States of the Union #5

States of the Union #5

Day #5 of what will be a ten-part series covering all of the fifty States of the Union comprising the United States of America. I am a proud American, particularly regarding our remarkable history, so for ten consecutive 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. Links to the previous blogs are below.

States of the Union #1 — Oklahoma, Alaska, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Florida

States of the Union #2 — California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and South Dakota

States of the Union #3 — Arizona, Maine, Vermont, Oregon, and Iowa

States of the Union #4 — Idaho, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Ohio


Abbreviation — MI
Capital — Lansing
Statehood — January 26, 1837
State Motto — “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you”
State Nickname — Wolverine State, Great Lakes State
State Bird — Robin
State Flower — Apple Blossom


  • Michigan has long been called “The Wolverine State” despite there being zero evidence of wolverines ever living in the region. In fact, it is unknown exactly how the name came about, although Michiganians prefer the theory that it is based on how vicious and bloodthirsty early settlers and fighters were.
  • Michigan is the only state that touches four of the five Great Lakes (Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Superior).
  • The Great Lakes account for one-fifth of the world’s surface freshwater supply.
  • Michigan has world’s only floating post office, a boat called J. W. Westcott II, which delivers mail to ships as they are underway.
  • The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel connects Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario in Canada, and is the first tunnel in the world connecting two countries.
  • Battle Creek is home to the Kellogg Cereal Company, and thus the town is called the “Cereal Capital of the World.” Annually Kellogg hosts a Cereal Festival including the world’s longest breakfast table!
  • Michigan is the only state comprised of two peninsulas, the Upper and Lower peninsulas divided by the Straits of Mackinac. The two parts of the state are connected by the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge.
  • The Lower Peninsula of Michigan is sometimes called “the mitten,” because of its shape.
  • Detroit is the car capital of the world with General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford, hence the nicknames “Motor Town” or “Motown.” The latter, Motown, has gained famed due to Barry Gordy founding Motown Records in 1959.
  • In 1939, the Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit manufactured the first air-conditioned car.
  • Singing sand can be found on the beaches of Grand Haven. The sand particles make a whistling sound as you walk upon them.
  • No matter where you are in Michigan, you are always within 85 miles of a Great Lake.

FAMOUS MICHIGANIANS: Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger (rock singers) – Diana Ross, Madonna, Iggy Pop, Stevie Wonder (singers) – Francis Ford Coppola (film director) – William Boeing (airplane manufacturer) – Henry Ford (automobile pioneer) – Charles Lindbergh (aviator) – Ottawa Chief Pontiac – Robin Williams, Tim Allen, Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, Danny Thomas (actors, entertainers) – Magic Johnson (basketball).


French explorer Étienne Brulé arrived in Michigan in 1620 and in 1634, Frenchman Jean Nicolet explored parts of the Upper Peninsula. Christian missionaries established a mission at Keweenaw Way in 1660, and in 1668, Father Jacques Marquette established the first permanent settlement at Sault Sainte Marie. By 1700, missionaries had explored much of the region and built missions and trading posts throughout both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. In 1701, Detroit was founded as Fort Pontchartrain by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac.

At the end of the French and Indian Wars in 1763, England controlled most French claims in North America, including Michigan. This controlled ended with the American Revolution, the territory of present-day Michigan coming under the US, although British loyalists in Detroit and Fort Mackinac did not surrender until 1796. In 1805, Michigan is established as an official territory with Detroit as the seat of government.

Michigan is derived from the Ojibwa Indian word meicigama meaning “large lake” or “large water” initially given to the massive body of water still called Lake Michigan. The name Michigan for the land was initially applied to an area of the Lower peninsula, derived from a Chippewa word majigan which meant “clearing.” The remarkably similar sounding Indian words were eventually applied to the entire territory, and then later to the State.

New York

Abbreviation — NY
Capital — Albany
Statehood — July 26, 1788
State Motto — “Ever Upward”
State Nickname — Empire State
State Bird — Bluebird
State Flower — Rose


  • New York City served as the capital of United States from January 11, 1785 to December 5, 1790. In 1789 George Washington took his oath as president on the balcony at Federal Hall.
  • The nickname “Empire State” was given to recognize the vast wealth and variety of resources found in New York.
  • The New York Post was founded in 1803 by Alexander Hamilton, and is the oldest running newspaper in the US.
  • The caricature of Uncle Sam to personify the United States was created by Sam Wilson, a meatpacker from Troy. During the War of 1812, he stamped “U.S. Beef” on his products which soldiers interpreted as meaning Uncle Sam.
  • Niagara Falls is one of the seven wonders of the world.
  • Adirondack Park is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Olympic Parks combined.
  • The Genesee River is one of the few rivers in the world to flow south to north.
  • On April 25, 1901, New York became the first state to require license plates on automobiles.
  • New York City has more people than 39 of the 50 states.
  • One World Trade Center in New York City is the tallest building in the US at 1,776 feet, the height purposeful to honor the year America claimed its independence.
  • The New York City Subway is the longest in the nation at 722 miles of track and with 422 stations. It has the largest annual ridership of all the other subway systems.

FAMOUS NEW YORKERS: Presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Van Buren, Donald J. Trump – Washington Irving (author) – Lucille Ball, Tom Cruise, Humphrey Bogart, Mae West, Sammy Davis Jr. (actors) – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan (basketball) – Lou Gehrig (baseball) – Vince Lombardi (football coach) – Walt Whitman (poet) – Norman Rockwell (illustrator) – John D. Rockefeller (industrialist).


In 1524, Frenchman Giovanni da Verrazano was the first European to reach the New York Harbor. Henry Hudson (my numerous-greats grandfather, true fact) was employed by the Dutch and sailed up the Hudson River in 1609, claiming the land and naming it New Netherland. French explorer Samuel de Champlain traded goods among the Indians and claimed the same land for France.

In 1624, the first permanent settlement was from the Netherlands, named Fort Orange, which is now Albany. Around the same time, the Dutch also settled on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, naming their town New Amsterdam. English colonist also settled on the island, leading to conflict. Battles between the Dutch and English ensued, ultimately won by the English, who renamed New Amsterdam as New York, in honor of the Duke of York (who later became King James II of England).

South Carolina

Abbreviation — SC
Capital — Columbia
Statehood — May 23, 1788
State Motto — “Prepared in mind and resources” and “While I breathe, I hope”
State Nickname — Palmetto State
State Bird — Carolina Wren
State Flower — Carolina Yellow Jessamine


  • The nickname “Palmetto State” is after the Palmetto Tree (the State Tree), which was used to build the walls of a fort on Sullivan Island due to the rubbery aspect of the trees causing the English cannon balls to bounce off them during the Revolutionary War.
  • The first shots of the Civil War were launched from Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the state being the first to secede from the Union.
  • The first opera performed in the US, a comic ballad opera called Flora, opened in Charleston in 1735.
  • The only commercial tea plantation in America is in South Carolina, the Charleston Tea Plantation, is located on Wasmalaw Island.
  • Morgan Island, also known as Monkey Island, is the only location of free-ranging rhesus monkeys in the US. There are more than 3,500 monkeys roaming on Morgan Island.

FAMOUS SOUTH CAROLINIANS: President Andrew Jackson – Joe Frazier (boxer) – John C. Calhoun (statesman) – James Brown (singer) – Chris Rock (comedian).


The Spanish tried unsuccessfully to establish a colony near present-day Georgetown in 1526, and the French also failed to colonize Parris Island near Fort Royal in 1562. King Charles I of England granted the land on which South Carolina is located to Sir Robert Heath in 1629. The first English settlement was made in 1670 at Albemarle Point on the Ashley River, but poor conditions drove the settlers back to the site of modern-day Charleston. As a British colony, Carolina was split into North and South in 1729 as the area was deemed too large to effectively govern.

Carolina was named to honor Charles I of England, derived from Carolus, the Latin word for Charles.

North Dakota

Abbreviation — ND
Capital — Bismarck
Statehood — November 2, 1889
State Motto — “Liberty and union, now and forever: one and inseparable”
State Nickname — Peace Garden State, Rough Rider State
State Bird — Western Meadowlark
State Flower — Prairie Rose


  • The “Peace Garden” state nickname officially adopted in 1957 comes from the International Peace Garden located on the border between Canada and North Dakota. The 2,300-acre garden honors the friendship between the two nations.
  • The nickname “Roughrider State” refers to the First US Volunteer Cavalry that future US President Theodore Roosevelt organized to fight in the Spanish-American War.
  • As president, Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in founding the national park system. For this reason, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is the only national park named for a person.
  • North Dakota is the most rural of all the states, with farms covering more than 90% of the land.
  • North Dakota grows more sunflowers than any other state.
  • The town of Rugby is the geographical center of North America, and a tall stone obelisk marks the location.
  • North Dakota is the only state in the nation to never have an earthquake.

FAMOUS NORTH DAKOTANS: Lawrence Welk (band leader) – Louis L’Amour (author) – Peggy Lee (singer).


Exploration of the now-Dakotas began in 1743 by French explorers Louis-Joseph and François Verendrye who were in search of a route to the Pacific. The US acquired the region as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Lewis and Clark explored the region in 1804–1806, and the first settlements were made at Pembina in 1812 by Scottish and Irish families. In 1818, the US obtained the northeast part of North Dakota by treaty with Great Britain and took possession of Pembina in 1823. Significant settlement of the territory remained sparsely settled until construction of the railroad in the 1870s onward.

The Dakota Territory was divided into South and North when each became States of the Union on November 2, 1889.

Dakota is the Sioux word for “friend” or “ally.” The Sioux who lived in the territory called themselves Dakota, or Lakota, hence the name of the state in honor of the indigenous peoples.


Abbreviation — DE
Capital — Dover
Statehood — December 7, 1787
State Motto — “Liberty and Independence”
State Nickname — Diamond State
State Bird — Blue Hen Chicken
State Flower — Peach Blossom


  • Delaware was the first colony to adopt a State Constitution, on December 21, 1776.
  • Delaware was the first state to ratify the US Constitution, joining the Union on December 7, 1787.
  • The nickname “Diamond State” was given by Thomas Jefferson, who called Delaware a small, valuable jewel.
  • Finnish settlers arriving in Delaware in the mid-1600s brought plans for the log cabin with them, it now the enduring symbol of the American frontier.
  • Delaware is the only state with no National Park system as it is without any national parks, historic sites, or memorials.

FAMOUS DELAWAREANS: E.I. du Pont (inventor, founder of DuPont Chemical Co.) – Henry Heimlich (physician, inventor of Heimlich lifesaving maneuver).


Henry Hudson (As noted above, my direct ancestor on my father’s side. My maiden name is Hudson!) is credited with Delaware’s discovery in 1609. An attempted Dutch settlement failed in 1631 when the Indians killed the settlers. Swedish colonization began at Fort Christina (now Wilmington) in 1638, but New Sweden fell to Dutch forces in 1655. England took over the area in 1664, and it was transferred to William Penn in 1682. Semiautonomous after 1704, Delaware fought as a separate state in the American Revolution.

Delaware the state was named after the Delaware River and Bay were named. In 1610, explorer Samuel Argall named the river and bay in honor of Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, the governor of the Colony of Virginia.

Those are the five US States for this week’s blog.
Be sure to read the previous four blogs,
and also be sure to return next Wednesday
for five more States of the Union!



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