States of the Union #10
Finally at the end of my ten-part series covering all of the fifty States of the Union comprising the United States of America. What a fun journey it has been! I learned a ton, and hope all my readers, whether from the US or abroad, have enjoyed the education about this great country. I am a proud American, particularly regarding our remarkable history, so for ten consecutive Wednesdays I have spotlighted FIVE States (chosen at random). Today are the remaining five. As with the previous 9 blogs, there will be some trivia, facts and data, a map, occasional vocabulary lessons, and naturally a wee bit of history. Links to the previous blogs are below.
Abbreviation — KS
Capital — Topeka
Statehood — January 29, 1861
State Motto — “To the stars through difficulties”
State Nickname — Sunflower State
State Bird — Western Meadowlark
State Flower — Sunflower
- Kansas has earned the unofficial nickname “Tornado Alley” due to the high number of tornadoes passing through the state each year. In fact, Kansas is the home of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, her “house” located in the town of Liberal.
- The geographic center of the 48 contiguous United States is located about 2.6 miles northwest of the center of Lebanon.
- President Dwight Eisenhower was born in Texas but grew up in Abilene, so is often noted as a famous Kansan.
- The first US woman mayor was Susan Madora Salter, who was elected to office in Argonia in 1887.
- The nickname Sunflower State was officially given in 1903, confirming the long love affair of Kansans with the native North American sunflower, which grows abundantly in Kansas due to the perfect blend of sunshine, soil, and climate.
- Kansas was known for its wild frontier towns like Dodge City and Wichita during the settling of the wild west. Lawmen like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Wild Bill Hickock became famous keeping the peace in these towns.
- Kansas produces enough wheat in a year to provide every person on earth with six loaves of bread. At 2,717 feet long, the DeBruce Grain Elevator in Haysville is the largest grain elevator in the world.
- The first Pizza Hut was opened in Wichita in 1958.
- Walt Disney opened his first animation studio in Kansas City. According to legend, he fed a small mouse in the building, this fortunate rodent his inspiration for Mickey Mouse.
- William Purvis and Charles Wilson of Goodland invented the helicopter in 1909.
- Kansas was the first state to ratify the 15th Amendment to the Constitution which gave African-American men the right to vote.
FAMOUS KANSANS: Amelia Earhart (aviator) – Buster Keaton (silent film star) – Dennis Hopper, Annette Bening, Kirstie Alley (actors) – Gale Sayers (football).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
Spain explored the territory comprising present day Kansas in 1541, and French explorers from Canada arrived in 1673. As with a great portion of the middle America states, Kansas was purchased from France in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.
The name Kansas comes from a local Native American tribe called the Kansa (also Kaw). The name means “people of the south wind.”
Abbreviation — IL
Capital — Springfield
Statehood — December 3, 1818
State Motto — “State sovereignty, national union”
State Nickname — Prairie State, Land of Lincoln
State Bird — Cardinal
State Flower — Violet
- The world’s first modern skyscraper, the ten-story Home Insurance Building, was built in Chicago in 1885.
- The Chicago Public Library, with over 2 million books, is the world’s largest public library.
- President Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but spent the bulk of his life in Illinois, hence the nickname Land of Lincoln.
- Illinois has been officially nicknamed the Prairie State since at least 1842 due to the abundance of prairie grasses covering the state. The first week of September is designated as a statewide celebration paying homage to the native prairies of Illinois.
- Inventors John Deere and Cyrus McCormick made their fortunes in Illinois by improving farm machinery.
- At 1,452 feet tall and with 108 floors, the Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly the Sears Tower) was the tallest in the US from 1974 when it was built until 2013 when One World Trade Center in New York City was completed. For 25 years the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world.
- A replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa stands in the town of Niles.
- The first Dairy Queen was opened on June 22, 1940 in the town of Joliet.
FAMOUS ILLINOISANS: President Ronald Reagan – Sauk Chief Black Hawk – Jack Benny, Richard Pryor (comedian) – Walt Disney (film animator) – Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton (authors) – Jimmy Connors (tennis) – Wild Bill Hickok (scout) – Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Bill Murray, Bob Newhart, Harrison Ford (actors).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
In 1673, French explorers canoed down the Mississippi River — the western boundary of Illinois — and went northward on the Illinois River. Cahokia was a fur-trading post established in 1699 and became the first permanent settlement. The 1763 end of the French and Indian War gave all land east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain.
During the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), George Rogers Clark of Virginia and a group called the “Big Knives” raided English forts in Illinois, capturing Kaskaskia and Cahokia. For a time, Illinois was incorporated as part of the county of Virginia.
The name Illinois comes from a Native American tribe and word meaning “tribe of superior men” or possibly “he speaks the regular way.”
Abbreviation — MA
Capital — Boston
Statehood — February 6, 1788
State Motto — “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty”
State Nickname — Bay State, Old Colony State
State Bird — Chickadee
State Flower — Mayflower
- Boston Common, established in 1634, is the first public park in the United States.
- Harvard was the first college established in North America, in 1636.
- The first printed book in the US was the Bay Psalm Book, printed in 1640 in Cambridge.
- The first post office, free public school, and public library were all founded in Boston.
- Volleyball was invented by William G. Morgan in Holyoke in 1895.
- Basketball was invented in Springfield by Jim Naismith in 1891, and the Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield.
- The first baseball World Series was held in Boston in 1903.
- The first lighthouse in the US was the Boston Harbor Light Station built in 1716 on Little Brewster Island.
- The Boston subway, which opened on September 1, 1897, is the first subway system in the US.
- The first telephone call in history was made between inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, on March 10, 1876, in Boston. Bell spoke the words, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you” and Watson heard it from the receiver in the next room.
- The Boston Terrier (a cross between an English bulldog and an English terrier) was the first purebred dog developed in America, in 1869.
- The Chocolate Chip Cookie was invented in 1930 at the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman.
- Folk hero Johnny Appleseed (real name John Chapman, 1775-1845) was an American pioneer and official hero of Massachusetts for his planting of apple trees from New England to the Ohio River Valley.
FAMOUS BAY STATERS: Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, George H.W. Bush – Samuel Adams (founding father) – Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone (suffragists) – Clara Barton ( American Red Cross founder) – Johnny Appleseed (folk hero) – E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson (poets) – Benjamin Franklin (statesman, scientist) – John Hancock (statesman) – Paul Revere ( Revolutionary War hero) – Eli Whitney (inventor cotton gin) – Norman Rockwell (artist) – Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel (illustrator, author) – Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau (authors) – Bette Davis, Matt Damon, Jack Lemmon, Mark Wahlberg (actors) – Barbara Walters (TV journalist) – Al Davis, Howie Long (football) – James Taylor (singer).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
Englishman John Cabot sighted the coast of Massachusetts in 1498. In 1605, Samuel de Champlain charted maps of the New England coastline. John Smith sailed up the coast of Massachusetts in 1614. Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, founded Plymouth Colony in 1620. After that first winter of severe hardship and death, thanks to the aid of the local Indian tribes, the Pilgrims flourished and celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
One of the 13 original colonies, Massachusetts became a leader in the resistance to British oppression with (among many other events) the 1770 Boston Massacre, the 1773 Boston Tea Party, and organization of the Minute Men. During the Revolution, Massachusetts was a center for the rebellion and establishment of the United States Constitution.
British colonist John Smith named the colony Massachusetts for the indigenous Massachusett tribe. The name possibly derives from a Wôpanâak word muswachasut meaning “near the great hill” or “at the range of hills” in reference to the Blue Hills. Another possibility is that the name derived from a Wampanoag tribe site named Moswetuset Hummock (meaning “hill shaped like an arrowhead”) near Quincy where Plymouth Colony commander Myles Standish and Indian Squanto met with Wampanoag Chief Chickatawbut in 1621.
Abbreviation — MS
Capital — Jackson
Statehood — December 10, 1817
State Motto — “By valor and arms”
State Nickname — Magnolia State
State Bird — Mockingbird
State Flower — Magnolia
- This is my birth state! I was born in Pascagoula and my paternal family roots run very deep in the Deep South.
- The Mississippi River is the largest in the nation and the chief waterway. Its nickname is Old Man River.
- In 1902 while on a hunting expedition in Sharkey County, President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt refused to shoot an exhausted and possibly lame bear. News of this spread across the country, and a New York merchant capitalized on this publicity by creating a stuffed bear called “Teddy’s Bear.”
- Mississippi is the world’s leading producer of pond-raised catfish (approx. 70% of the nation’s supply comes from Mississippi). Belzoni is the Catfish Capital of the World.
- Mississippi is the nation’s second leading producer of cotton. Greenwood is known as the Cotton Capital of the World.
- The Mississippi Gulf Coast, from Biloxi to Henderson Point, is the largest and longest man-made beach in the world.
- The Mississippi Delta is the birthplace of the Blues, which preceded the birth of Jazz, the only other original American art form.
- On April 25, 1866, women in Columbus decorated the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers in Friendship Cemetery. This gesture became known as Decoration Day, the beginning of what we observe as Memorial Day.
- In 1894, Coca-Cola was first bottled by Joseph A. Biedenharn in Vicksburg.
- Root Beer was invented in 1898 in Biloxi.
- The 4-H Club began in Holmes County in 1907.
FAMOUS MISSISSIPPIANS: William Faulkner, John Grisham (authors) – Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton (football) – James Earl Jones, Eric Roberts (actors) – Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Leann Rimes, Jimmy Buffett, Bo Diddley, B.B. King (singers) – Tennessee Williams (playwright) – Oprah Winfrey (TV host) – Jim Henson (puppeteer).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto discovered the Mississippi River in 1540. The region was later claimed by France, and in 1699 a French group established the first permanent settlement near present-day Ocean Springs. Natchez was settled by the French in 1716 and is the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River. Great Britain took over the area in 1763 after the French and Indian Wars, ceding it to the US in 1783 after the Revolution. Spain, however, did not relinquish its claims until 1798, and in 1810 the US annexed West Florida from Spain, including what is now southern Mississippi.
Mississippi was named for the Mississippi River, whose name comes from the Ojibwa (Chippewa) Indian word misi-ziibi meaning “great river.”
Abbreviation — NV
Capital — Carson City
Statehood — October 31, 1864
State Motto — “All for our country”
State Nickname — Sagebrush State, Silver State
State Bird — Mountain Bluebird
State Flower — Sagebrush
- Las Vegas has more hotel rooms than any other city on earth.
- Lake Tahoe, located along the border between California and Nevada, is the largest alpine lake in North America, and the second deepest lake in the United States.
- Nevada is the driest state in the nation with an average annual rainfall of 7 inches. Most of the state is desert, but the Sierra Nevada mountain range near Reno and the Ruby Mountains near Elko have snow for half the year.
- Gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931. That same year, the first casino to open was the Pair-O-Dice Club on the Las Vegas Strip.
- The longest Morse Code telegram ever sent was the Nevada state constitution, which was sent from Carson City to Washington D.C. in 1864. It took over two days and cost $4,303.27.
- The Top Gun Flight School is located in Fallon. Yes, that Top Gun!
- Area 51, the place famed for UFO cover-ups, is located in southern Nevada.
- The hard hat was invented for construction workers working on the Hoover Dam in 1933.
- Nevada is the largest gold-producing state in the nation, and second in the world behind South Africa.
FAMOUS NEVADANS: William Lear (aviation inventor) – Andre Agassi (tennis) – Patty Sheehan (golf).
BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:
The area was claimed by Spain in 1519, but once Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the land became part of Mexico. Trappers and traders, including Jedediah Smith and Peter Skene Ogden, entered the Nevada area in the 1820s. The US obtained the region in 1848 following the Mexican War. Nevada was made famous by the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, the richest known US silver deposit.
The name Nevada comes from the Spanish word nieve, which roughly translates as “snow-capped.” The name was first applied to the Sierra Nevada snow-capped mountain range.
And there you have it . . . All 50 States of the Union highlighted. I hope y’all enjoyed reading this series as much as I did compiling it. I gathered information from a variety of sources found with Google searching, but the three main sites I found with the most comprehensive details are listed below.