The Most Impressive Thing About All 50 States
Every state in the Union has something to boast about. From their famous food to historic achievements, here are some of our favorites.
The Vulcan statue in Birmingham was made for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and is the largest cast iron statue in the world. It weighs in at 100,000 pounds, is 56 feet tall, and wears an apron but no pants—a fact that inspired a song devoted to the statue's buttocks, "Moon over Homewood."
At more than twice the size of the entire state of Rhode Island, Juneau—which is only accessible by plane or boat—is the largest state capital in the U.S. in terms of land area. Despite that size, its population is a mere 32,000.
The only two places in the U.S. that still have mail delivered by mule are in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Helicopters can’t make the trip, and UPS and FedEx refuse to—so the USPS contracts with a group of mailmen to make the eight-hour round trip daily.
The first woman elected to the U.S. Senate was Hattie Caraway, a Democrat who was at first appointed to her husband’s seat after his death in 1931. She then won on her own merit, getting 92 percent of the vote, in 1932. She served for 14 years.
This state is home of the craft beer boom: There were over 700 craft breweries in the state in late 2016, with more opening every month. It’s now a $7.3 billion industry, producing over 100 million gallons a year, which breaks down to 21 pints a year for every single Californian.
In 1999, the town of Fountain was chosen as America's Millennium City. A sociologist crunched census data and determined that, out of every place in the country, Fountain was the closest to the average American melting pot.
This state is home to the Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. It was started on October 29, 1764 as the Connecticut Courant by printer Thomas Green, making it older than the U.S. During the Revolution, there was a paper shortage so severe that some issues were printed on wrapping paper.
Bordering the Mason-Dixon Line with Maryland, this was an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Delawarean Thomas Garrett is credited with helping 2000 slaves escape, even though he lost his fortune doing it. Maryland authorities even put a reward of $10,000 out for his arrest.
Fort Zachary Taylor, located in Key West, Florida, was built starting in 1845 and named for the president after he died in office in 1850. In 1861, at the start of the Civil War, the Union seized the fort, and despite the fact that it was still unfinished and never saw combat, historians credit it with shortening the war by up to a year. At one point it was holding off 300 ships full of Confederate supplies.
The voting age used to be decided by the states and was generally 21. During WWII this became controversial, since men were being drafted to fight and still couldn’t vote. Georgia was the first state to lower their voting age to 18, in 1943. The 26th Amendment wouldn’t be ratified until 1971.
What we think of as Hawaii is really just the eight main islands. In total, the state is made up of 137 islands spread over more than 1500 miles [PDF].
Located in the Nez Perce National Forest, Heaven’s Gate lookout is a small viewing area that allows you to see not only the deepest canyon in North America, but views of three other states: Washington, Oregon, and Montana.
Chicago was the home of the world’s first skyscraper. Built in 1884-1885, the Home Insurance Building was a whopping 10 stories tall, or 138 feet—huge for the time. It was demolished in 1931.
The home of the Indy 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the biggest sporting venue in the world by a good margin. It has permanent seating for 257,000 people, and temporary on-field seating brings that up to 400,000.
Burlington is home to Snake Alley, what Ripley’s Believe It or Not called the “Crookedest Street in the World” (something the more famous Lombard Street in San Francisco also lays claim to). It was built in the 1800s to help horses get up a hill that was too steep for them to climb in a straight line.
Garden City, Kansas is home to a swimming pool so big it's possible to waterski in it (which has happened a few times as a promotional stunt). Opened in 1922, The Big Pool was renovated in the early aughts and is now the world's largest outdoor concrete municipal swimming pool. Bigger than a football field, it takes a full day to fill it to its 2.5-million-gallon capacity.
Bourbon, recognized as “a distinctive product of the United States” by Congress [PDF], was created in Kentucky. The state makes 95 percent of the world's bourbon supply—but its official drink is milk.
This state is famous for its lobster for good reason: They catch 75 to 80 percent of the nation’s haul each year, or over 100 million pounds.
In honor of native Francis Scott Key—who wrote the words to "The Star Spangled Banner" while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor—the U.S. flag has flown continuously over his Maryland birthplace since May 30, 1949.
The first book printed in what is now the U.S. was the Bay Psalm Book produced in Cambridge in 1640; a copy was sold for a record $14,165,000 in 2013. These days, the state is home to the second and third largest public libraries in the United States (the Boston and Harvard University Library, respectively).
With more than 11,000 lakes and 36,000 miles of streams and rivers, Michigan is a state for water lovers. It touches four of the Great Lakes and no one standing in the state is ever more than 85 miles from one of them.
The Minneapolis Skyway is a system of enclosed pedestrian footpaths that cover 69 blocks over eight miles of the city. That way, people can walk around in comfort even in the dead of the very cold winters.
At the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1963 and 1964, Dr. James D. Hardy would perform the first lung and animal-to-human heart transplants within the space of a year.
Although we associate earthquakes with California, three of the 10 largest earthquakes in the contiguous United States happened in New Madrid in 1811-12.
Here’s a state for those who love the cold. According to Guinness World Records, the biggest snowflake ever seen was one that fell at Fort Keogh in 1887; it measured 15 inches across. And the lowest temperature in the lower 48 states was -70 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in Rogers Pass in 1954.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln takes their sports seriously, as you can tell by their giant weight room, which, at three-quarters of an acre, is the largest in the country.
Las Vegas is home to more than 150,000 hotel rooms, the most in any city in the world. And on the weekends they regularly hit more than 95 percent occupancy, so there is room for more.
29. NEW HAMPSHIRE
Theodor Seuss Geisel—a.k.a. Dr. Seuss—got his start at Dartmouth College. He was in his junior year, working at the college's humor magazine, the Jack-o-Lantern, when he "discovered the excitement of 'marrying’ words to pictures," he later said. "I began to get it through my skull that words and pictures were Yin and Yang. I began thinking that words and pictures, married, might possibly produce a progeny more interesting than either parent." The Jack-o-Lantern is also where he first used "Seuss."
30. NEW JERSEY
Blueberries were domesticated and first sold commercially in Whitesbog, New Jersey. Farmers did not believe the fruits could be domesticated, but Elizabeth White believed differently. In 1911, White—the daughter of a farmer—partnered with Frederick Coville, a botanist with the USDA, who had authored a paper called “Experiments in Blueberries.” Together they worked to create domestic varieties of blueberries by crossbreeding the best wild plants. They grew their first domestic blueberries the next year and sold their first commercial crop in 1916. White was dubbed the "Blueberry Queen."
31. NEW MEXICO
Every October, Albuquerque hosts the nine-day-long International Balloon Fiesta. Now in its 45th year, it's the world's largest ballooning event. In 2015, the festival had more than 955,000 guests and 547 balloon pilots from 17 different countries.
32. NEW YORK
The Adirondack Park in upstate New York was established in 1892 in order to preserve water and timber in the area. Today it covers 6.1 million acres, which is larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined, making it the largest park in the contiguous 48 states.
33. NORTH CAROLINA
Asheville is home to Biltmore, the largest house in America. The 250-room mansion was built over six years starting in 1889 by George Vanderbilt as a “country home.”
34. NORTH DAKOTA
The town of Rugby has laid claim to being the geographic center of North America for decades, but now the tiny town of Robinson 85 miles south is trying to usurp them. No matter what happens, it’s still in North Dakota.
In 1835—just two years after its founding—Ohio's Oberlin College became the first in the United States to admit African American students. The college first admitted women into the baccalaureate program in 1837 (previously they had taken a "ladies course"), and in 1841, Oberlin became the first college to give bachelor's degrees to women in a coeducational program.
The world's first parking meter was invented by Carl C. Magee in Oklahoma City. The first model of the "Park-O-Meter" was displayed in May 1935; the meters charged a nickel an hour and were installed along curbs in July of that year. The first Park-O-Meter, which was placed on the southeast corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue, can these days be seen at the Oklahoma Historical Society.
At about 1943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest in the United States. The lake, which sits in a caldera created 7700 years ago after the massive eruption of Mount Mazama, is fed mostly by snow; 538 inches fall every year. This means that the lake is very clear—most of the time, visibility extends to 120 feet below the surface, and scientists have reported being able to see as far as 142 feet down [PDF].
Bethlehem is home to the Moravian Bookshop, the oldest bookstore in the country. Founded by the Moravian church in 1745, it moved to its current location in 1871.
39. RHODE ISLAND
This tiny state’s founder, Roger Williams, was kicked out of Massachusetts for his views on freedom of speech and religion. His views heavily influenced the founding fathers a century later when they incorporated those same ideas into the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
40. SOUTH CAROLINA
Inspired by the creation of the British Museum, the Charleston Museum was founded in 1773 and was America’s first museum. It first opened to the public in 1824 and has been open since then, with a brief pause when the Civil War got in the way.
41. SOUTH DAKOTA
The Crazy Horse memorial, carved into a mountain, was first envisioned in 1947. If and when it is finished, the monument will be 563 feet high, and be surrounded by the campus of the Indian University of North America.
This state's Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a number of species, including some 1500 black bears—approximately two bears per square mile—240 species of birds, and 84 kinds of reptiles and amphibians. With 30 species of salamanders (including the massive hellbender, which can grow to be more than 2 feet long), it's earned the nickname "Salamander Capital of the World."
The state is so unfathomably large that El Paso, on the western border, is closer to San Diego, California than it is to Houston, on the eastern border.
This state was the last one to get a Walmart, holding out until 1996 and only getting three more in the next 20 years. They still don’t have any Target stores.
Eight presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson—have been born in Virginia, more than in any other state. (Ohio, with seven, comes in second.)
Boeing’s Everett Site is the largest manufacturing building in the world. Workers arrived in January 1967 and started assembling the first planes as the building was literally constructed around them. The building itself opened on May 1 of that year.
48. WEST VIRGINIA
In 2014, 18-year-old Saira Blair won a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates in a 63 percent to 30 percent landslide. It made her the youngest elected lawmaker in the country. The student—and fiscal conservative—has to balance her term with college, where she is majoring in economics.
After printing an ad in the local newspaper looking for people with similar ideas, Alvan E. Bovay planted the seeds for the Republican party in a small schoolhouse in Ripon, with the goal of ending slavery.
Before even becoming a state, Wyoming was striking a victory for women’s suffrage: The state's politicians passed a bill giving women the vote when it was a territory back in 1869. Wyoming became the first state in the nation to allow women to vote when it was admitted to the union 21 years later.