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The Congress shall have Power ... To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States...—U.S. Constitution, Section 8
The states that make up the United States of America. 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 a factoid floating around, mostly in places outside of the United States, that there are only 46 "states" -- four are technically commonwealths. This is wrong; all of the states in the United States have long-form titles. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky are all considered states by the federal government. If anything, it is 50 states and two commonwealths, namely Puerto Rico and The North Mariana Islands, which, as commonwealths and not states, occupy a very different legal status. "State" is a synonym for "nation", not "province"; a war was fought at least partly over this distinction. Nonetheless, each state has its own capital, though most (with some exceptions) are not particularly large or notable as far as American cities go.
Before we start, a brief note on state borders. Apart from a sign on each side and possibly a toll both, 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). On highways, there is often a visitor's 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 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 bulk tobacco products are often found.
Located in the far northeastern US, New England is the site of some of America's first colonies. Each one of its states were either among the Thirteen Colonies that seceded from Britain, or broke off from those same colonies. From the beginning, it has always been one of the wealthiest and most urbanized regions of the country, and its politics reflect that -- it was a stronghold for the Federalist Party in the early 19th century, it was the first part of the country to industrialize, and it is today one of the most solidly Democratic places in the country. In the War of 1812, New England considered seceding from the rest of the country due to how the war was cutting off trade with Britain and wrecking their economy. Today, the region is best known for higher education and high technology (half of the Ivy League schools are located here, as is MIT), maple trees, lighthouses, fishing and lobstering, Quirky Towns (which may or may not be hiding something), the Red Sox, snow, funny accents, and strong social liberalism; four New England states (out of six nationwide) have legalized gay marriage by name, for example.
The State of Maine is the northeasternmost state, formerly part of Massachusetts. Best known for lobster fishermen, potatoes, lumberjacks and Stephen King. Made only due to a severe fear of odd numbers. .
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 the trucking company's location is no where near Maine. Also, the expiration of a Maine trailer plate can be told from twenty feet away, they always expire on the last day of February of the year which is the first two digits of the license plate number.
The State of New Hampshire holds the first presidential primaries in the nation, for some reason; therefore, like Iowa, it attracts a lot of attention early in presidential election cycles. The highest mountain in the northeastern US, Mt. Washington, is located here; 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 phrase "Live Free or Die" is on the license plates (which are made by prisoners), there's no state income tax (but the property taxes are enormous), nor any sales tax (attracting a lot of business from its neighboring states), 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. I repeat, they sell liquor to people who are driving on the highway with no requirement to buckle up. Live Free or Die, indeed.
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 a thousand people (out of a planned 20,000) have made the move, and "free staters" make up only twelve of the state's 400-member House of Representatives (their biggest success so far is writing and passing a bill promoting the use of open source software by the state government). 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.
The State of Vermont is the fourteenth state and first one admitted to the Union as an expansion team. Chronologically first and alphabetically last of the independent republics (1775-1791) and the first state to outlaw slavery. Known for food products (maple syrup, cheese, Ben & Jerry's ice cream), the rock band Phish, winter sports, environmentalism, Howard Dean, and anti-war politics, having suffered among the highest per-capita casualties in every American war. (Even today, when a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine from Vermont is killed in action, it leads the news. Twice. The day it's announced, and the day of the funeral.) It was also the first state to allow same-sex "civil unions" (a semantic compromise that was important back in 2000) before gay marriage laws were passed in Massachusetts; it has since started calling it marriage by name.
Home to one of the Senate's two independent Senators and the only self-described socialist in the Senate, Bernie Sanders.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the original 13 colonies, founded by the Puritans to escape religious persecution in Britain. When they arrived, they promptly set up a theocracy of their own (you may have heard of the Salem witch trials). Irish immigration in the 19th century turned it into a major center of Catholic life in America, and today it is one of the most secular states in the US. Many notable colleges are found here, as well as Harvard. 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 suburbs of Boston). The state is known for its sandy beaches in the east, rolling green hills in the west, and cranberry bogs in between, 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 by throwing tea into the harbor, and which is the bitter arch-rival of New York City in just about everything, but especially sports (particularly Baseball and, lately, football as well). Seriously. Do not go into Boston, or anywhere in New England for that matter, wearing Yankees or Giants gear. 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, if you're lucky, an earful about "the cause". 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.
It's produced a very large number of public figures, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and his son, John F Kennedy, and George HW Bush. Food associated with Massachusetts include Boston baked beans, clam chowder, various fish, and whatever edibles get chucked onto the field at Fenway when the Yankees show up. Media set in Massachusetts includes Boston Legal (duh), Wings, Something Positive, Car Talk, Misfile and Questionable Content. State inhabitants are known as Bay Staters or, less politely, as "Massholes."
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. 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. It was founded by religious dissidents from Massachusetts fleeing persecution, and remains the most staunchly 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, Seth MacFarlane, Richard Hatch (the naked gay guy who won the first Survivor), Paragon City, and Eternal Darkness. 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. Former mayor Buddy Cianci was convicted of racketeering while in office, but kept his job for several years after that because he revitalized the city's previously dangerous downtown.
The State of Connecticut is the third-smallest state, home to the Senate's other independent Senator, Joe Lieberman. 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.) . 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 1814-15, where New England politicians discussed seceding from the US 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 Hartford-Springfield 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.
Together with New England, the Mid-Atlantic region forms the rest of the area commonly known as "the Northeast." All five states here were among the original Thirteen Colonies. Unlike New England, the Mid-Atlantic has one of the weakest regional identities in the nation, having been called "the typical American region" by Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893. Today, the region is known for its affluent, well-educated populace; an economy built on trade, finance, media, medicine and research; and for exemplifying the American Melting Pot. It has always been one of the most multicultural regions in the country, a consequence of both the diverse collection of colonies that existed in the region before the British took over, and the fact that it was the point of entry for most immigrants to the US. The region, like New England, is known for its liberal politics, especially along its heavily urbanized coastline (the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC are all located here), although the rural interior tends to swing more conservative.
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 Upstate dweller at your own risk), although Buffalo was a very big deal back in the day after the Erie Canal. Syracuse has a college which, due to its good journalism program, often gets name-dropped in the news far more often than it probably deserves. Parts of Eastern Upstate New York, especially towns like Sleepy Hollow, can be considered out-of-New-England branches of Lovecraft Country. The other parts of it south of the Adirondacks include the Capitol 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're 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, it was the first state to legalize abortion on demand in 1970, and it recently became the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage by name (and the first to legalize it through legislation rather than court order). Even the state's conservative voters skew libertarian. Religious conservatism popular in the South and Midwest never gets far, as some politicians found out the hard way
Officially the State of New Jersey is known as "The Garden State," and 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 in the country, as well as some very large and infamous highways. Also home to Atlantic City, The Poor Mans Substitute for Las Vegas. While it is still lush enough to deserve the "Garden State" moniker (it has the highest cranberry production in the country, for example), it is steadily being overtaken by warehouses and factories (part of the reason it's generally the Butt Monkey of the states) and possibly giant robot cars. Home of 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 New Jersey, 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. Also has the dubious honor of being home to more Superfund sites (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?
Jersey got first pick.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the home of Benjamin Franklin, who was probably the most notable Revolutionary-era leader who wasn't from Massachusetts or Virginia (he was born in Boston, but left before age 20). The city of Philadelphia 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 North-South political compromise led to the creation of Washington DC. Eastern and Western Pennsylvania are culturally distinct--the western half being more Midwestern than Northeastern--and 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, is one of the major coal-producing regions of the country. Today, however, the area is best known for Dorney Park, The Office, and the ski resorts in the Poconos.
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 Mason-Dixon Line (named after the 2 royal surveyors who laid it out to end a colonial land dispute) was traditionaly seen as the dividing line between the North and South regions of the country, owing to the fact that northern states above the line (including Pennsylvania) largerly abolished slavery prior to the Civil War while those below 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.
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 driver's license, and (as long as you spend at least $50) buy as much as you want, as long as you're taking them out of the state.
The State of Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, it also has the fewest counties (three). Also known for a lack of sales tax, but staggeringly high tolls. The current U.S. vice president, Joe Biden, represented the state in the U.S. Senate. Also home of DuPont, Playtex, and Superman, as Metropolis has been established to be located in Delaware. In the real world, however, the state has more chickens than people.
Delaware is also a popular place for public corporations to be chartered out of, because of a quirk in the rules of corporate governance. While you as an individual are subject to the laws of the state where you are in 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 if a corporation with its headquarters in Florida and is chartered in Oregon, and is sued in Georgia, the Georgia court will use the laws of the State of Oregon in determining whether the corporation 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 operate out of South Dakota than Delaware, with (for other reasons) Nevada a big second.
The State of Maryland is the one north of the District of Columbia. It was founded as a haven for Catholics to escape persecution in Britain, and is home to the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in America. Once upon a time, it was thought of as part of the South, but any evidence of Maryland's Southern heritage now sits buried under a sea of Suburbia (referring to Maryand as Southern is now a bit of a Berserk Button to Marylanders). 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 richest part of the state, in order to pump money into the City of Baltimore. Notable for Fort Meade, home of the National Security Agency, and Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy. It has a bay that nearly cuts the state in two. 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", the locals preferring 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.
Historically, the South has always been one of the most rural areas of the country, even as its transformation into the "Sun Belt" has led to the rapid growth of its urban centers. The South is also the most heavily stereotyped region in the country, and to some extent these views are Truth in Television -- the South is a conservative stronghold, it has been consistently plagued by poverty rates higher than the national average (so far, only Virginia and Florida have managed to buck this trend), and the display of the Confederate flag is still polarizing for many Southerners. However, if the last fifty years are any indication, then the South has been hard at work turning these perceptions around. Cities like Atlanta, Miami, Memphis, Nashville and Charlotte have grown into major economic and cultural centers, creating what has been called a "New South" that has moved beyond the legacy of the Civil War.
Thanks to its history of plantation slavery, the South has the largest concentration of African-Americans in the country, and a "Black Belt" exists in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas where black people make up a majority or plurality of the population. This region was originally named for the rich black soil which made the cotton industry possible, though over time the cultural distinction became better known than the geographical one.
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 hailed from Virginia, and the exception was the only one-term President in that group.
The capital city is Richmond, which also served as the capital of the Confederacy. The largest metropolitan area is the congregation of nine cities 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, Yorktown and Williamsburg, is the home of the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet. A number of other militarily significant places are here, too, including Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis. 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, NH 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, but 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 no longer. Northern Virginia, consisting of the suburbs of Washington DC, has become practically indistinguishable from the Mid-Atlantic region in both its economy and its politics, and is home to a number of government bodies, such as the CIA and the Department of Defense.
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 that is the policing agency and highway patrol for the Commonwealth, and Virginia's Constitution establishes the name of that agency as the "State Police."
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 northern-most Southern state or the southern-most of the Northern states. This is mainly due to the fact that it was originally part of Virginia, but after Virginia seceded during The American 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), which contributed to economic and social differences that predisposed the split with Virginia, as well as provided many necessary natural resources such as coal, natural gas, salt, timber, and silica.
Nowadays, the state is mainly noted as the stereotypical Hillbilly and coal mining country. Lots and lots of coal mining. Jokes about family reunions are to be made at one's own risk. 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. Residents often refer to it as "West-by-God Virginia".
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is mostly known for bourbon, horses, fried chicken, and Fort Knox (just south of Louisville). It also contains several dry counties, areas where the local government forbids the sale of alcohol. The points east/southeast of 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 the Deep South and Appalachia, 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, Kentucky.
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 600 mile (1000 km) width -- from 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 Deep South or Appalachia 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. As a result, North Carolina has come to symbolize the "New South."
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 from. Speaking of which, the vitriol of the Duke-UNC 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 Duke blue and Carolina blue.
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, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and The Crow (so yes, Brandon Lee died here). 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.
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 design was also the doing of a man from this state.
It's one of the archetypal Deep South states, along with Mississippi, Alabama and the non-Atlanta parts of Georgia. The Civil War started here; South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union (and the last to be re-admitted), and the first battle of the war took place at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. 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 DC).
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 TouristTraps in the country, South of the Border, probably most well known as a big seller of fireworks.
Despite being nicknamed the Peach State, the State of Georgia is ranked third in production behind South Carolina and California. Outside of Atlanta, the state's capital and largest city, Georgia is one of the deepest parts of the Deep South -- this is where Deliverance was set, after all. Proud Southerners have been known to disown the cosmopolitan, "New South" Atlanta -- the 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. Contains the Chattahoochee, Chattanooga and Chickamauga Rivers and the Okefenokee Swamp. It was originally founded as a penal (Tee-hee!) colony.
Home of Coca-Cola (drinking Pepsi is blasphemy), Ted Turner and his former media empire, Jeff Foxworthy, the B-52's, REM (the band, not the subconscious brain function), former President and current humanitarian Jimmy Carter, and the magician (Hail Atlanta!). Southern hip-hop is based here as well. Outkast, TLC, Cee-Lo, Ludacris, and many others call Georgia (particularly Atlanta, or "the ATL") home.
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.
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. The Latino population here is more Cuban than elsewhere, which affects the state politically (they tend to vote Republican, for obvious reasons). One can expect it to get hit by at least one hurricane every year.
The northern part of the state (the Panhandle and Jacksonville) is a 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 to Tampa, crossing through Orlando. Key West is the southernmost city in the continental United States, while St. Augustine is the oldest continually inhabited city in North America. The Florida State Seminoles were the only NCAA team allowed to keep its Native American-based name and imagery after a recent crackdown... mostly because the various Seminole Nations in Florida are boosters. Florida's status as a Weirdness Magnet has earned it its own trope.
Despite strong competition from the Midwest, Florida is the flattest, lowest state. Its highest point is only 345 feet above sea level; the nation's lowest high point. It is often joked that the tallest mountain in the state of Florida is Big Thunder Mountain at Walt Disney World.
The State of Alabama is an archetypal part of the Deep South. Its state capital, Montgomery, was a center of the Civil Rights Movement, and its largest city, Birmingham, was considered the "Pittsburgh of Dixie" for its steel production. In recent years Alabama has begun attracting foreign companies enticed by the tax breaks and abundant non-unionized labor force, some of these companies are Mercedes Benz (Tuscaloosa), Honda (Lincoln), Hyundai (Montgomery), Thyssen Krupp (Mobile), and Airbus (Mobile). Huntsville in North 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 US Space Camp. By virtue of the tech jobs here Huntsville was named one of the nations most innovative cities by Entrepeneur magazine and number one nationally for economic growth by Moody's.
The State of Mississippi is known as the "Magnolia" or "Hospitality" state. It shares its name with the biggest river in the US, 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 obesity and illiteracy in the country, contributing to a large number of Deep South stereotypes. Jackson is the biggest city, as well as the capital. 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 Lector.
The State of Tennessee is home to Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett. Its motto is "The Volunteer State". Birthplace of country, rock n' roll, and the blues. 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 which is gradually usurping Detroit's old role as America's premier Wretched Hive of crime and urban decay.
Capital: Little Rock
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. Little Rock is its capitol and largest city. 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.
Capital: Baton Rouge
The State of Louisiana is notable for its French influence and New Orleans. Southern Louisiana is the home of the Cajuns, descendants of the original French settlers in Louisiana who have become famous for their brand of cooking. Still recovering from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which has reduced the state's population rather noticeably (though it has recovered some since then). For some reason, its counties are called "parishes" -- perhaps related to the high percentage of Roman Catholics who used to live there. Emphasis on "used to".
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 California, New York City and Vancouver. As a result, Louisiana Doubling has become quite common in the American film industry. (But 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.
When people talk about quintessential Americana, they're most likely talking about this area. The Midwest is quite possibly the most stereotypically "American" place in the country. If a work is set in Everytown, America, then chances are it takes place here, even if it looks far more mountainous than it should. The region is also known for its unpredictable weather. Winters are notoriously harsh, and the rest of the year often sees a few days of sunshine followed by snowstorms (if close to winter) or thunderstorms/tornadoes (if not).
Socially, there is something of a duality in the Midwest. On the one hand, there is the urbanized Great Lakes region, also known as the Upper Midwest and the Rust Belt, which was the industrial heartland of the US for most of the 20th century -- and, as can be inferred by the name "Rust Belt," has been hit hard by the fall of manufacturing in this country (although some areas, such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, have fared better than others). The western parts of Pennsylvania and New York State are often included. This area's politics are heavily influenced by labor issues, and as such have often trended toward the liberal end of the spectrum. On the other hand, there are the more rural areas, where farming is a major contributor to the economy and traditional values hold strong. Here, you're more likely to see support for conservative politicians. Sometimes, the Great Plains are split off as their own separate region. Populism has long been a force in Midwestern politics -- the agrarian and labor movements of the late 19th/early 20th centuries had their greatest strength in the Midwest, and the anti-slavery Republican Party got its start in Wisconsin. Today, the Midwest as a whole is seen as a "swing" region in American politics, with both political parties pouring millions of dollars into winning voters in such politically important states as Ohio, Michigan and Iowa.
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 think; it has six cities of 100,000 or more , and is the most densely-populated state outside the east coast. Politicaly, the population is pretty evenly split between conservatives in the rural areas and liberals in the cities and their metro areas, hence why Ohio is such a battleground state during election season. Ohio arguably has 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 US to elect a black mayor (Carl Stokes, and it wasn't during his term that first two events happened). Next is Cincinnati, the first major inland city in the US. Despite giving us Hustler magazine and electing Jerry Springer mayor, 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. And Columbus, the capital, is basically the world's biggest college town. It lacked professional sports teams until the creation of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000, but they love college football like nothing else (God help you if you walk in from Ann Arbor, Michigan). The Ohio State University is also the largest college in the US. Sports and college pride aside, Columbus is one of the most affluent cities in the Midwest and the only one that has continuously grown over the years.
The city of Sandusky is home of Cedar Point, generally considered the nation's best amusement park. The state is also birthplace of multiple aviation pioneers, including the makers of the first airplane, the first man on the moon, and the pilot of the first atomic bomb mission. Snarkier observers may suggest that there is something about our fair state that makes people want to leave the planet.
The State of Michigan is known for bordering four of the five Great Lakes, 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 me, "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 (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, 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 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 and the Von Bondies (to name only the most successful acts).
The city of Flint, which is even worse than Detroit, is claimed as a hometown by leftist filmmaker Michael Moore -- who actually grew up in one of Flint's slightly-less-Godawful suburbs. 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.  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, which keeps things relatively OK. The proper term for a resident of Michigan is a "Michigander."  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 to lose population, primarily due to the terrible job market.
The State of Indiana is known for a few things, such as a passion for basketball ("Hoosier hysteria"), Michael Jackson, and hosting the Indy 500. 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. 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 zones, as the northwest corner, around Gary, is so tied to nearby Chicago by urban sprawl that it was considered inconvenient to be on Eastern time. Discussing the time zone issue -- or any other "Northwest Indiana vs the Rest of the State" topic -- is likely to start a Flame War. Natives of Indiana are properly referred to as Hoosiers, though the origin of the word has been lost to time.
It's also home for the only execution chamber for the Federal Government. Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was tried in Denver, Colorado, due to concerns over him getting a fair trial, was executed at the federal execution chamber at the federal prison in Terahaute.
The State of Illinois has a special pronunciation of its name. The s in Illinois is silent, making it "ill-oh-noy". Home to Chicago, but its state capital is actually Springfield. (No, not that Springfield. Or maybe it is. Who knows.) Most of what Illinois is known for is Chicago; the rest of the state is much like Indiana or Iowa (aside from East St. Louis, which by all accounts is much like Juarez). Abraham Lincoln started his political career in Illinois, which is why Illinois's Springfield is the second most important Springfield in the media. Democratic President Barack Obama, who had settled in Chicago after law school, represented this state in the U.S. Senate.
The state has a reputation for political corruption, with four of the last eight (and two of the last three) governors serving prison time and the previous governor having just been thrown out of office for apparently attempting to sell Obama's 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 Ryan commuted the sentences of all 156 persons on death row to life imprisonment. This might be the reason that Governor Quinn would later sign a bill that eliminated the death penalty in Illinois.
The State of Wisconsin is known as "The Dairy State." As such, it's known as the home of cheese, That 70s Show and the Green Bay Packers. Also home of Milwaukee, which was notable for having had 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). Capital is Madison, a Berserkley University town. Birthplace of Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Senator Joseph McCarthy, and Harley-Davidson, so watch it, eh?
Wisconsin is the only state that has never had a death penalty. It did have some executions when it was a territory but has prohibited that sentence since it became a state.
Capital: St. Paul
The State of Minnesota is popularly called the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Actually, if you're counting 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. Home of the Twin Cities: Minneapolis, the state's largest city (and home of the musician Prince), and St. Paul, the capital. Asking which city is better is not advised.
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 Democrat-Farmer-Labour Party (DFL) , and they voted in an Independence Party pro wrestler for governor before California ever had their recall. 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.
Capital: Des Moines
The State of Iowa consists of gently rolling hills and is home to a lot of farmers. 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. It was also the first state outside New England to legalize same-sex marriage, to the surprise of many.
A good one for quiz night: The town of Riverside, Iowa, has said James T. Kirk will be born there. Radar O'Reilly from M* A* S* H had his hometown in Ottumwa, Iowa. And 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. Former president Herbert Hoover was also born here (and is the only president to come from the state).
Capital: Jefferson City
The State of Missouri is known as the "Show-Me" State, nicknamed for its residents' reputation for skepticism. Home to Harry Truman and the starting place of the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails (all Independence, including Truman); also the home of Mark Twain (
Hannibal Florida. Yes, there is/was a town called Florida, Missouri), as well as a Kansas City (The Day After featured prominently here and the nearby Kansas city of Lawrence). Speaking of cities, the capital city is Jefferson City, largest city is Kansas City -- or maybe St. Louis, home of a very important World's Fair.
Missouri is famous for having tons of barbecue places (predominately in St. Louis and Kansas City), unpredictable weather, and lots of rednecks -- including people who fly Confederate flags -- possibly stemming from the state's divided loyalties during the Civil War. To this day, its argued whether Missouri should be considered Midwestern or Southern. Since 1904, Missouri has voted for the winner in every presidential election, with the exception of 2008 and 1956, leading to the nickname "The Bellwether State".
The State of Kansas is the geographic center of the "continental" 48 states. Mostly flat farmland, and the western part is 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) getting called "The Yellow Brick Road." "Bleeding Kansas" was the scene for a warm-up bout just before The American Civil War: Kansas even had its own massacre. 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; before that, the capital was the subject of some of Bleeding Kansas' bleeding. Surviving former capitals include LeCompton -- barely -- and Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas and its Jayhawks. The largest city in Kansas is Wichita. Leavenworth is known throughout the country as the location of a famous federal prison.
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).
The State of Nebraska is the only one to have a unicameral (single-house) legislature. What everyone else does with two houses is beyond us. The population is pretty evenly split between Omaha Metropolitan Area(TM) and the rest of the state, both of which pretend the other doesn't exist. They don't agree on much, really. Because of Nebraska's peculiar take on the Electoral College, the 2008 election saw two districts cast a vote for McCain, while the third -- Omaha -- voted 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 everyone else that still has the death penalty, switched to lethal injection.
Nebraska is a Plains State, but it isn't 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? Where Kansas is the geographic center of the lower 48 states, Nebraska is the geographic center of North America.
Famous Nebraskans include Terry Goodkind, Johnny Carson, Malcolm X, William Jennings Bryan, and Warren Buffett (the world's third richest man, who still lives in Omaha). Nebraskans also invented Kool-Aid and TV dinners.
North Dakota and South Dakota
Capitals: Bismarck and Pierre, respectively
The State of North Dakota and State of South Dakota entered the Union on the same day in 1889. Officially, North Dakota, home of Fargo, is the 39th state, and South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, the Corn Palace and American Legion baseball, is the 40th state. 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.
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.
South Dakota is also home to Gutzon Borglum's large-scale sculpture project Mount Rushmore, which you may have heard of. And one of the largest TouristTraps in the United States, Wall Drug, which runs ads for 500 miles in every direction advertising 'free glasses of water'.
The home of The Western, this is where The Wild West earned the "Wild" moniker. This land was acquired from Mexico, and as such has always had a Latino flair to it -- especially in recent years, with increasing immigration. Most of its population consists of migrants from the rest of the country, especially in Arizona and New Mexico. The region also has the highest population of Natives in the continental US, with several reservations and a notable presence in the cities. The area is usually thought of as being dry and hot -- while the "dry" part is Truth in Television, in reality the more mountainous areas of New Mexico and Arizona get cold enough in the winter to support ski resorts, and Flagstaff gets over two hundred days per year with a low temperature below freezing (one of the highest rates in the country outside Alaska).
The State of Texas is the largest of the lower 48 states, the second largest by area after Alaska, and the second most populated after California, it also has the most counties (over 200). It is often considered to be part of both the South and the Southwest. Formerly an independent country -- the Republic of Texas -- prior to joining the United States in 1845. MESSING WITH IT IS NOT ALLOWED. 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). Famous for wealthy oil industry magnates and cattle ranching. Its capital, Austin, is an enigma -- it's a liberal college town that prides itself on being offbeat (it even has the slogan "Keep Austin Weird" to promote tourism), it's known for the famous indie rock and film festival South by Southwest, and it's smack dab in the middle of one of the most conservative states in the country. Because of this, both liberal Austinites and conservative, non-Austinite Texans tend to refer to the city as "the People's Republic of Austin," either jokingly or half-seriously.
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 up to four more 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 FBI. They are the source of the saying, and trope, "One Riot, One Ranger".
Capital: Oklahoma City
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, Oklahoma became the 46th state on November 16, 1907. While the state is vastly rural, its two biggest cities are Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the latter being the eighth largest city in the United States by land area. Due to its location, different maps list it being in the Southeast, the Southwest and the Midwest. 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.
Much like Kansas (see above), Oklahoma is known for severe weather, particularly that of tornadoes, which is well deserved. Fun fact: The capitol, 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 5 separate tornadoes. Similarly, Oklahoma holds the record for experiencing the highest tornadic wind speeds recorded: 318 m.p.h.
Oklahoma is the home of Carrie Underwood, Chuck Norris, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, The Flaming Lips 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, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas. The practice of Noodling is supposedly popular in the state, as well...
On a less pleasant note, Oklahoma City is also the site of one of the darker chapters in recent American history. In 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed by Timothy McVeigh in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in US history, killing 168 people.
"Hold your horses, Smithers! There's a New Mexico, you say?"
Capital: Santa Fe
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. Puts "New Mexico USA" on its license plates just in case someone thinks it's part of that other Mexico... 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.
While much of the state is desert, there are also a number of mountains, leaving it as the state with the 3rd highest average elevation (behind Colorado and Wyoming) despite also being the 5th largest. Oh, and if you see Saguaros (the big cactus with arms), then someone has gotten it confused with neighboring Arizona.
New Mexico has a number of very attractive rebate programs and tax incentives to encourage motion picture production, which has caused a number of studio facilities to be set up here to capitalize on it. These incentives plus the relative closeness to California has made it a much more popular place than some others such as Louisiana.
Also, if someone there asks you "Red or green?", answer "Christmas". (They're arguing over which chiles are better.)
The State of Arizona was officially recognized on Feb. 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 (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, the capital, is the fifth largest city in the country, and in northern Arizona the climate is cold enough to allow skiing in the winter. The television show Medium is set here, as is the Chick Flick Waiting to Exhale. Republican presidential candidate John McCain represents the state in the U.S. Senate. It also the location of the Grand Canyon.
Since Indiana changed over, Arizona is now one of two states that do not participate in Daylight Savings Time.
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 1992, and a highly restrictive anti-illegal immigration law that the state passed early in 2010, which has enflamed passions on both sides of the issue. As with all things political, Your Mileage May Vary. 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.
The Intermountain West
Everything between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Outside of a few areas, this is one of the least-populated parts of the United States, with many areas being genuine wilderness. The whole area has a reputation for libertarianism, and the wilderness is home to a great many prickly survivalists. Also considered to be part of the "Wild West," although it doesn't have nearly the same reputation that the Southwest has for it.
"South Rectangle" to struggling geography students, the State of Colorado is usually known for its mountains, the ski resorts on said mountains, the Columbine shootings and South Park. However, the eastern half of the state consists of flat prairie more reminiscent of Kansas 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 in five hundred miles.
Politically and culturally, Colorado is, in every sense, a "red state/blue state". On the one hand, there is the city of Colorado Springs, which has been called the Evangelical Vatican due to how many conservative Christian groups are headquartered there, and now many born-again Christians have moved to the city as a result. 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 secular , and are filled with hippies, granola girls and, in the case of the ski towns, rich Hollywood celebrities making a second home.
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). Same-sex civil unions have also been legalized. Colorado shares a reputation with California as being extremely marijuana-friendly, having decriminalized medicinal and recreational marijuana.
Colorado is the location of 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.
Least populous state in the Union, with two Senators and one representative in the House, the State of Wyoming carries the nickname "The Equality State" because it is the state where women have longest held a continuous right to vote. 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. Wyoming is one of the most conservative states in the country, with over twice as many people voting Republican in presidential elections as Democrat.
Wyoming was also the state that invented a popular alternative to the corporation, the Limited Liability Company, in 1987.
Beautiful, untamed wilderness that's either being strip-mined, clear-cutted, 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 of Montana, one could see the profile of a face looking southwest into Idaho.
The fifth largest city (population around 35,000), Bozeman, has been mentioned in the CSI Verse -- it 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's unlikely).
It seems that the generally untruthful perception of gun-toting fanatics is wider than some would hope. 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's 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 didn't 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.
Also, keep your eyes open in 2063 when humanity's first successful warp-capable ship will depart from here.
Capital: Salt Lake City
The State of Utah was founded by Mormon pioneers when they were driven out of the United States into Mexican territory -- which was then promptly sold to the US after the Mexican-American War. Salt Lake City, the first city founded by the pioneers, remains the state capital, its largest city, and its main economic and cultural 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, Mormonism dominates state culture and politics, sometimes leading to conflict with non-Mormon residents, who mostly live in or near Salt Lake City. 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." It is also worth noting that SLC has a rather large and vocal gay community.
It is relatively cheap to film in Utah, 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. 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 or ski. 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. 
If you are in Salt Lake, don't wear anything blue or with cougars on it and if you are in Provo, for heaven's sake, avoid wearing red or a giant "U". It is for your own safety. College rivalries can get scary.
The State of Idaho grows lots of potatoes. Has a reputation for being very conservative and white, to the point that it has been known to attract literal neo-Nazis -- the 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 the producers for "raising Idaho awareness". The state also has the second-highest Mormon population after neighboring Utah.
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.
Capital: Carson City
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 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 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.
The West Coast
The ultimate goal of Manifest Destiny was for America to stretch "from sea to shining sea," and this area proves that they accomplished that goal. Ironically, the modern residents of the West Coast are among those who would most vociferously disagree with the idea of Manifest Destiny -- there's a reason why it's been nicknamed "the Left Coast." The area is a major center of high-tech industry and research in the United States, and is home to some of America's largest Asian and Latino minorities -- the latter causing quite a bit of friction.
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 and television 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, and lots of rain. Every now and then, the idea comes up of dividing it into two or three states (north, south, and perhaps central); 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 action -- i.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 eighth-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 80's, and again in the late 2000's.
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 politcally 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 4 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.
- Desert - to the East, a sparsely-populated area with Death Valley National Park, the Sierra Nevada mountain range and close enough proxmity to Nevada to often be mistaken for it. Highly conservative
- "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.
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 the State of Oregon since the Oregon Trail ended in 1869. Smack dab in The Other Rainforest, its 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 gas and one of three states that has 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. 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! 
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 timber and salmon.
Oregon's largest city is Portland, another hippie liberal college weirdo city populated by indie rock bands, erudite stoners and granola girls -- like Austin, Texas, but this time it's in a similarly liberal state. Its reputation for environmentalism goes back quite a ways -- back in The Seventies 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. One unique feature about Portland is that it has more microbreweries than any other city on Earth. 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 streetnames 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 90's is still alive and well in Portland.
The state is divided into 4 main areas: Willamette Valley, Coast, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Valleys. Eastern Oregon and the Willamette Valley have all the rivers flow north to the join the Columbia, while the Coastal Region and Southern Valleys flow directly to the Pacific ocean.
- 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 inarguably the most liberal part of the state.
- The Coast, long stretch of rocky and wet coast line. 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 things -- exploiting followers as cheap labor, discouraging family connections, and buying a truly remarkable amount of Rolls-Royces -- as 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 US history). When the US 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 crazy people.
- 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.
The northwesternmost state in the continental United States, not to be confused with the nation's capital. (For this reason, the State of Washington 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. Home of Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Grunge music, the Space Needle, 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 called the Experience Music Project which looks like a cross between a giant electric guitar and a shoggoth. Most of this, barring Bigfoot and Mount St. Helens, happened in Seattle. 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 Oregon, (usually just Northern) Cali, 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.
#49 and 50
The remaining two states aren't a part of the Lower 48 (i.e. the states that are all neatly connected to each other), and are considered separate from the rest of the country. Most maps suggest that they're located just offshore from California (many teachers have had the painful experience of dealing with a child who genuinely believed that Alaska is an island). According to many advertisements, prices may be higher here. They're not kidding.
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. Noted for its cold temperatures, military bases, and being close to Russia. 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. Home to the highest point in North America, Mt. McKinley (locals refer to the mountain by its native name, Denali, but the former is more common elsewhere because Denali also refers to the national park the mountain is in), which is roughly 20,320 feet (6,194 meters) tall. 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 Kilcher.
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.
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. Deadliest Catch is set in and around Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, on the Aleutian island chain that projects from the state's southwest coast. Seasons three and four of Ice Road Truckers take place on the Dalton Highway, which connects the city of Fairbanks to the oil fields of the North Slope. Due to the cost constraints, most films set in Alaska are actually filmed in the Washington state or the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Unlike most of the country, Alaska's indigenous people were repaid for their land, as opposed to being eradicated, forcibly assimilated, or marginalized (though all had been attempted). As such, the native people 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 . The best and safest terms are "Native Alaskan" or simply "Native".
The State of Hawaii has the nickname The Aloha State, named for the Native Hawaiian word that means "hello," "goodbye," and "I love you." The most recent state to enter the Union in 1959, Hawaii consists of several islands in the Pacific Ocean. Fun trivia: Its capital, Honolulu, is the most isolated major city in the world. The closest comparable city, San Francisco, is 2,387 miles away. A former independent kingdom, then an independent republic (the mostly U.S.-born landowners deposing the queen when she attempted to establish universal suffrage). It's a very popular vacation spot for U.S. residents, due to its tropical climate and the non-necessity of a passport. The tropical latitude also means that daylight saving time has no practical use, and is 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 current U.S. President Barack Obama.
The state flag is notable for having the United Kingdom's Union flag in the canton, a holdover from a time when the Kingdom of Hawaii sought to align itself with the U.K. 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) Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii (commonly known as the Big Island to avoid confusion.) The islands other than Oahu, 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" Oahu/Honolulu and the "country" 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 refer to people who are specifically Native Hawaiian (descendants of the people who were already in the islands prior to European contact in 1778.)
Contrary to popular belief, Canada is not, and never has been, part of the United States. Not that that's stopped Americans from trying to change that; the U.S. invaded Canada in 1775 during the Revolution, in 1812 during the War of 1812 (Canadians have never forgotten about this, especially when British troops burned Washington D.C. in reprisal), unofficially during the Canadian rebellion of 1837 and 1838 (by a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits dedicated to removing the British Empire from North America), unofficially again by another ragtag bunch of Irish-Americans called the Fenian Society from 1866 to 1871 (in protest of Britain's domination of Ireland), and by Michael Moore and John Candy in the 1995 movie Canadian Bacon.
The original document that created the United States, the "Articles of Confederation" had a provision that allowed Canada to be admitted automatically if it requested it. They never did take advantage of the offer.
Non-State Portions of the United States
Commonly known as Washington, DC, this 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. If the name confuses you, non-American troper, the District was originally composed of two counties: Washington (land given from Maryland) and Alexandria (land from Virginia). Alexandria County was eventually given back to Virigna on the theory that the seat of government wouldn't get big enough to need it . As such, the City of Washington and the District of Columbia both refer to the exact same land mass.
DC is under the authority of the national Congress. The city has a local government, which is occasionally overruled by Congress on sensitive issues. It has one congressional representative, who is not able to vote. As a result, the district's license plate motto is "Taxation Without Representation".
Capital: San Juan
An "exotic" locale for most Americans. One of the true commonwealths in the country, this 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's not quite American (it often sends representatives to world events independent of the American ones), but not quite independent.
The future status of Puerto Rico is still undecided. 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 independence -- the only option the United States never agreed to. After the turn of the millenium, Congress tried to pass a bill on how the referendum would be held, but couldn't agree on the terms either.
Americans don't need a passport to visit, although a working knowledge of Spanish will help. This works both ways; Puerto Ricans are considered American citizens and are free to move to the mainland as they wish. A Puerto Rican can even run for President with no legal problems (political issues on the other hand...). Consequently, the majority of Latinos east of the Mississippi are of Puerto Rican decent, rather than Mexicans to the west.
US Virgin Islands
Bought from the Danes to keep Germany from snapping it up in World War One. Similar to Puerto Rico with the added bonus of being mainly English-speaking, but not as well off. Both have the same ZIP code prefixes. Not to be confused with the British Virgin Islands.
Separate from the Northern Marianas, this is an island in the 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.
The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands
Capital: Capital Hill
Part of the same island chain as Guam (but a separate territory). 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 WWII, 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.
Capital: Pago Pago
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 according to The Other Wiki), as well as pro wrestlers and hilarious moments on The Price Is Right.
The Other Territories
Other US 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.
- Wake Island, a former US military base, is officially uninhabited, but with several restricted access. Claimed by the Marshall Islands. Location of a famous World War Two battle.
Former US Territories
- 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.
- 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 Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 (which also reclassified over 120 thousand Filipinos living in the US 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.
- Cuba. Following the Spanish-American War, the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam were ceded to the US. Cuba was granted independence in 1902, albeit under a US-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.
- 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.
- ↑ OK, OK, it was carved out of Massachusetts in the run-up to the American Civil War, when the free states needed a new state to balance out new slave state Missouri
- ↑ Much to the confusion of Bostonians. Apparently Boston food companies used to make a lot of molasses, a key ingredient.
- ↑ The name Stepford is a portmanteau of two adjacent towns; Stepney and Botsford
- ↑ the yellow flag with the rattlesnake and the words "Don't Tread on Me", a favorite of the Tea Party movement
- ↑ No, not that kind, though given what political mud-slinging is like now who knows what people are claiming.
- ↑ Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, and Dayton.
- ↑ Oh, and the current president of the U of M, one of the most powerful people in Ann Arbor, is named Mary Sue.
- ↑ The aforementioned Michigan State has an intense rivalry with Michigan, whose reputation as a party school that somehow also has a decent academic reputation (divine intervention is suspected) is overshadowed only by wishing the Ten Plagues everyone in Ann Arbor. The fact that the Provost (Number Two at the university) of U-M 2006-2010 was an MSU grad was the cause of delicious hilarity in East Lansing.
- ↑ Rumors that a female Michigan resident is a "Michigoose" are completely untrue.
- ↑ Though today, that's mostly just an artifact of the World War II-era merger between the local Democrats and the Farmer-Labour party rather than any actual party-line division.
- ↑ Observers of Iowa were less surprised; the state has an overall slightly liberal/Democratic lean.
- ↑ Back when the Kansas-Nebraska territories were about to be carved up into official U.S. states, it was vitally important that new states entering the union, which got to vote on whether they'd be free or slave states, didn't disrupt the existing balance of slave and free states. For various reasons involving its proximity to Missouri, a slave state, Kansas became Ground Zero for protracted fights about slavery, complete with bloody riots when it came time to vote. Aren't you glad you asked?
- ↑ Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, which gets over 180 inches of snow per year, is located right outside Tucson, which has an average summer high of 99 degrees and typically gets less than two inches per year.
- ↑ Fun fact -- the slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" actually comes from an anti-littering campaign by the Texas government back in The Eighties. It's not so much a call to outsiders to not piss off Texans as it is a call to Texans to protect their state's environment.
- ↑ Governor Evan Mecham initially cancelled the holiday because his predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, had created the holiday by Executive Order after the initiative had been voted down by the state legislature. The legality of such a measure was doubtful, and the Attorney General threatened to sue the state for the cost of the paid holiday. However, it didn't help that when locals protested, he responded by telling the predominantly-black crowd, "You folks don't need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs."
- ↑ A third of Coloradans are non-Christian, much higher than the national average -- and keep in mind that that figure includes the aforementioned Colorado Springs.
- ↑ Some states had earlier allowed women to vote, but later rescinded it. For example, New Jersey allowed women to vote from 1790 to 1807.
- ↑ Indeed, until recently, Utah had the country's most restrictive laws on the operation of bars. It was only in 2009 that they were changed to be more in line with the rest of the nation. It was mostly to attract tourists, though the growing number of non-Mormon residents weren't complaining either.
- ↑ "or-ee-gawn" is also completely unacceptable, and locals will cringe noticeably when it is pronounced this way in every television show and movie in existence
- ↑ The city's only professional sports team, the Portland Trailblazers NBA team, has won only one championship, and has a reputation/curse of having horrible luck with drafts, constantly choosing players who would suffer career-ending knee injuries (not an uncommon fate in a sport built around running and jumping) over players who would go on to become NBA greats. And in the early-mid '00s, they had so many players in trouble with the law that they were nicknamed the "Jail Blazers" by basketball fans.
- ↑ Democratic governor John Kitzhaber won the gubernatorial election of 2010 mainly thanks to huge victory margins in Multnomah and Lane counties, which hold Portland and Eugene
- ↑ It'd be like referring to all Latin people as "Mexicans"
- ↑ It did, and several major buildings (such as the Pentagon) are across the Potomac River in what is now known as Arlington, Virginia