States of the Union #9

States of the Union #9

My ten-part series covering all of the fifty States of the Union comprising the United States of America is almost complete! Here we are at #9, and there is only one more to go! I am a proud American, particularly regarding our remarkable history, so for ten consecutive weeks 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

States of the Union #5 — Delaware, North Dakota, New York, South Carolina, and Michigan

States of the Union #6 — Alabama, Minnesota, Washington, Nebraska, and Utah

States of the Union #7 — Colorado, West Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, and Texas

States of the Union #8 — Arkansas, Wyoming, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Missouri

Louisiana

Abbreviation — LA
Capital — Baton Rouge
Statehood — April 30, 1812
State Motto — “Union, justice and confidence”
State Nickname — Pelican State
State Bird — Eastern Brown Pelican
State Flower — Magnolia

FUN FACTS:

  • The Louisiana state capitol building stands at 450 feet tall and has 34 stories, the tallest capitol building in the US.
  • The first documented Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans occurred in 1837.
  • Lake Pontchartrain Causeway connects Metairie with Mandeville, and at 23.87 miles long it is the longest continuous bridge over water in the world.
  • The Saint Charles streetcar line in New Orleans is one of only two mobile national monuments in the US. San Francisco cable cars are the other.
  • New Orleans is known as the Jazz Capital of the World.
  • Louisiana has the greatest concentration of crude oil refineries, natural gas processing plants, and petrochemical production facilities in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Louisiana is the only state in the union that does not have counties. Its political subdivisions are called parishes.
  • Louisiana is the only state with a large population of Cajuns, descendants of the French-speaking Acadians who were driven out of Canada in the 1700s because they wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the King of England. The Acadians were joined by another group of settlers called Creoles, descendants of African, West Indian, and European pioneers.

FAMOUS LOUISIANANS: Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Jelly Roll Morton, Wynton Marsalis (jazz musicians) – Truman Capote (author) – Jerry Lee Lewis (singer, pianist) – Terry Bradshaw, Payton Manning (football) – Lil Wayne (rapper) – Reese Witherspoon (actress) – Harry Connick Jr. (crooner) – Mahalia Jackson (singer, Civil Rights activist).

BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:

In 1682, Sieur de la Salle reached the mouth of the Mississippi and claimed all the land drained by it and its tributaries for Louis XIV of France. Louisiana became an official French crown colony in 1731 but was ceded to Spain in 1763 after the French and Indian Wars. However, in 1800 Louisiana reverted back to France, but was sold by Napoleon to the US in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase for $15 million.

Louisiana was named in honor of King Louis XIV of France.

New Jersey

Abbreviation — NJ
Capital — Trenton
Statehood — December 18, 1787
State Motto — “Liberty and Prosperity”
State Nickname — Garden State
State Bird — Eastern Goldfinch
State Flower — Purple Violet

FUN FACTS:

  • New Jersey is the nation’s most densely populated state with an average of 1030 people per square mile.
  • New Jersey is one of only two states where self-service filling of gasoline is prohibited. . . the other is Oregon.
  • The first balloon flight in America was made by Jean Pierre Blanchard, who landed a balloon at Deptford on January 9,1793.
  • The Atlantic City Boardwalk was the world’s first boardwalk, and is still the longest boardwalk in the world.
  • The streets on the game Monopoly are named after streets in Atlantic City.
  • The first professional basketball game was played in Trenton in 1896 between the Trenton YMCA and the Brooklyn YMCA.
  • New Jersey is home to the Miss America pageant held annually in Atlantic City.

FAMOUS NEW JERSEYITES: President Grover Cleveland – Antonin Scalia (Supreme Court Justice) – Albert Einstein (scientist) – Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Jerry Lewis (comedians) – Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (astronaut) – Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Paul Simon (singers) – Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep (actors) – Count Basie (jazz musician) – Jon Bon Jovi (rock musician) – David Copperfield (magician) – Judy Blume (author) – Shaquille O’Neal (basketball).

BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:

In 1609, Henry Hudson (my many-times removed paternal grandfather) sailed up the Hudson River and claimed New Jersey and New York for the Dutch. Originally colonized by the Dutch, New Jersey and New York became British colony after the Dutch surrendered to Britain in 1664. In 1738, New Jersey was separated from New York under its own royal governor.

New Jersey was named after the Isle of Jersey, an island in the English Channel located off the coast of Normandy, France.

Virginia

Abbreviation — VA
Capital — Richmond
Statehood — June 25, 1788
State Motto — “Thus always to tyrants”
State Nickname — The Old Dominion
State Bird — Cardinal
State Flower — Dogwood

FUN FACTS:

  • Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the American Continent. It was also the first capital of Virginia.
  • The Pentagon building in Arlington is the largest office building in the world. It has nearly 68,000 miles of internal telephone lines.
  • The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was founded in 1693, the second oldest in the US.
  • Richmond was capital of the Confederate States during the Civil War. More than half the Civil War battles were fought on Virginia soil, 2200 of the 4000 battles.
  • Virginia is the birth state of 8 US Presidents, more than any other state, and includes seven of the first 12 presidents.
  • Virginia was one of two states to donate land to build Washington D.C. The other was Maryland.
  • John Rolfe of Jamestown began planting tobacco in 1612, developing a method that enabled tobacco to be exported which allowed it to become the leading industry in Virginia.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel extending 18 miles over the mouth of Chesapeake Bay is the world’s largest bridge-tunnel complex.
  • Virginia is the home base for the United States Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
  • The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is in Arlington National Cemetery.

FAMOUS VIRGINIANS: Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William H. Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Woodrow Wilson – Henry Clay, Patrick Henry (statesmen) – Booker T. Washington (educator) – Sam Houston (political leader) – Robert E. Lee (Confederate General) – William Clark and Meriwether Lewis (explorers) – Arthur Ashe (tennis) – Warren Beatty, George C. Scott, Rob Lowe, Sandra Bullock (actor) – Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Roy Clark (singer, musician).

BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:

In 1570, Spanish missionaries built a settlement along the York River, but were killed only a few months later. English explorers arrived in the late 1580s, but their expedition failed due to lack of supplies. In 1607, Captain John Smith established the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown. Many settlers died during the first winter from starvation, but fortunately ships arriving in the spring brought new colonists with food and supplies, saving Jamestown from failing as the previous two settlements had.

Virginia was named for Queen Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen.”

Montana

Abbreviation — MT
Capital — Helena
Statehood — November 8, 1889
State Motto — “Gold and Silver”
State Nickname — Treasure State
State Bird — Western Meadowlark
State Flower — Bitterroot

FUN FACTS:

  • Montana is home to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
  • The nickname Treasure State refers to the importance of mining in Montana – copper, lead, zinc, silver, coal, and oil.
  • No state has as many different species of mammals as Montana. Among the approximately 100 species of mammals in Montana are elk, black bears, grizzly bears, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, caribou, and mountain lions. Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.
  • Virginia City was founded in 1863 and is considered to be the most complete original town of its kind in the US.
  • Flathead Lake in northwest Montana contains over 200 square miles of water and 185 miles of shoreline. It is considered the largest natural freshwater lake in the west.

FAMOUS MONTANANS: Evel Knievel (daredevil stuntman) – Gary Cooper (actor) – David Lynch (director).

BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:

In 1803, the United States acquired most of Montana in the Louisiana Purchase. In 1841 missionaries built St. Mary’s Mission, the first attempt at a permanent settlement, and in 1847 the American Fur Company built Fort Benton on the Missouri River.

The name Montana comes from the Spanish word montaña meaning “mountainous,” a fitting name as the state has over 50 mountain ranges.

Indiana

Abbreviation — IN
Capital — Indianapolis
Statehood — December 11, 1816
State Motto — “The Crossroads of America”
State Nickname — Hoosier State
State Bird — Cardinal
State Flower — Peony

FUN FACTS:

  • The Indianapolis 500 Car Race is the biggest sporting event in the world. The first long-distance auto race in the US was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 1911.
  • The first professional baseball game was played in Fort Wayne in 1871.
  • Richard Gatling of Indianapolis invented the machine gun in 1862.
  • The town named Santa Claus receives over half a million letters and requests at Christmas time.
  • In 1880, Wabash became the first city in the US to have electric streetlights.
  • The Indiana Dunes region provides habitat for many unusual plants, including prickly pear cactus, lichen mosses, bearberry, and more than 20 varieties of orchids.
  • The nickname Hoosier is deeply rooted in Indiana history and came into common usage in the 1830s, however the origin and meaning are unknown.

FAMOUS INDIANIANS: Wilbur Wright (airplane inventor) – Virgil “Gus” Grissom (astronaut) – Red Skelton (comedian) – Bill Blass (fashion designer) – David Letterman (TV host) – James Dean (actor) – Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, John Mellencamp, Axl Rose (singers) – Larry Bird (basketball) – Kurt Vonnegut (author) – Cole Porter (musical composer).

BRIEF HISTORY & THE NAME:

In 1679, French-Canadian Robert Cavelier entered Indiana in search of a water route to the Pacific Ocean. French fur traders soon followed, establishing trading posts throughout the area. Forts were built during the 1720s in Miami and Quiatenon, and Vincennes became the first permanent settlement in Indiana around 1732.

The French & Indian War (1754-1763) ended with British victory and control of all land east of the Mississippi River, including Indiana. After the British defeat in the Revolutionary War, all territories were transferred to the US.

The state of Indiana was named after the Native Americans, Indiana meaning “Indian Land.”

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

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