Cheat Sheet: The Lost States of America (Book)
Texlahoma, Transylvania and other states that never made it.
Simple book with anecdotes with some interesting facts and conjecture. Meh.
- State lines are drawn so rural areas aren’t dominated by dense population hubs.
- Separatist movements are usually a result of neglect (i.e. allocation of tax dollars) and are used to mobilize public support (i.e. referendum) to garner attention and instigate change.
- The last two states, Hawaii and Alaska, were added as a pair to maintain balance between conservatives and liberals in government. It’s likely any future state changes will happen in pairs.
- Long Island is big. It contains Brooklyn and Queens, has more people than twenty states, and is bigger than Rhode Island.
- 15 stripe flag. Vermont was the separate country of New Connecticut and initially resisted joining the Union. When it eventually did, the flag grew to 15 stars and stripes before reverting to 13 stripes (one for each original state) and one star per state.
- D.C. residents couldn’t vote. The District of Columbia was created in isolation to separate the federal government from the concerns (and bias) of any particular city. Residents have no senator or congressperson — and only recently were able to vote for the President!
- New Jersey bear hunting. The state actually has a bear hunting season. In the 1970s five of six counties approved a referendum to secede.
- Vandalia. One hundred years before West Virginia split from Virginia during the Civil War, a tract of land almost identical to West Virginia was given to merchants as compensation for the loss of millions of dollars worth of merchandise during the war with Ottawa chief Pontiac. Named after the British queen, who was descended from the Vandals.
- Absaroka. Mount Rushmore was created for tourism, then in the 1930s residents pushed to become the state of Absaroka (Crow for “children of the large-beaked bird”) — even going so far as to produce license plates and holding the first (and only) Miss Absaroka pageant in 1939!
- Mormons and Utah. Formed in 1820s New York and persecuted for their unusual beliefs, especially polygamy, which upset lots of non-Mormon men who formed an angry mob and killed Joseph Smith in 1844. Mormons fled west to Salt Lake (no white settlements) in the 1840s and wanted the state to be named Deseret (from the Book of Mormon), but the government chose Utah (after the Ute tribe).
- Lost Dakota. Tiny orphaned leftover patch of the Dakota Territory hundreds of miles away between Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Formed in the mid-1800s and attached to Montana in 1873.
- MacDonald. In 1961, the city of Noel in McDonald Country, Missouri was accidentally (and literally) left off the map. In response a publicity stunt threatening to secede saw an election, provisional government, militia formed, solders at border checkpoints, and even visas for non-locals!
- Ironwood, Michigan. In the 1830s Michigan lost the disputed “Toledo Strip” and was “awarded” (i.e. unwanted) the Upper Peninsula; isolated until a bridge was built in the 1950s. It contains the city of Ironwood, which is 600 miles from Detroit (D.C. is closer)!
- Comanche. Feared for their fierceness, hostility towards trespassers, and expert cavalry (it was reported they were able to ride under a horse during battle, making them nearly impossible to hit!). In 1842, a German colony under the command of “The Red Sun” (nicknamed by the Comanche for his flame-red beard) formed the only lasting treaty with a Plains tribe.
- Horizontalists. The present border between Arizona and New Mexico was chosen to spite Confederacy president Jefferson Davis — who drew up a horizontal border.
- Smallest TV market. Glendive, Montana has a population of 5,000 and is infamous amongst broadcasters as the smallest market in the US.
- Franklin. In 1785, residents of what is now Tennessee tried to form a new state banning doctors and lawyers from election and eliminating taxes for two years — which backfired when there was no money to raise a militia to defend from Natives. After Benjamin Franklin himself turned down an offer to endorse statehood, residents tried to become part of Spain before North Carolina sent troops to secure the area.
- Idaho, the leftover state. Cobbled together from leftovers, it’s not possible to drive from north to south without leaving the state.
- Buy Mexico. In 1853, President Buchanan sent James Gadsden to buy half of Mexico which resulted in the Gadsden Purchase — 30,000-square miles of flat land needed for coast-to-coast railroad (present-day parts of Arizona and New Mexico).
- Is New Mexico in Mexico? So confusing the license plates add “USA” after the state name.
- No Man’s Land. An actual place north of Texas (in 1845) not part of any state and therefore without laws. Later known as Cimarron (or the Cimarron Strip), it soon joined Oklahoma and is now Beaver County.
- Mexico & Prohibition. Americans would cross the Rio Grande river into Mexico to drink in the Mexican town of Rio Rico, but it was discovered to be US soil in 1967 after an illegal diversion of the river years earlier. After a floor of American citizenship claims (900 recognized) it was attached to Texas.
- Conch Republic. 1982 publicity stunt by Key West, which was immediately followed by an application for US foreign aid.
- Texas can divide into five states. A stipulation on joining the Union was it reserves the right to split into up to 5 states (i.e. 10 senators in congress) without congressional approval!
- Half-Breed Tracts. Racially-insensitive reservation specifically for mixed-blood European-Natives. Parts of the land bought by Mormons and Latter-Day Saints.
- The Battle of San Jacinto. Not as famous as The Alamo, but more significant as it secured California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada. Sam Houston (city named after) infiltrated the Mexican camp during afternoon siesta and defeated the larger army in just eighteen minutes!
- South California. The closest California came to separation was in 1859 (went to D.C. for approval) following the gold rush, when the people of south were outnumbered by the population boom in the north.
Non-contiguous States & Territories
- Puerto Rico. The top candidate for statehood — with more citizens than 24 existing states. Struggling economy.
- Sweatshop of the US. Saipan is a small island where big-label clothes are manufactured in sweatshops (human rights abuses) and still be “Made in the USA.”
- Albania loves America. So much that when Bush visited in 2007 not a single person protested and newspaper headlines read “Please occupy us!”
- Quebec almost broke away from Canada. A 1995 vote failed by only 0.5%!
- Puerto Rico, Guam, Philippines and Cuba. Following the 1898 Spanish-American War, Spain relinquished each of these islands. The US kept the first three, but gave Cuba independence due to racism (“we have enough people of the Negro race”). Would have avoided the Cuban Missile Crisis (Cuba is so close to Florida elite athletes can swim across!). In 1946, the Philippines was also given independence due to its distance and population.
- 1.9¢. Sitting directly between the US and Russia, Secretary of State William Seward tried unsuccessfully to purchase Greenland, but did manage to buy Alaska for only 1.9 cents and acre.
- Kool Aid. Guyana is a former British colony in South America where Jim Jones famously wiped out his cult in 1978. Compared with the US it boasts a higher percentage of English speakers (99%), higher literacy (96%), is majority Christian, and a better location than Florida to launch spaceships.
- Howland Island. A tiny island with landing strips holding a strange irony — the US made great effort to build them (ideal refuel spot between Hawaii and Australia), the Japanese were intent on destroying them (after bombing Pearl Harbor), and Amelia Earhart died trying to find them in 1937.
- New found land. In 1947, Newfoundland was independent and wanted to join America but met with little enthusiasm.
- Reparations, not reservations. In 1999, Canada gave the Inuit people their own territory named Nunavut. America flirted with the idea with a territory named Navajo.
- Sequoyah. Not a famous chief or warrior, but rather a quiet disabled man who spent a decade creating the first Native American written alphabet (white man’s “talking leaves”) that’s still in use today.
- William Seward. Secretary of State who fought for the rights of the mentally ill, prison reform and opposed slavery. On the night of Lincoln’s assassination, a similar attempt was made on Seward resulting lifelong scars along his face.
- William Walker. In 1853, with only 48 men he captured Baja California through filibustering — a term originally defined as nation-grabbing. Put on trial, acquitted, filibustered Nicaragua (President for a year), sent back to the US, turned over by the British to Hondurans, and executed at age 36.
- William Augustus Bowles. Comic actor, portrait painter, kicked out of the US military, joined a Creek tribe, married the chief’s daughter, consolidated several Native American nations into state called Muskogee (which even had its own navy), became their king, fought the empire, captured, thrown into Spanish prison, escaped, stole a British ship, became a pirate, took a Spanish fort with 60 men (a huge Spanish force was dispatched to capture him, but got lost!), fought in a series of battles, betrayed, captured and died in a castle dungeon in Cuba!
- Daniel Boone. Offered Cherokee leaders wagonloads of goods in exchange for huge tracts of land westward. Eventually established the town of Boonesborough located in the territory of Transylvania (!), which is now Kentucky.
Random Fun Facts
- Bird s**t. The Guano Island Act of 1856 states that any citizen can claim any island worldwide — provided it wasn’t previously claimed and contained lots of seabird poop; a prized fertilizer. Resulted in the addition of over one hundred islands.
- Two states, one river. Both Oregon and Wisconsin are named after the Meskousing River (derived from different translations and mistakes).
- Popham Colony. In 1606 King James granted the right to start colonies along the east coast. The first wave went too far south and ended up captured by the Spanish near Florida. The second wave landed in present-day Maine, but built a ship and followed their leader back to Britain after he inherited a castle. The third wave was the Plymouth.
- Equal rights. The Northwest Ordinance legislation ensures new states have the same rights as the original thirteen.
- Prickly pear. Vice president John Garner proposed the prickly pear cactus as the Texas state flower, which was rejected and earned him the nickname “Cactus Jack.”
- Transylvania. The word sylvan means “a pleasant woody area” — and was popular suffix during the colonial era.
- Cathay. The old name for China.
- Lava. Only Iceland and Hawaii regularly produce the stuff.
- What if America bought Iraq instead of invading? It could have given each Iraqi over US$100,000.