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12 Proposed U.S. States That Didn't Make the Cut

The road to 50 states was littered with wannabes who couldn't wait to declare themselves—but never quite got to full statehood. Here are 12 states that could have been.

1. Franklin

After the Revolutionary War, it became common for states to gift their westernmost lands to the newly-founded (but broke) American government to repackage and sell to westbound pioneers. A conspiracy in North Carolina led to its western lands being sold to high-ranking members of the state government instead, then ceded to the U.S. Government under an agreement that ensured that those officials got a portion of the profits.

After the plan was discovered, a new government was elected and the deal was nullified, but the damage was already done. As a result of the shady land deals, counties in what's now eastern Tennessee proposed the State of Franklin, distancing themselves from North Carolina. Unfortunately, Franklin was a mere two votes shy of the 2/3 majority vote needed to become the 14th state. Franklin’s government collapsed shortly after and returned to North Carolina’s ownership.

2. Jefferson

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Four regions have been proposed as the State of Jefferson. The first was west of Kansas Territory in 1859. Mining communities in the Rocky Mountains came together and requested the formation of their own potential state, called Jefferson. The Kansas government agreed, setting its proposed borders east of Jefferson’s. Citizens of Jefferson could not agree on a constitution, however, so it became Jefferson Territory (later Colorado Territory) instead.

The second and third were both located in Texas. As part of its admittance into the United States, Texas could agree to split itself into as many as four states. In 1870, southeastern Texas, from the San Antonio River onward, was proposed as Jefferson, with other region-states to follow. The idea was never taken very seriously. Later, in 1915, Jefferson plans re-emerged, but in western Texas instead. Only six state senators approved of the idea, and it, too, failed.

The fourth, a mix of counties from northern California and southern Oregon, was proposed in 1941. Supporters in the area marched with guns, passing out flyers proclaiming secession. Their movement was overshadowed by the attacks on Pearl Harbor and mostly faded away. Some, however, still propose an expanded Jefferson even today.

3. Superior

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As one of the only non-island U.S. states with two distinct landmasses, it makes sense that citizens of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (frequently referred to as “yoopers”) would consider splitting off from the "glove" "mitten" part of the state.

It has been proposed on a number of occasions, usually with the proposed state being called “Superior” (for Lake Superior), though other names such as Sylvania (preferred by Thomas Jefferson) and Ontonagon have also been mentioned.

In fact, the idea has been brought forth in recent years, when murmurs of upper peninsula secession bubbled up once again after debates over Michigan tax laws.

4. Delmarva

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Similar to the Michigan Upper Peninsula statehood efforts, Delmarva’s attempts at self-government are persistent. Delmarva is the small peninsula off the east coast of Maryland that is split between three states: Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Hence, Delmarva.

The entirety of Delaware is located on the peninsula, but only portions belong to Maryland and Virginia. Most proposals call for Maryland and Virginia to cede their lands, Delaware to absorb them, and for the new state to be dubbed Delmarva (though some alternate plans call for the name to remain Delaware).

Some others want Delaware to remain an independent state and cede only a few counties to Delmarva, and others still insist that Maryland’s eastern shore also be included. No formal attempts have ever been made, but considering the odd borders currently present on the peninsula, a single government does sort of make sense.

5. Absaroka

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In 1939, portions of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota attempted to secede and form their own state called Absaroka, named after the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains. While they never actually came to Congress to propose statehood, they did make Absaroka license plates and even held a 1939 Miss Absaroka beauty pageant.

Sheridan, Wyoming street commissioner A. R. Swickard was the leading force behind the movement. He declared himself governor of Absaroka and began hearing grievances from the local populace. With the start of World War II, however, the populace lost interest in the idea and it eventually disappeared altogether.

6. Scott

You may be surprised to discover that there was a lost state as recently as 1986. In fact, it existed for 125 years, but you wouldn’t have found it on any U.S. maps.

The Free and Independent State of Scott was founded during the Civil War when Scott County, Tennessee opted to secede from its parent state after Tennessee joined the Confederate States of America. Citizens of Scott, who weren’t plantation holders or slave owners, had no interest in joining the CSA and so remained a Union state.

Tennessee ignored the proclamation and did nothing to stop them, so the tiny State of Scott was mostly forgotten about until its 125th anniversary, when it finally formally requested re-admittance to Tennessee. The state even held a celebration welcoming Scott back, although it had never officially recognized it in the first place.

7. Transylvania

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Everyone knows about the 13 colonies, but few know that there was an unofficial 14th. Dubbed Transylvania (over 100 years before Bram Stoker made that name scary), the land was made up of modern-day western and southeastern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.

Purchased from Cherokee Indians by the Transylvania Company, the hope was that the British would recognize the land and allow the Transylvania Company’s owner, Richard Henderson, to rule it as an autonomous territory, like William Penn and Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately for them, the plan unraveled when it was discovered that the purchase was illegal under British law and that the lands had already been claimed by Virginia and North Carolina. For less than a year, the land existed as an extralegal colony. Shortly before the formation of the U.S., Virginia declared the Transylvania Purchase void and officially re-claimed the lands.

8. Deseret

Named after a Book of Mormon word meaning “honeybee,” Deseret was a region in the southwestern United States claimed by Mormons who sought to govern themselves. Their proposed state took all of modern day Utah and parts of several other states.

Their statehood request was denied by Congress in 1849 and they were given the much smaller Utah Territory instead. The laws and regulations drafted by Deseret were quickly re-enacted under Utah Territory’s government.

However, a shadow government of Mormon elders were hopeful to one day resurrect the Deseret idea. They secretly met after each legislative session for the next twenty years and rewrote the day’s new laws under the “State of Deseret” name.

9. Westsylvania

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Franklin wasn’t the only region with a bid to become the 14th state. In 1776, the failed colony of Vandalia (modern day West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, and eastern Kentucky) tried to reform itself the State of Westsylvania.

Unlike Franklin, however, Westsylvania’s bid never even went up for a vote. Congress ignored the petition and when the lands were taken up by the surrounding states, former Westsylvanians bristled and threatened to secede anyway.

Shortly afterward, Pennsylvania (which then owned most of the former Westsylvania lands) passed a law declaring talk of secession and the Westsylvania movement to be treasonous and punishable by execution. As a result, the dream of Westsylvania quickly died.

10. Nickajack

Much like the Free and Independent State of Scott, many in the South during the Civil War, namely those who weren’t rich enough to own large tracts of land or slaves, were unhappy with the idea of seceding. One such region where this sentiment was widely held was the mountainous lands found in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama, which attempted to merge together and form the state of Nickajack.

Instead of simply declaring themselves a new state like Scott, however, non-secessionist politicians attempted to break apart legally. While Tennessee struggled with its decision on joining the Confederacy, northern Alabama lawmakers were left attempting to block secession in their state, if not actively seceding themselves.

Unfortunately, the rules of the secession convention stated that delegates and their votes were determined by total population of their jurisdiction. Since slaves counted toward the total population, the southern and central regional delegates far outnumbered those of the north. Therefore, the slave owners were allowed to vote on behalf of their own slaves and the secession passed. A short time later, Tennesseans voted in favor of the Confederacy as well. Leaving the CSA was considered too dangerous for Nickajack, and the idea was dropped.

11. Sequoyah

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Not unlike the Mormon Church’s idea for its own state, Native Americans also sought to create a part of the U.S. that had their interests in mind. So it was that in 1905, the State of Sequoyah (named after the same Sequoyah who invented the Cherokee written language) was conceptualized.

Based out of Indian Territory (present day eastern Oklahoma), a tract of land where Native Americans had been relocated by the U.S. Government, the state design would have counties for all of the major tribes and allow their system of tribal government to continue unabated.

When presented with their constitution and plans for statehood, Congress was hesitant due to a desire to keep the number of states between the eastern and western U.S. balanced. In the end, President Teddy Roosevelt decided that Sequoyah should be merged with the existing Oklahoma statehood proposal, creating the state as we know it today.

12. Lincoln

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There have been multiple attempts to create a State of Lincoln. The first has an origin similar to one of the many Jeffersons. As mentioned before, a clause in Texas’s admission to the U.S. allowed it to be split into multiple entities. One of these proposed spinoffs, the State of Lincoln, would have taken up anything south and west of the Colorado River. Just like the state of Jefferson that would have been found in East Texas, the idea never came to fruition.

The second Lincoln would have been found far from Texas. After the crafting of the Washington, Idaho, and Montana Territories in 1864, it was briefly unclear if what is now known as the Idaho Panhandle would become a part of Idaho or Montana. In the meantime, the Panhandle led a petition to become a state called Lincoln. When this failed, the idea was re-proposed in the early 1900s and included Eastern Washington, thus splitting the existing state in two. Again, the idea failed, but it has perpetually recurred since that time. The most recent proposition for the idea was made in 2005.

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Excerpt
The Plucky Teenage Stowaway Aboard the First American Expedition to Antarctica
The Ohio State University Archives
The Ohio State University Archives

Documentary filmmaker and journalist Laurie Gwen Shapiro came across the name "William Gawronski" in 2013 while researching a story about Manhattan's St. Stanislaus, the oldest Polish Catholic church in the U.S. In 1930, more than 500 kids from the church had held a parade in honor of Billy Gawronski, who had just returned from two years aboard the first American expedition to Antarctica, helmed by naval officer Richard E. Byrd.

The teenager had joined the expedition in a most unusual way: by stowing aboard Byrd's ships the City of New York and the Eleanor Bolling not once, not twice, but four times total. He swam across the Hudson River to sneak onto the City of New York and hitchhiked all the way to Virginia to hide on the Eleanor Bolling.

"I thought, 'Wait, what?" Shapiro tells Mental Floss.

Intrigued by Billy's persistence and pluck, Shapiro dove into the public records and newspaper archives to learn more about him. She created an Excel spreadsheet of Gawronskis all along the East Coast and began cold-calling them.

"Imagine saying, 'Did you have an ancestor that jumped in the Hudson and stowed away to the Antarctic in 1928?'" Shapiro says. She got "a lot of hang-ups."

On the 19th call, to a Gawronski in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, an elderly woman with a Polish accent answered the phone. "That boy was my husband," Gizela Gawronski told her. Billy had died in 1981, leaving behind a treasure trove of mementos, including scrapbooks, notebooks, yearbooks, and hundreds of photos.

"I have everything," Gizela told Shapiro. "I was hoping someone would find me one day."

Three days later, Shapiro was in Maine poring over Billy's papers with Gizela, tears in her eyes.

These materials became the basis of Shapiro's new book The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica. It's a rollicking good read full of fascinating history and bold characters that takes readers from New York to Tahiti, New Zealand to Antarctica, and back to New York again. It's brimming with the snappy energy and open-minded optimism of the Jazz Age.

Shapiro spent six weeks in Antarctica herself to get a feel for Billy's experiences. "I wanted to reach the Ross Ice barrier like Billy did," she says.

Read on for an excerpt from chapter four.

***

As night dropped on September 15, Billy jumped out of his second-floor window and onto the garden, a fall softened by potatoes and cabbage plants and proudly photographed sunflowers. You would think that the boy had learned from his previous stowaway attempt to bring more food or a change of dry clothes. Not the case.

An overnight subway crossing into Brooklyn took him to the Tebo Yacht Basin in Gowanus. He made for the location he'd written down in his notes: Third Avenue and Twenty-Third Street.

In 1928 William Todd's Tebo Yacht Basin was a resting spot— the spot—for the yachts of the Atlantic seaboard's most aristocratic and prosperous residents. The swanky yard berthed more than fifty staggering prizes of the filthy rich. Railroad executive Cornelius Vanderbilt kept his yacht O-We-Ra here; John Vanneck, his Amphitrite. Here was also where to find Warrior, the largest private yacht afloat, owned by the wealthiest man in America, public utilities baron Harrison Williams; yeast king (and former mayor of Cincinnati) Julian Fleischman's $625,000 twin-screw diesel yacht, the Carmago; General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan's Rene; shoe scion H. W. Hanan's Dauntless; and J. P. Morgan's Corsair III. The Tebo Yacht Basin's clubroom served fish chowder luncheons to millionaires in leather-backed mission chairs.

Todd, a great friend of Byrd's, lavished attention on his super-connected pal with more contacts than dollars. He had provided major funding for Byrd's 1926 flight over the North Pole, and helped the commander locate and refit two of the four Antarctic expedition ships for $285,900, done at cost. Todd loved puffy articles about him as much as the next man, and press would help extract cash from the millionaires he actively pursued as new clients; helping out a famous friend might prove cheaper than the advertisements he placed in upmarket magazines. Throughout that summer, Byrd mentioned Todd's generous support frequently.

Two weeks after the City of New York set sail, the Chelsea, the supply ship of the expedition, was still docked at the Tebo workyard and not scheduled to depart until the middle of September. Smith's Dock Company in England had built the refurbished 170-foot, 800-ton iron freighter for the British Royal Navy at the tail end of the Great War. First christened patrol gunboat HMS Kilmarnock, her name was changed to the Chelsea during her post–Royal Navy rumrunning days.

Not long before she was scheduled to depart, Byrd announced via a press release that he was renaming this auxiliary ship, too, after his mother, Eleanor Bolling. But the name painted on the transom was Eleanor Boling, with one l—the painter's mistake. As distressing as this was (the name was his mother's, after all), Byrd felt a redo would be too expensive and a silly use of precious funds. Reporters and PR staff were simply instructed to always spell the name with two ls.

As Billy eyed the ship in dock days after his humiliation on board the New York, he realized here was another way to get to Antarctica. The old, rusty-sided cargo ship would likely be less guarded than the flagship had been.

As September dragged on, Billy, back in Bayside, stiffened his resolve. No one would think he'd try again! On September 15, once more he swam out during the night to board a vessel bound for Antarctica.

Since his visit two weeks prior, Billy had studied his news clippings and knew that the Bolling was captained by thirty-six-year-old Gustav L. Brown, who'd been promoted weeks earlier from first mate of the New York when Byrd added the fourth ship to his fleet. Billy liked what he read. According to those who sailed under Brown's command, this tall and slender veteran of the Great War was above all genteel, and far less crotchety than the New York's Captain Melville. Captain Brown's education went only as far as high school, and while he wasn't against college, he admired honest, down-to-earth workers. Like his colleague Captain Melville, Brown had begun a seafaring life at fourteen. He seemed just the sort of man to take a liking to a teenage stowaway with big dreams.

Alas, the crew of the second ship headed to Antarctica now knew to look for stowaways. In a less dramatic repeat of what had happened in Hoboken, an Eleanor Bolling seaman ousted Billy in the earliest hours of the morning. The kid had (unimaginatively) hidden for a second time in a locker under the lower forecastle filled with mops and bolts and plumbing supplies. The sailor brought him to Captain Brown, who was well named, as he was a man with a mass of brown hair and warm brown eyes. The kind captain smiled at Billy and praised the cheeky boy's gumption—his Swedish accent still heavy even though he'd made Philadelphia his home since 1920—yet Billy was escorted off to the dock and told to scram.

A few hours later, still under the cover of night, Billy stole back on board and was routed out a third time, again from the “paint locker.”

A third time? The Bolling's third in command, Lieutenant Harry Adams, took notes on the gutsy kid who had to be good material for the lucrative book he secretly hoped to pen. Most of the major players would score book deals after the expedition; the public was eager for adventure, or at least so publishers thought. The catch was that any deal had to be approved by Byrd: to expose any discord was to risk powerful support. Adams's book, Beyond the Barrier with Byrd: An Authentic Story of the Byrd Antarctic Exploring Expedition, was among the best: more character study than thriller, his grand sense of humor evident in his selection of anecdotes that the others deemed too lightweight to include.

Billy was not the only stowaway that September day. Also aboard was a girl Adams called Sunshine, the "darling of the expedition," a flirt who offered to anyone who asked that she wanted to be the first lady in Antarctica. (In the restless era between world wars, when movies gave everyone big dreams, even girl stowaways were not uncommon.) Brown told a reporter that Sunshine had less noble aspirations, and soon she, too, was removed from the Bolling, but not before she gave each crew member a theatrical kiss.

As the early sun rose, Captain Brown called Billy over to him from the yacht yard's holding area where he had been asked to wait with the giggling Sunshine until his father arrived. The captain admired Billy's gumption, but it was time for the seventeen-year-old to go now and not waste any more of anyone's time.

As Lieutenant Adams recorded later, "Perhaps this matter of getting rid of Bill was entered up in the Eleanor Bolling log as the first scientific achievement of the Byrd Antarctic expedition."

*** 

From THE STOWAWAY: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by Laurie Gwen Shapiro. Copyright © 2018 by Laurie Gwen Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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Art Lovers in England, Rejoice: France's Famous Bayeux Tapestry is Coming to the UK
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of France’s most prized national treasures, the Bayeux Tapestry, is officially heading to England for exhibition. The loan will mark the first time the fragile 11th century work has left France in nearly 1000 years, according to The Washington Post.

French president Emmanuel Macron announced news of the loan in mid-January, viewed by some as a gesture to smooth post-Brexit relations with Britain, ABC reports. The tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a historically important event replete with guts and glory.

Stretching for 210 feet, the Bayeux Tapestry’s nine embroidered panels tell the tale of Harold, Earl of Wessex, who swore an oath to support the right of William, Duke of Normandy, to the English throne once King Edward (a.k.a. Edward the Confessor) died without an heir. But after Edward's funeral at Westminster Abbey, Harold breaks his oath to William so he could be crowned king instead. Believing he was the rightful ruler, William—today remembered as William the Conqueror—decides to wage war and ultimately defeats Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

The historical narrative has endured for centuries, but the tapestry's provenance has been lost to time. Experts think that the artwork may have been created in England, shortly after the Battle of Hastings, although it’s unclear who designed and embroidered the scenes. Its original owner, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, may have commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry. He became Earl of Kent after the Battle of Hastings, and this new title would have afforded him access to skilled artisans, The Guardian explains.

The Bayeux Tapestry is currently on display in the town of Bayeux in Normandy. It likely won’t leave France until 2020, after conservators ensure that it’s safe to move the artwork. According to The Telegraph, the tapestry might be be displayed at the British Museum in 2022.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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