of Admission: March 15, 1820 (23rd)
Current governor: Janet Mills
Current senators: Susan Collins and Angus King
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. Not to be confused with Patriot Day, a recently invented designation for the anniversary of a certain set of terrorist attacks in 2001). 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, 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); 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 Democratic presidentiables, Maine is more politically sporadic otherwise. Mainers, more than any other state, are willing to elect independent candidates and even Republicans have frequent successes there, storming into control of the entire state government in 2010... only to lose 66% of it two years later due to the unpopularity of then governor Paul LePage, who is rather hard-right for a New England state. 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 took the seat of equally beloved aforementioned senator, Olympia Snowe. The other beloved aforementioned senator, Susan Collins, considered to be its most liberal Republican member, is still serving (and still beloved).
Maine also has an unusual take on the Electoral Collegesince 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, with Hillary Clinton winning the overall vote and Portland's home district, but Donald Trump sneaking in one electoral vote for winning the mostly rural 2nd District.
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: 623,657 (2nd smallest)
Date of Admission: March 4, 1791 (14th)
Current governor: Phil Scott
Current senators: Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy
The State of Vermont is the first expansion state to the Thirteen Colonies, as it was formed out of territory that both New York and New Hampshire laid claim to. Chronologically first (Texans need to be reminded of this to keep their egos in check) and alphabetically last of the independent republics (177591), and the first state to outlaw slavery (it was admitted into the Union as an antislavery state to balance slave-owning Kentucky joining the Union). 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, Bernie Sanders, 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 (George H. W. Bush was the last GOP candidate to carry the state), today it's one of the most solidly Democratic states, 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. 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.
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 is the lack of billboards, which were banned in 1968.
Nickname(s): The Golden State
Largest City: Los Angeles
Other Cities of Note: San Francisco, San Diego, Silicon Valley (San Jose-San Mateo-Palo Alto-Cupertino), East Bay (Oakland-Berkeley), Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto-Stockton, 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: 39,536,653 (largest)
Date of Admission: September 9, 1850 (31st)
Current governor: Gavin Newsom
Current senators: Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris
The State of California is the most populous state of the union, and the third largest in terms of land mass (behind Texas and Alaska). Southern California is famous largely 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, and Northern California is famous largely for being the center of the computer industry and left-wing politics (to the point of single-handedly powering Hillary Clintons popular vote win in 2016 despite her loss), and getting rained on almost constantly. Every now and then, the idea comes up of dividing it into two or three states (north, south, central, and now, even the technocrats from Silicon Valley wants their own state); this never happens, and likely never will. If Los Angeles County were to form its own state, it would be ninth in population all by itself.
California also became famous for ousting its governor, Gray Davis, in a recall election in 2003, and electing 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 feel it was a perfect example of democracy in actioni.e. the people being able to hold their elected leaders accountable for their conduct.
If California were to secede from the United States, it would be the world's fifth-largest economy. That's another one to keep handy for trivia night. However, the state currently has a serious fiscal problem due to several outdated and restrictive laws. The state government actually ran out of money once in the 1980s, and again in the late 2000s.
Water is a big issue here because of agriculture, and complaints that non-agricultural users are subsidizing the cost of water to farms. There is a lot of hard feelings over water; the politically powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) imports water all the way from Arizona (and Arizona 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 the MWD even gets some water from lakes in Northern California. But Northern California 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.
People who don't live on the Left Coast (and sometimes Californians too) have an annoying tendency to lump the coast into California. It may or may not be because of California Doubling, all three states have their own idiosyncrasies, and are fairly different from each other. Please don't do it.
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.
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).
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
Area: 71,297mi2 / 184,661km2 (18th largest)
Population: 7,405,743 (13th largest)
Date of Admission: November 11, 1889 (42nd)
Current governor: Jay Inslee
Current senators: Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell
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 forests that cover almost its entire western half, between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The region's cultural and commercial hub, Seattle, is the home of Nintendo of Americanote , Microsoft,note Boeing,note Starbucks,note Costco,note grunge music and the Space Needle. Other prominent attractions include Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Bigfoot. 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. Its capital, Olympia, is home to The Evergreen State College (and yes, the definite article is part of the name), a real life Berserkeley. Since The Nineties, 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'.
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. 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, which occasionally builds 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'). Nothing ever happens.
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, it hasn't worked yet, and probably never will.
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 now Forks is the home of sparkly vampires.
Washington is unsurprisingly a very liberal state, with Democrats holding every statewide office except for Secretary of State, held by the popular Kim Wyman, and Treasurer, which Republicans only hold because the primary system locked Democrats out of the runoff.
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: 4,142,776 (23rd smallest)
Date of Admission: February 14, 1859 (33rd)
Current governor: Kate Brown
Current senators: Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden
The State of Oregon is known in some parts of the nation as being in the sticks thanks mainly to the fact that most people haven't paid any attention to it since the Oregon Trail ended in 1869. Smack dab in The Other Rainforest, it's famous for the Oregon Vortex and the only state to have a flag with two different sides. Also 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 is the state that first implemented 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, 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
Oregon is also the 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. Historically, the state was known for its salmon and timber.
Oregon's largest city is Portland, another hippie liberal college weirdo city populated by indie rock bands, erudite stoners and granola girlslike Austin, Texas, but this time it's 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 known for rain, a large indie music scene, really liberal politics and a sports drought of its own.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 especially true of Vancouver, WA, just across the Columbia River, although Washington having legal pot and Oregon not has increased its cachet a little bit). 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.
The state is divided into four main areas:◊ Willamette Valley, Coast, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Valleys. All of the rivers in the Willamette Valley, and most in Eastern Oregon, eventually flow into the Columbia and from there to the Pacific Ocean. Rivers in the Coastal Region and Southern Valleys flow directly to the Pacific. A decent-sized chunk of Eastern Oregon is in the Great Basin, a series of basins with one thing in commonnone of their rivers flow into any ocean.note
- The Willamette Valley, which stretches from Portland to Eugene, is the largest population center in the state, containing 70% of the state's population. The Valley is between the Coast Range of mountains being upthrust and the volcanic Cascade Mountains. Great soil in the region and known traditionally as good farming land. This is almost indisputably the most liberal part of the state.note Both of the big college football teams, the Oregon State University Beavers and University of Oregon Ducks, are located here (in Corvallis and Eugene, respectively), who every year hold a "Civil War" game that consumes the attention of local football fans. The trophy for winning the competition used to have a platypus (aka an animal that looks halfway between the two teams' mascots) on it, before it got lost in a closet for a few decades. Veneta hosts the annual Oregon Country Fair, a weekend-long festival started in 1969—and arguably, it has never left the Summer of Love culturally speaking. Expect a lot of people in tie-dye, people in weird costumes, and people (particularly young women) going topless, as well as music, counter-cultural activism, the ever-present smell of weed, and booths selling either art or food. And that's only during the day: what happens after hours is only speculated at by those who don't have booths or who haven't paid for camping.
- The Coast: Long stretch of rocky and wet coastline. Large fishing population along with timber production. Now popular for tourism. The Lookout Air Raid took place in this region. Keiko the whale lived for quite a while at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
- Eastern Oregon, the least populated part of the state, makes up two-thirds of Oregon's land area. High desert to full desert/prairie. Much more conservative than the rest of the state, which has led to secession proposals that, for the most part, have gone nowhere. Ranching is popular. Large segments are owned by the Federal Government. It got a mild amount of infamy in the '80s when Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a New Age cult leader, moved in with his followers and did your typical cult thingsexploiting followers as cheap labor, discouraging family connections, and buying a truly remarkable amount of Rolls-Roycesas well as intentionally infecting the salad bars of a bunch of restaurants in The Dalles with salmonella in order to incapacitate enough people to win some county elections (the single largest bioterrorist attack in U.S. history). When the U.S. Attorney for Oregon started investigating them for that as well as some other illegal activity, they tried to assassinate him. You can see why most Oregonians mostly associate Eastern Oregon with being kookaburra. More recently, Bend has achieved a measure of Internet fame by being home to the world's last surviving Blockbuster location.
- The Southern Valleys: Several different rivers (Klamath, Rogue and Umpqua) that find their own way from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean. Large timber and untapped mineral wealth with federal regulation that has shut down production. Tends to be rather libertarian, leading to a long-standing secessionist movement that has also involved neighboring parts of California (see above); Jefferson State is a popular term for the broader cross-border region. Physically located in Southern Oregon, but more culturally in line with the Willamette Valley, is Ashland, home of the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
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: 739,795 (3rd smallest)
Date of Admission: January 3, 1959 (49th)
Current governor: Mike Dunleavy
Current senators: Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan
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, they got the better part of the bargain.note Noted for its cold temperatures, 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 is roughly one-sixth of the United States 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. The state itself is actually isolated from the United States; if you need 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.
Former governor Sarah Palin was the Republican Party's nominee for the vice presidency in 2008. Other notables include Scott Gomez, the first Hispanic player in the National Hockey League, and pop-folk singer Jewel.note Alaska's military presence 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.
The state's population density is just over one resident per square mile (0.4 people per square km), mostly concentrated into three cities, leaving lots of open space in between. Because of this, Alaska serves as a setting for many adventure stories, such as Jack London's Call of the Wild, and more recently, reality series about the... unique job opportunities available in the state. Or, in one case, the unique challenges that Alaska brings to a job common to all of the states. 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 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 were doing quite well. However, that didn't lastthose stores were either closed or sold off to other companies; the last Blockbuster stores in the state closed in 2018; and following the closure of a Blockbuster store in Australia early the next year, the only one left is now in Bend, Oregon (as mentioned above).
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 terms are 'Alaska Native' or simply 'Native'.
Was once home to a third independent Senator, Lisa Murkowski, who unlike King of Maine and Sanders of Vermont was independent In Name Only; she lost the official 2010 Republican primary as an incumbent, ran as a write-in candidate, and won, but was for all other intents and purposes a member of the Republican Party. No longer an independent after winning her re-election primary in 2016, she nevertheless remains notable (and popular) for her moderate views and penchant for bipartisanship. The other senator, Dan Sullivan, is much more aligned with the rest of his party, but notably shares his name with another prominent Republican politician in the state.
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 Hawaii has no citiessee below)
Other Communities of Note: Hilo, Kailua-Kona
Area: 10,931mi2 / 28,313km2 (8th smallest)
Population: 1,427,538 (10th smallest)
Date of Admission: August 21, 1959 (50th)
Current governor: David Ige
Current senators: Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz
The State of Hawaii 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 deposing the queen when she attempted to establish universal suffrage), Hawaii 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. Oddly enough, Hawaii holds two "technical" records. First, its capital Honolulu is technically the most isolated major city in the world. The closest comparable city, San Francisco, is 2,387 miles away, but Perth, Australia (the usual title-holder in this category despite being "only" 1,307 miles away from Adelaide) has more than a million people within city limits, making it more globally visible. Second, its highest peak Mauna Kea is technically the tallest mountain on Earth at 33,500 feet, but unlike Mt. Everest, most of it lies below sea level.
Hawaii 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. 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. Birthplace of former U.S. President Barack Obama and traditionally the most solidly-Democrat state in the country.
The state flag is notable for having the United Kingdom's Union Jack in the canton, a holdover from a time when the Kingdom of Hawaii sought to align itself with the UK rather than the U.S. 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 Hawaii, King Kamehameha the Great (who also has a statue in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall). Never mind the nation's history with Britain and royalty.
The inhabited islands of Hawaii 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. 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). Debate rages as to whether or not Native Hawaiians should be given all the same rights and entitlements as Native Americans and Alaskans; currently they are afforded some benefits but not others. 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; nowadays used also for long-term residents (at least a decade).
- Hawaii Resident
The only legally constituted governments in Hawaii 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 school districts; all public education is run directly by the state.
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
Area: 113,990mi2 / 295,234km2 (6th largest)
Population: 7,016,270 (14th largest)
Date of Admission: February 14, 1912 (48th)
Current governor: Doug Ducey
Current senators: Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally
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 a bit more to Arizona than just desert. Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the country and often considered a poor man's Los Angeles, due to its warm weather (though summers are ungodly hot), desert landscape, and Latin-flavored culture (more on that later), but having a low cost of living. In northern Arizona, at a much higher altitude, the climate is cold enough to allow skiing in the winter.note The television show Medium is set here, as is the Chick Flick Waiting to Exhale. A traditionally conservative state, former Republican presidential candidate John McCain represented the state in the U.S. Senate for more than 30 years until his death in 2018. Shortly afterwards, Arizona elected its first Democratic senator in decades, Kyrsten Sinema. It's also the location of the Grand Canyon.
Since Indiana changed over, Arizona is now one of two states that do not participate in Daylight Saving Time.note
Recently, the media portrayal of Arizona has shifted to 'Alabama with cacti' thanks to the state declining to officially observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day from 1987 to 1992note , and a highly restrictive anti-illegal immigration law that the state passed early in 2010, which has 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), who has gained notoriety for his anti-illegal immigration stance and his... colorful handling of the prison system.note (He was voted out in 2016.)
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: 5,607,154 (21st largest)
Date of Admission: August 1, 1876 (38th)
Current governor: Jared Polis
Current senators: Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner
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 marijuana legalization. However, the eastern half of the state consists of flat prairie more reminiscent of Kansas (which borders Colorado to the east) than our usual perception. But even then, 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 3300 feet above sea level (higher than many states' highest points and the only lowest point more than 1000 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, closely tied by Colorado Springs to the south; the fact that Denver only has about 600,000 peoplenote says something about how sparsely populated the region outside the Front Range Corridor is.
Politically and culturally, the 'red/blue state' divide runs straight through Colorado, making it a fairly important swing state. On the one hand, there is the city of Colorado Springs, which hosts multiple major military installations, several major parachurch organizations, and a number of megachurches, gaining it a reputation as a conservative foothold - though the city is also home to the US Olympic Training Center and an army of recreational athletes (thanks in no small part to having some of the finest parks in the world - Garden of the Gods most famous among them), and usually only votes conservative by the narrowest of margins.note On the other hand, there are Boulder (a.k.a. "The People's Republic of Boulder") and the various ski resort towns in the western part of the state, which 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. The Denver metropolitan area is itself also a reflection of this cultural divide, with the city proper and its inner suburbs being extremely liberal and the more outer suburbs (especially affluent Douglas County in the southern part) being extremely conservative. The state overall leans to the Democrats, with the GOPs last statewide official being Senator Cory Gardner, who was elected in 2014 during a very Republican-friendly year and is touted as the most vulnerable Republican in 2020.
Colorado is where the traditional values of the Midwest begin to shift into the relatively libertarian values of the West. 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. As mentioned above, Colorado Springs is home to the US Olympic Training Center, and Denver is home to a truly impressive number of professional sports teams.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 fourteen thousand feet in elevation - found in Colorado, and hundreds over thirteen thousand, 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.
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. There's also a minimum security prison camp there, but that doesn't really garner much attention. 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): 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, Ogden, Logan, Orem, Moab, West Valley City, St. George, Park City
Area: 84,896mi2 / 219,882km2 (13th largest)
Population: 3,101,833 (19th smallest)
Date of Admission: January 4, 1896 (45th)
Current governor: Gary Herbert
Current senators: Mitt Romney and Mike Lee
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 territorywhich was then promptly sold to the U.S. after the Mexican-American War along with Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. Salt Lake Cityor Sal Tlay Ka Siti if you preferwas the first city founded by the pioneers, and remains the state capital, its largest city, and its main cultural and economic center. It is named for the Great Salt Lake, the American version of the Dead Sea. The majority of the population belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For this reason, Utah is staunchly conservative, and Mormonism dominates state culture and politics, sometimes leading to conflict with non-Mormon residents, who mostly live in or near Salt Lake City. Despite its conservatism, Donald Trump is much less popular here than in most Republican states, with third-party candidate and Utah native Evan Mc Mullin having gotten over 20% in the state. Its two Republican senators are also both non-traditional: Mitt Romney has been one of Trumps most vocal critics and Mike Lee is a libertarian-conservative in the vein of Ron and Rand Paul. The joke about this is that because of the rules of the Mormon church, Salt Lake City is the only place where even Jews are 'Gentiles'. However, it is also worth noting that SLC has a very large and active queer community. As the largest city for hundreds of miles in any direction, it's a haven for LGBT individuals in not just Utah but the border regions of the surrounding states as well. Salt Lake City elected an openly lesbian mayor (Jackie Biskupski) in 2015.
Utah is well known for its national parks, having the third most national parks of any state in the U.S. (only California and Alaska have more) at 5 (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion). It also has 8 national monuments (Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Bears Ears, Rainbow Bridge, and Timpanogos Cave), 2 national recreation areas (Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon), and 7 national forests (Ashley, Caribou-Targhee, Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-La Sal, Sawtooth, and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache), in addition to several other state parks and monuments.
It is relatively cheap to film here, so many movies have at least one location there, especially Disney Channel Original movies. 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. 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). Since everyone seems to want to be an entrepreneur, you can buy pretty much anything there, except hard liquor, which is restricted to bars and state liquor stores.note
If you are in Salt Lake, don't wear anything blue or with cougars on it and if you are in Provo (home of Brigham Young University, a Mormon institution), for the love of every being ever worshiped, 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.
- "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: 2,088,070 (13th smallest)
Date of Admission: January 6, 1912 (47th)
Current governor: Michelle Lujan Grisham
Current senators: Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall
The southeast and least populated 'Four Corners' state, the State of New Mexico has its motto printed on its license plates, "Land of Enchantment". New Mexico used to be one of the wildest parts of the Wild West; Cimarron, New Mexico, is one of the few towns that lived up to the hype. The state has working cattle ranches to this day. Best known as the home of Roswell, where, erm... something happened in 1947, and the creation place of the first nuke in Project Y of The Manhattan Project, as well as the area 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, and 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 White Sands National Monument, 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). 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, which has turned it into a solidly Democratic state. Very much Truth in Television as New Mexicans who travel can attest, 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
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). Oh, and if you see saguaros (the big cactus with arms), then someone has gotten it confused with neighboring Arizona.
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, as is the recent movie 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 than some others such as Louisiana.
Despite the aforementioned 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, and 2016 (though Bush Jr. made up for it when he was reelected in 2004).
Also, if someone there asks you "Red or green?", answer "Christmas". (They're arguing over which chilies are better.)
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
Area: 110,571mi2 / 286,380km2 (7th largest)
Population: 2,998,039 (17th smallest)
Date of Admission: October 31, 1864 (36th)
Current governor: Steve Sisolak
Current senators: Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen
The State of Nevada 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. Would still be 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, a couple of silver and gold mines, and a whole lot of empty desert where prostitution is legal.
It's pronounced Nuh-vae-duh (as in gamble), not Nuh-vah-duh (like father). Pronouncing it wrong around the wrong resident will land you an angry rant.
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, it is the only state that refuses to share information with the IRS, and because the rules on how a corporation operates 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, much like New Mexico above and Ohio and Missouri below, has a good bellwether status; it has voted for the overall winner of each election since 1912, except for Jimmy Carter in 1976 (though they made up for that when they voted to boot him out in 1980) and Donald Trump in 2016. Nowadays it tends to lean Democratic more than Republican, and it has two Democrats in the Senate currently.
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: 1,716,943 (11th smallest)
Date of Admission: July 3, 1890 (43rd)
Current governor: Brad Little
Current senators: Jim Risch and Mike Crapo
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 football stadium in the country with a non-green/brown playing field (its artificial turf is blue). 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: 1,050,493 (6th smallest)
Date of Admission: November 8, 1889 (41st)
Current governor: Steve Bullock
Current senators: Jon Tester and Steve Daines
The State of Montana consists of beautiful, 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. If one were to look at an outline of the state, one could see the profile of a face looking southwest into Idaho.
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, where the latter had some of her friends brutally murdered in her youth (it is unknown if they know each other, though it is unlikely).
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, and Gerard Way, of My Chemical Romance and The Umbrella Academy fame, wore a bulletproof vest during a trip to Montana (which he probably already owned since he is from Newark, New Jersey). In concert. Apparently he believed he was going to be shot by one of his ticket-buying fans. Of course, it did not help that he was drugged out of his mind at the time. Sadly, the stereotype that Montanans are violent and dangerous doesn't stem the flood of Californians into the state. Oh well. On the other hand, 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).
Also, keep your eyes open in 2063 when humanity's first successful warp-capable ship will depart from here.
Montana is a very conservative state, but is more open to voting for Democrats downballot, like Governor Steve Bullock, his predecessor Brian Schweitzer, and Senator Jon Tester.
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: 579,315 (smallest)
Date of Admission: July 10, 1890 (44th)
Current governor: Mark Gordon
Current senators: Mike Enzi and John Barrasso
The least populous state in the Union, with only one representative in the House, 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 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. Despite its sobriquet, 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.
Wyoming was also the state that invented a popular alternative to the corporation, the Limited Liability Company, in 1987.
On the positive side, some places in Wyoming are well-known for their natural wonders: Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming (with smaller, marginal portions located in Idaho and Montana), Grand Teton National Park (located to the south of Yellowstone), and Devil's Tower, a big monolithic column, which was a crucial location in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If you're into the cowboy way of life, Wyoming is a place rich in Wild West heritage and history.
East North Central
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), three of the five Quad Cities (Moline, East Moline, Rock Island)
Area: 57,913mi2 / 149,995km2 (25th largest)
Population: 12,802,023 (6th largest)
Date of Admission: December 3, 1818 (21st)
Current governor: J. B. Pritzker
Current senators: Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth
The State of Illinois has a special pronunciation of its name. The s in Illinois is silent, making it 'ill-i-NOY'. Home to Chicago, the third-largest city in America (also known for being one of the centers of the American Mafia alongside New York City), but its state capital is actually Springfield. No, not the one from the Simpsons, 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 Illinois is rural by comparison; conservatives in central and southern Illinois often resent being politically lumped with Chi-town. Abraham Lincoln, who would be elected to the presidency on behalf of the nascent Republican Party in 1860, started his political career in Illinois, which is why Illinois' Springfield is the second most important Springfield in American culture (any Illinois child is brought up to worship Abraham Lincoln). Democratic President Barack Obama, who had settled in Chicago after law school, represented this state in the U.S. Senate.
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, because the companies 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 and Governor Rod Blagojevich having been 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.
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: 11,658,609 (7th largest)
Date of Admission: March 1, 1803 (17th)
Current governor: Mike DeWine
Current senators: Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman
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 six cities of 100,000 or more, and is the most densely populated state outside the east coast. Politically, the population is pretty evenly split between conservatives in the rural areas and liberals in the cities, with their suburbs being the main battleground between the two, hence why Ohio is such a battleground state during election season. It last voted against the person declared president in 1960, the longest 'winning' streak of any state. Furthermore, no Republican has ever won without first taking Ohio since Lincoln first ran in 1860. Also, Ohio has arguably the most distinctive flag in the country, being the only one pennant-shaped.
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 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 in recent decades 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 in the state certainly isn't helping.
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: 9,962,311 (10th largest)
Date of Admission: January 26, 1837 (26th)
Current governor: Gretchen Whitmer
Current senators: Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters
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. Home to the Motor City, Detroit, seat of the American auto industry but better known for the poster child for urban squalor in the public imagination (notably the dystopian future as depicted in RoboCop), hence the alternative nickname "Murder City". On a lighter note, Detroit is also 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.
The city of Flint, which is even worse than Detroit, is claimed as a hometown by left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore (who actually grew up in one of Flint's slightly-less-godawful suburbs), and has gained notoriety for the amounts of lead found in their drinking water. Most of the state's upper-class residents live in the vicinity of Grosse Pointe. 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 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.
Michigan recently introduced some very substantial tax incentives for media productions shot there, so look for it to pretend to be someplace else soon. It certainly could use the money; as of 2009 it had the nation's highest unemployment rate. According to the 2010 census, it was the only state with a net loss in population vis-à-vis its 2000 figures (while Detroit sank from the tenth to the eighteenth-largest city over the same years), primarily due to the terrible job market.
Michigan 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 Hoosier State
Motto(s): The Crossroads of America
Capital & Largest City: Indianapolis
Other Cities of Note: Fort Wayne, Evansville, South Bend, Lafayette, Bloomington, Warsaw, Milan, Terre Haute, Monticello, Columbus, Jeffersonville, Auburn
Area: 36,419mi2 / 94,326km2 (13th smallest)
Population: 6,666,818 (17th largest)
Date of Admission: December 11, 1816 (19th)
Current governor: Eric Holcomb
Current senators: Todd Young and Mike Braun
The smallest Great Lake state and Midwestern state in general by area, the State of Indiana is known for a few things, such as a passion for basketball ('Hoosier hysteria'note ), Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Indiana Jones' first name and hosting the Indy 500. The state also has the third largest population of Amish in the US after Pennsylvania and Ohio, and Warsaw, Indiana 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. Indiana is nicknamed the Crossroads of America, due to being located right between Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. In 1929, a pair of sociologists declared Muncie, Indiana, to be the most typical small town in America. 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. The creators of Terraria, Re-Logic, are also based in Indiana, and Papa John's Pizza originated in Jeffersonville, though they're now headquartered across the Ohio River in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.note 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 states like Kentucky than its northerly neighbors. Its reputation is only partially deserved: up until recently, the state was actually a swing state. Throughout the 90s it had several Democratic senators, and even voted for Obama in 2008, but as of the 2018 elections, it has gone totally in favor of the Republican Party, much to the chagrin of its more liberal neighbors.
For a long time, Indiana was one of three states (Arizona and Hawaii being the others) that did not use Daylight Saving Time. It is still split into two time zonesthe 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 issueor any other 'Northwest Indiana vs. the Rest of the State' topicis 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 part of the Chicago Metropolitan Area; Northern Indiana, which is primarily represented by the towns of Fort Wayne and South Bend; Central Indiana, which contains the state capital; and Southern Indiana, often referred to as "Kentuckiana". 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 more than just corn. It also produces soybeans, steel and poultry, with Northwest Indiana being the largest steel producing center in the U.S. since 1975 and the state being the second largest producer of poultry in the US next to Iowa. 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. The state ranks second in number of biopharmaceutical jobs of all the states and fifth in total sales and shipments of pharmaceutical products. The current vice president, Mike Pence, is also from Columbus, Indiana (not to be confused with the Ohio city above), formerly being the Governor of the state before his inauguration (his brother Greg is now a congressman, in the district Mike used to represent before he became governor). Speaking of Columbus, it's 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.
It's also home for the only execution chamber for the Federal Government (most executions are handled on the state level). Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City, was tried in Denver, Colorado, due to concerns over him getting a fair trial, then executed at the federal execution chamber at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Nickname(s): Badger State, America's Dairyland (no official nickname)
Largest City: Milwaukee
Other Cities of Note: Green Bay, Racine, Ripon, Appleton, Kenosha, Seymour, Wausau, Monroe, Colby
Area: 65,496mi2 / 169,635km2 (23rd largest)
Population: 5,795,483 (20th largest)
Date of Admission: May 29, 1848 (30th)
Current governor: Tony Evers
Current senators: Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson
Initially settled when miners discovered huge lead deposits in the 1830s and 1840s, the State of Wisconsin is known as "The Dairy State". As such, it's known as the home of cheese (being the largest producer of cheese in the US, the city of Monroe being the only producer of Limburger cheese in the US and Colby being the origin of Colby cheese), Happy Days, That '70s Show, and the Green Bay Packers. Also home of Milwaukee, which was notable for having had three mayors from the Socialist Party for 38 years between 1910 and 1960 and for being the home of several brewing companies (though the actual brewing has long been relocated), and Ripon, which is where the Republican Party was created. Capital is Madison (named in honor of Founding Father James Madison), a Berserkley University town.note Birthplace of Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Orson Welles and the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company, so watch it, eh? Wisconsin is also the second largest milk and butter producing state next to California, 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. Appleton 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 and a Pick 'n Save Food Center now stands in its place.
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.
West North Central
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: 5,576,606 (22nd largest)
Date of Admission: May 11, 1858 (32nd)
Current governor: Tim Walz
Current senators: Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith
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, and is popularly called the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Actually, 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.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.
The state tends to be very populist politically, 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) note , 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 recall.note 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 A Prairie Home Companion, the state's appreciation for public radio is unrivalled 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).
Minnesota's 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.
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: 6,113,532 (18th largest)
Date of Admission: August 10, 1821 (24th)
Current governor: Mike Parson
Current senators: Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley
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 it's major role in the westward expansion of the US, as memorialized by the Gateway Arch. Wright County is the current mean center of the United States population, and the state was home to Harry Truman and the starting place of the California, Oregon and Santa Fe Trails (all Independencenote , including Truman); also the home of 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"), as well as a Kansas City (The Day After featured prominently here and the nearby Kansas city of Lawrence). 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.
Missouri is famous for having tons of barbecue places (predominantly in Kansas City and St. Louis), unpredictable weather, and lots of rednecksincluding people who fly Confederate flagspossibly 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. Until 2008, 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". 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 debatable, but Wilson was cleared of all charges, which led to several days of rioting and 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", and 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 consistently "themed" theme parks in the country (an 1880s mining town).
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: 3,145,711 (20th smallest)
Date of Admission: December 28, 1846 (29th)
Current governor: Kim Reynolds
Current senators: Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst
The State of Iowa consists of gently rolling hills 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 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 effectivenesssupport for ethanol is a great way to win the Iowa caucuses and gain a head start in the primary cycle. It was also the first state outside New England to legalize same-sex marriage, to the surprise of many. Observers of Iowa were less surprised, however; the state has an overall liberal/Democratic lean (though Donald Trump won the state by 10 points in 2016).
Some good ones for quiz night: the town of Riverside, Iowa, is where James T. Kirk will be born in 2228. Radar O'Reilly from M*A*S*H had his hometown in Ottumwa, Iowa. 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.
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: 2,913,123 (15th smallest)
Date of Admission: January 29, 1861 (34th)
Current governor: Laura Kelly
Current senators: Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran
The State of Kansas is the geographic center of the 'continental' 48 states. Located entirely within the Great Plains, it consists mostly of flat farmland, with the western part being particularly boring flatness, but the parts bordering Missouri have some curvature. 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'. 'Bleeding Kansas' was the scene for a warm-up bout just before the Civil War: Kansas even had its own massacre.note It was also where John Brown of "John Brown's Body" lived before he went to Harper's Ferry, Virginia. There was even one actual Civil War battle in the state.
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 LeComptonbarelyand 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 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 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.
Also, while Kansas City, KS, is one of the largest cities in that 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.
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.
Kansas has also been tested to be flatter than a pancake (from IHOP).
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: 1,920,076 (14th smallest)
Date of Admission: March 1, 1867 (37th)
Current governor: Pete Ricketts
Current senators: Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse
The State of Nebraska is the only one to have a unicameral (single-house) legislature. What everyone else does with two houses is beyond them. 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. They don't agree on much, really. As noted above in the discussion of Maine, Nebraska is one of two states that can split its electoral vote, using the same systemtwo 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; the only time it split its electoral votes was in 2008, when two congressional districts and the state overall went to John McCain, while the other districtwhich contains Omahavoted for Obama. Nebraska's single uniting factor is the Nebraska Cornhuskers: no matter where you're from, the quickest way to be liked is to wear Husker red.
Another thing it used to have only one of was the means to perform executions, with the electric chair being the only authorized method. The State Supreme Court found execution by electric chair to be cruel and unusual punishment (offer void in Nebraska, of course) in 2008, so it has, like every other state that has retained the death penalty, switched to lethal injection.
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.
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, and 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): 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: 869,666 (5th smallest)
Date of Admission: November 2, 1889 (40th)
Current governor: Kristi Noem
Current senators: John Thune and Mike Rounds
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, which runs ads for 500 miles in every direction advertising 'free ice water'. The Corn Palace multi-purpose arena/facility in Mitchell, featuring murals made from corn kernels (the murals change every year), is another popular tourist attraction, being home to the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers and the Mitchell High School Kernels basketball teams, and South Dakota also has the second-highest proportion of Native Americans and third-highest of indigenous Americans of any state behind Alaska (where the local indigenous people are called Alaska Natives) and New Mexico.
Earlier this article mentioned how banks and credit card issuers used to be chartered in Delaware, but then 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. However, Nevada is also attractive for credit card issuers as well.
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: 755,393 (4th smallest)
Date of Admission: November 2, 1889 (39th)
Current governor: Doug Burgum
Current senators: John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer
The State of North Dakota entered the Union on the same day as South Dakota above in 1889. Officially, North Dakota, home of Fargo and the geographic center of North America, is the 39th state, and South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, the Corn Palace and American Legion baseball, and where Theodore Roosevelt spent part of his youth as a cowboy and rancher several months after his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, had died, is the 40th state, although it is unknown in which order Benjamin Harrison signed the papers to admit them. It has been said that if the United States grants statehood to, say, Guam or Puerto Rico, North and South Dakota should unite to become Dakota, just to keep the number of states at a nice even 50. North Dakota actually considered this in the 2000s, due to its drastically declining population. Several news stories have cropped up recently 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 countryeven 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 expecting the boom to keep going.
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: Wanda Vázquez Garced
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. 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. It is the largest of the island territories in both population and size by a huge margin (the other territories combined have less people than Wyoming, the least populous state), and is the most likely to 'graduate' in the near future, but whether that means statehood or independence is a matter of fierce ongoing debate.
Two referendums in the '90s showed little support for independence, while almost half the voters supported statehood, and a few more supported an option with the benefits of both statehood and independencethe only option the United States never agreed to. After the turn of the millennium, Congress tried to pass a bill on how the referendum would be held, but couldn't agree on the terms either. In the 2012 elections, the populace finally approved a set of non-binding referendums that stated that they want to become a state, though the sitting governor is an opponent of statehood, not to mention that the introduction of Puerto Rico as a state would reshape the political landscape in ways that would not benefit the GOP, who still control the House. And you thought it would get easier when the island made its mind up.
If one were to visit, 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.
Motto: "United in Pride and Hope"
Demonym: Virgin Islander
Capital & Largest City: Charlotte Amalie
Area: 732mi2 / 1,898km2
Current governor: Albert Bryan
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. 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: Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Not to be confused with the independent island nation that is also called Samoa. Has 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.
Capital & Largest City: Hagåtña
Area: 570mi2 / 1,478km2
Current governor: Lou Leon Guerrero
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
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.note 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 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.
- 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.