States of the Union #1
This is a new series focusing on the fifty States of the Union comprising the United States of America. Despite the mess my beloved country in is these days, I am still a proud American, particularly regarding our remarkable history. So beginning today, and on the subsequent nine Wednesdays, each blog post will spotlight FIVE States (chosen at random). There will be some trivia, facts and data, a map, occasional vocabulary lessons, and naturally a wee bit of history. Here we go!
Abbreviation — OK
Capital — Oklahoma City
Statehood — November 16, 1907
State Motto — “Labor conquers all things”
State Nickname — Sooner State
State Bird — Scissor-tailed flycatcher
State Flower — Mistletoe
- The Land Rush of 1889 permitted settlers to claim the Unassigned Lands in present-day Oklahoma. Some settlers tried to beat the system by entering the area before the official start at noon on April 22, 1889. These settlers were called the Sooners, and that’s where Oklahoma got its nickname as the “Sooner State.”
- Cimarron County is the only county in the U.S. that touches four states: Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Kansas.
- The world’s first parking meter, known as Park-O-Meter No. 1, is installed on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on July 16, 1935.
- The first official tornado forecast and the first successful tornado forecast in recorded history happened at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1948.
- In 1907, Oklahoma became the last state to declare Christmas as a legal holiday.
FAMOUS OKLAHOMANS: Mickey Mantle (baseball) – Garth Brooks (singer) – Paul Harvey (broadcaster) – Oral Roberts (evangelist) – Will Rogers, Reba McEntire (singers) – Jim Thorpe (athlete) – Brad Pitt (actor).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
In 1541, Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado reached the area now-known as Oklahoma, the first non-natives to do so as far as is recorded. In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier explored the Mississippi River and claimed the land around it (including the future Oklahoma) for France, which then officially became part of the USA with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Fur traders were the first folk to settle in the un-named territory, the first permanent settlement a trading post at present-day Salina in 1823.
Five “Civilized Tribes” dwelt in the region — Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Cherokee, and Chickasaw — and still to this day Oklahoma has the largest American Indian population. The name Oklahoma is based on two Choctaw words okla or ukla meaning “a people; a tribe; a nation; citizens; folks; persons; men; population” and humma which translates to “red; crimson; redness; rouge; scarlet.” Together it roughly means “land of the red man” and was first recorded by native American missionary Allen Wright. Oklahoma, as the designated name, first appears in an 1866 Choctaw treaty.
Abbreviation — AK
Capital — Juneau
Statehood — January 3, 1959
State Motto — “North to the Future”
State Nicknames — The Last Frontier, Land of the Midnight Sun
State Bird — Willow Ptarmigan
State Flower — Forget-me-not
- Outsiders first discovered Alaska in 1741 when Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering sighted it on a voyage from Siberia.
- The first settlement in Alaska was established by Russian whalers and fur traders on Kodiak Island in 1784.
- Alaska is home to North America’s highest peak, Denali (Mount McKinley) at 20,320 feet.
- Alaska has over 3 million lakes, of which 3,197 have an official name. It also has 29 volcanoes.
- Juneau has no road access to the rest of the state. It is the only capital city in the United States accessible only by boat or plane.
- Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights produced by charged electrons and protons striking the earth’s upper atmosphere, can be seen an average of 243 days a year in Fairbanks.
- Every year Alaska hosts the 1,200 mile-long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome, often called the “Last great race on Earth.”
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
The name of the 49th US state comes via Russian, from the Aleut alakshak or alaeksu, or any one of a number of spelling variants. The Aleut word is reported as meaning either “mainland” or “peninsula.”
The form Alaska was in common use by the time of the US purchase of the territory from Russia in 1867. The official name was suggested by Senator Charles Sumner under the misapprehension that the word meant “great land.”
Abbreviation — NH
Capital — Concord
Statehood — June 21, 1788
State Motto — “Live free or die”
State Nickname — Granite State
State Bird — Purple finch
State Flower — Purple lilac
- Of the thirteen original colonies, New Hampshire was the first to declare its independence from England, six months before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
- New Hampshire still uses its original state constitution, ratified in 1784. It’s the second-oldest continuously used constitution in the United States, after Massachusetts.
- The first free public library supported by taxation in the United States was founded on April 9, 1833 in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
- New Hampshire is the only state in the United States that does not require adults to wear seat belts in their cars while traveling.
- New Hampshire has the shortest ocean coastline of any U.S. coastal state, with a length of 13 miles.
- Merrimack is home to the famous Clydesdales maintained by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.
FAMOUS NEW HAMPSHIRITES: Franklin Pierce (14th US President) – Alan Shephard (astronaut) – Robert Frost (poet) – John Irving (writer) – Daniel Webster (statesman).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
New Hampshire was named by Captain John Mason after Hampshire, England. As an English sailor, Captain Mason had wide experience sailing from England to the Colonies, the region one of the main seaports in the New World. Along with a number of other settlers, Captain Mason established a fishing colony in 1623 at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, and in 1629 received a significant land grant from the Crown which he named after his childhood home county in England.
Abbreviation — KY
Capital — Frankfort
Statehood — June 1, 1792
State Motto — “United we stand, Divided we fall”
State Nickname — Bluegrass State
State Bird — Cardinal
State Flower — Goldenrod
- Held every year since 1875, the Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country.
- Cumberland Falls in Kentucky is only place in Western Hemisphere to spot a moonbow on a regular basis. A moonbow is a rainbow made from light reflected off of the moon at night.
- Kentucky is the only U.S. state to have a continuous border of rivers running along three of its sides: the Mississippi River to the west, the Ohio River to the north, and the Big Sandy River and Tug Fork to the east.
- More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox – the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world.
- Kentucky is the “Bluegrass State” so named for the bluish-purple buds on the tall grasses growing wild all over the state.
- All Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured in Bowling Green, home of the Corvette Museum.
FAMOUS KENTUCKIANS: President Abraham Lincoln – Jefferson Davis (President of Confederacy) – Loretta Lynn (singer) – Casey Jones (locomotive engineer).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
Kentucky, the gorgeous bluegrass State I now call home, is a North American place name that clearly comes from an indigenous word but which word of the two leading possibilities is uncertain.
Option one is Eskippakithiki, the name of a Shawnee (Algonquian) village in what is now Clark County. The earliest known printed use of Kentucky is from the Pennsylvania Gazette, dated May 10, 1753 and hints at a Shawnee origin:
By Letters from Virginia, dated the 10th of April, we have the following Advice, viz. “That an armed Company of Indians, consisting of Ottowawas, and Connywagas, headed by one of the Six Nations, and a white Man, met with some Pennsylvania Traders, at a place called Kentucky, about 150 Miles from the Shawnese Town, on this side of the Allegheny River, and took eight Prisoners, five belonging to Mr. Groghan, the other three to Mr. Lowry, and with them Goods to the Value of upwards of Three Hundred Pounds.
The second origin option is a Wyandot (Iroquoian) word meaning “plain, meadowland” that is similar to the Seneca word meaning “at the field.”
The newspaper clipping quoted above is a bit unclear, although the implication is of the Kentucky reference being a specific village, or something along those lines. In 1755, the next known printed reference to Kentucky appears as the name of a river on a map of the middle British colonies by Lewis Evans and published by Benjamin Franklin. The description is as follows:
KENTUCKE … has high Clay Banks, abounds in Cane and Buffaloes, and has also some very large Salt Springs. It has no Limestone yet discovered, but some other fit for building. Its Navigation is interrupted with some Shoals, but passable with Canoes to the Gap, where the War Path goes through the Ouasioto Mountain. This Gap § I point out in the Map, as a very important Pass; and it is truly so, by Reason of its being the only Way passable with Horses from Ohio Southward for 3 or 400 Miles Extent. And if the Government has a Mind to preserve the Country back of Carolina, it should be looked to in Time.
The mention of “no limestone yet to be discovered” is humorous since it is the unique limestone of Kentucky which creates bourbon, an alcoholic beverage literally not made anywhere else in the world! That future reality aside, the implication of Kentucky as a village or settlement is substantiated by a notice placed in the Virginia Gazette on August 23, 1776:
KENTUCK, August 21, 1776.
WHEREAS, in consequence of an agreement made between myself and mr. John Floyd of this settlement, about a piece of land, I gave the said Floyd my bond for 20 l. I therefore give this publick notice, that I will not pay but half the same, and that whoever may take an assignment of the said bond for more than 10 l. will certainly be disappointed of their expectations therein. JOHN MAXWELL
Kentucky was incorporated as a county of Virginia in December 1776, and on June 1, 1792 became the fifteenth state of the United States.
Abbreviation — FL
Capital — Tallahassee
Statehood — March 3, 1845
State Motto — “In God We Trust”
State Nickname — Sunshine State
State Bird — Mockingbird
State Flower — Orange Blossom
- Saint Augustine is the oldest European settlement in North America. It was established in 1565.
- Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States (1,350 miles or 2,170 km), and is the only state in the United States that borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Gatorade was named for the University of Florida Gators where the drink was first developed
- Florida is the only state in the nation whose Constitution is reviewed every 20 years.
- Florida is the only state that has 2 rivers with the same name. There is a Withlacoochee River in north central Florida and a Withlacoochee River in central Florida.
- Florida is officially the “Sunshine State” per the State Legislature in 1970, but is also known as “The Everglades State” and “The Orange State” (due to being the largest producer of oranges).
FAMOUS FLORIDIANS: Clarence Thomas (US Supreme Court Justice) – Sidney Poitier, Faye Dunaway, Burt Reynolds (actors) – Jim Morrison (Doors lead singer) – Tom Petty (singer).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
Florida is Spanish for “flowering; full of flowers” and the peninsula was so named by Juan Ponce de León on April 2, 1513. He landed in the territory on that day and named it after the Easter season or Pascua de Florida, which was being celebrated at the time. It is the oldest surviving place-name in the United States.