Article: Here’s Something You Never Knew About the US State You Live In: HowStuffWorks
Here’s Something You Never Knew About the US State You Live In
By: Teresa McGlothlin
Image: MichaelSvoboda/E+/Getty Images
About This Article
There's not one American state that lacks a fascinating history! All 50 states have something about them that makes them unique. While you probably know all the stuff they taught you in history class, there's a lot more to learn. There are some things that perhaps didn't make the history books that you'll be amazed to learn — things that you'll want to brag about later.
You know that Georgia is the Peach State, but did you know that it's not the biggest producer of the fruit? That distinction goes to an entirely different state! Ohio might be the birthplace of seven U.S. presidents, but it has a bigger monument to something completely different. It's facts like these about your state that might have somehow slipped by you. But now's your chance to find out what makes your state more interesting than all the others!
Whether you're a transplant or a native to the state where you live, you're sure to find something interesting about it. You'll also find out things about other states that you never learned in school. Check out the 50 hilarious, informative and interesting facts about each U.S. state, and you'll have a whole new appreciation for your home base.
You probably don't know this, but in Alabama, some Halloween costumes are a no-go! It might be tempting to spend the night touring Mobile or Birmingham dressed like a sexy nun or a zombie priest, but you would be breaking the law. According to Section 13A-14-4 of the Alabama State Code, you can be fined up to $500 and spend a year in jail for dressing like any member of the clergy.
You know all about Alaska's stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife. Did you know that every year, hunters pay up to $18,000 per trip for the chance to take home of one of the state's prized moose? They need to remember two very specific things or they'll end up spending more, though. They can face hefty fines for whispering into the ear of a fellow hunter or for letting moose drink some of their beer.
You already know that Arizona is called the Grand Canyon State or the Copper State. But if it were named for its official state neckwear, it would be named the Bola Tie State. Since 1973, the bola tie has been recognized for its cultural roots. It celebrates the silversmithing traditions of the Zuni, Navajo and Hopi tribes of the southwestern region of the United States. New Mexico and Texas have officially adopted the bola tie as their official neckwear, too.
There's a lot more to Arkansas than being the home of former President Bill Clinton. Nicknamed The Natural State, Arkansas is also famous for its gem mining. In fact, Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds Lake has produced three of the largest diamonds ever found in North America. One of them — a diamond named Uncle Sam — is over 40 carats! Visitors frequently find gemstones and diamonds throughout the state's designated mining areas.
You know there are tons of interesting things about California, but we think the avocado might be the most interesting. In 2013, then governor Gavin Newsom declared the fruit the official state fruit of California. Every year, the self-proclaimed "Avocado Capital of the World," Fallbrook, California, hosts a festival dedicated to the green treat's past. Started from seeds brought from Mexico by a postal worker in the 1920s, the state now produces 95% of the nation's avocados.
We could go on forever about Colorado's wacky weather, but you are probably tired of hearing about that. Instead, let's talk about your state's amazing transportation records. The Dwight Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel holds the record for being the world's highest tunnel. It's 11,000 feet above sea level! Then, there's Colfax Avenue in Denver. It runs for 25.6 miles and gets the prize for being the longest street in America. Both are very special distinctions!
It's no secret that Connecticut is called the Constitution State, but did you know that it's also called the Nutmeg State? It's doesn't carry this nickname because nutmegs grow there, though. Ships from Asia and Africa first landed in Connecticut carrying the precious spice. Legend has it that savvy locals saw the success of the trade and decided to take matters into their own hands. It was not uncommon for a fake, wooden nutmeg to be passed off as the real thing.
You probably love Delaware for its sparse population and its open spaces. Are you aware of the fact that chickens outnumber you? The state is home to more than 200 million of them! Delaware supplies the mid-Atlantic and the northeastern United States with its chicken industry. Your state is so well-known for chickens that it has its own breed — the Delaware chicken. Although it's now endangered, farmers are fighting to preserve the species.
You can't go more than 60 miles in Florida without hitting a beach. However, the Everglades is home to a creature more elusive than a lost shipwreck. Florida has its version of Bigfoot! Known as the Skunk Ape, the humanoid creature has been reported over 300 times. If you ever encounter it, you'll be sure to recognize it by it's name-worthy smell. It's usually the first thing that others claim to experience.
Although Georgia's amazing coastlines are the perfect place to grab a plate of shrimp, that's not the only place you can find them. Georgia's Stone Mountain also has shrimp that live at the top. Unique to the United States, the Branchinella lithaca — or Stone Mountain fairy shrimp — has evolved to lay its eggs in the soil. When it rains, the eggs hatch and grow in the puddles that are formed.
Every U.S. state has something unique about it, but Hawaii wins the award for being the state with the most unique things. It's the only state that grows coffee, vanilla beans and cocoa. As if that's not enough, it's also the only state that's growing geographically! Due to constant eruptions from the Kilauea volcano, Hawaii's Big Island is gaining 42 two acres of land every year. They are not yet inhabitable acres, but they will be in a few million years!
If you live in Idaho, you're probably sick of hearing about potatoes. It's a good thing you have a lot of something else to talk about — swear words! A 2017 online poll found that Idaho residents swear more than the people in 42 of the other states. Coming in at number eight, Idahoans swear more than those who live in Washington, D.C.
Everyone in Illinois knows that Chicago is nicknamed the Windy City. Can you believe it doesn't have anything to do with the weather? There's no doubt that the wind blowing off Lake Michigan is cold and boisterous, but the nickname comes from an 1893 political campaign. After observing politicians plead their case at the World Columbian Exhibition, a New York City journalist used the phrase to describe them. The rest is, as they say, history!
Coming in at No. 17 in population size, Indiana doesn't get bragging rights for having the most people. The state saves those for the fact that it has the world's largest children's museum! The Children's Museum of Indianapolis boasts an impressive 1 million visitors every year. With five floors full of exhibits, the museum has over 120,00 artifacts on display. You won't find anything else like it in the entire world!
Iowans know all about life in a farming state, but you might be surprised to know the gravity of the situation. In the Hawkeye State, there are seven hogs for every person. That's right — seven! Only 3 million people live throughout the state, but there are more than 21 million hogs on farms and ranches. Nearly one-third of all pork exports in the United States originate here.
Kansas isn't often thought of as being one of the most progressive states in the union, but nothing is further from the truth. If you live in Kansas, you should take pride in knowing that the state was the very first to allow women to vote. In 1861, women were permitted to take part in local school district elections. By 1912, women had the same statewide voting rights as men. Women in Kansas were voting eight years before the 19th Amendment granted permission across the country.
Kentucky is well-known for its bluegrass, racehorses and bourbon, but few people know that it should also be known for its wine. Kentucky is home to the very first commercial vineyard and winery in the U.S.! Founded by Lexington businessman John James Dufour in 1799, the aptly named First Vineyard flourished because of the vineyard's proximity to the shipping hubs of the Kentucky River.
Any Louisianian knows that there's far more to the state than Mardi Gras! Louisiana is famous for many other things. Throughout the state, there are towns that hold a variety of titles. You can find the "Frog Capital of the World," the "Crawfish Capital of the World," the "Dog Trot Capital of the World," the "Cajun Music Capital of the World" and the "Duck Capital of America" simply by driving around the state.
Lobster, schmobster! There's another delicious food that Maine should be praised for producing. With over 40,000 acres of blueberry fields, Maine is the biggest producer of the sweet, little fruit in the United States. Over 95% of all wild blueberries sold in the country come from Maine. And it makes total sense! Blueberries are native to Maine's wilderness areas.
From Jada Pinkett Smith to Edward Norton, Maryland has produced its fair share of celebrities. There's one that frequently gets forgotten, though. One of the nation's favorite songwriters was born there! Francis Scott Key was working as a lawyer when he composed "The Star-Spangled Banner." The words came to him as he was watching Baltimore's Fort Henry come under attack.
Massachusetts is home to a lot of American firsts. The first subway was built there, and the first operational chocolate factory was created there, too. Unfortunately, not all of the state's firsts had such great results. In 1919, several people lost their lives when a two million gallon storage container of molasses burst and flooded the streets of Boston's North End. The first-ever molasses disaster still holds the record for being the biggest syrup catastrophe in history.
You can't think about Michigan without thinking of wolverines, but the state has a history that's much larger. Michigan's state fossil is the mastodon. Along with 250 smaller remnants, the largest ever mastodon fossil was found outside of a town named Owosso. There's also a trail of mastodon footprints that you can follow. It's the longest in the world, and you can find it right outside of Ann Arbor.
Did you know that calling Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes is inaccurate? Throughout the state, there are closer to 15,000 of them! Some are huge and some are tiny, but all of them are full of privately owned boats. The National Marine Manufacturers Association reports that Minnesota comes in second across the nation for the number of registered recreational boats. With over 813,000 of them, there's one boat for every six people in the state.
Nothing goes down better than a root beer float on a Mississippi summer afternoon! The drink's inventor, Edward Charles Edmond Barq Sr., was born in New Orleans, but he settled in Biloxi in 1871. By the time 1898 rolled around, he was ready to unveil his new soft drink to the world. When sales skyrocketed during Prohibition, he was heard proclaiming, "Hot diggity dog!" The Barq's factory moved to New Orleans, but Mississippi still gets to brag about being the place where it was invented.
If Missouri were named after the events of 1904, it might have some interesting names. During that year both the World's Fair and the Summer Olympics were held in St. Louis. Ill-equipped to deal with the heat and the enormous crowds, more than half of the runners in the Olympic marathon needed to be treated for heatstroke. For 10 miles of the race, one creative runner decided to catch a ride with a passing car. Though it put him in the first place, he was disqualified for cheating.
Big skies, big mountains and Yellowstone! It seems that everything is bigger in your state of Montana — even snowflakes! A blinding snowstorm in 1887 swept through Fort Keogh leaving behind the largest snowflake ever recorded. Measuring in at 8 inches thick and 15 inches across, the rancher who found it described it as being bigger than the milk pans of the day. We're sure that milk pans are larger in Montana, too.
Have you ever noticed how many trees there are outside your window? There didn't used to be that many. Early pioneer J. Sterling Morton was struck by the lack of trees when he moved from Nebraska from Michigan, and he made it his mission to fix the problem. In 1872, he founded what we now know as Arbor Day. During the first year of the celebration, over 1,000,000 trees were added to the Nebraskan landscape.
You probably already know that Nevada's name means "snow-covered." While there are mountains that remain snow-covered for half of the year, most of the state is a desert region. Nevada holds the record for being the state that gets the least amount of rain. It's also home to a unique creature who knows how to survive its harsh climate. Found in Death Valley, the kangaroo rat spends its entire life without drinking a drop! Even though the state gets about 10 inches of rain per year, the kangaroo rat doesn't need it!.
It's common knowledge that the biggest mountain in New England sits in New Hampshire. Mt. Washington towers above the White Mountain chain and 250,000 visitors come to see it every year. That is when it's not too windy! Mt. Washington holds the record for the highest wind speed ever recorded on the North American continent. A wind gust measuring 231 miles per hour, faster than an E5 tornado, was recorded at its peak in 1934.
When you think about your home state, you probably think of the crazy New Jersey winters and the beaches of Atlantic City. You probably don't think about spoons, though. Built by the owner of a silk mill in 1892, the Lambert Castle Museum in Paterson houses over 5,400 spoons from all over the world. You can only see 250 of them at a time, but Bertha Schaefer Koempel's collection is worth a return visit! It's the largest collection of spoons found anywhere else in the world.
The Land of Enchantment should be called the Land of Brainiacs! There are more Ph.D. holders found in New Mexico than in any other state. It doesn't hurt that Microsoft began in Albuquerque, but the state's renowned research facilities are the big draw. Intel and Los Alamos Research National Laboratory both reside there alongside dozens of other world-famous scientific centers.
From New York City to the rolling countrysides, it's hard to find anything unlovable about New York. Unless, of course, the thought of having tiny crustaceans in your drinking water freaks you out. Throughout the state's water systems, microscopic copepods are added to lakes, rivers and ponds to prevent mosquito growth. Please don't worry, though! They are absolutely harmless, and you can see them for yourself with the use of a powerful microscope.
North Carolina has it all! Home of both the Outer Banks and the Appalachian Mountains, there's something for every thrill seeker to do. You can even play mini golf in the town where it was first manufactured! As early as 1916, the Thistle Dhu company was cranking out miniature golf sets that were later picked up by the Tom Thumb operation from Tennessee. By the 1930s, more than 1 million Americans were playing the game every year.
It's not enough to produce over 113 million hamburgers a year. North Dakota also gets to claim snow angels as one it's most abundant things. During a 2007 gathering, 8,962 people met at the state capital in Bismarck to break the Guinness Book of World Record's number. North Dakotans shattered the record previously held by Michigan by making over 5,200 more of them.
Ohio is home to seven United States presidents and a whole lot of famous people. In 2012, the town of Warren decided to honor one of its favorite sons — Dave Grohl. Famous for his work with both Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, it's only appropriate that a 900-pound set of drumsticks were erected in his honor. They are made from poplar. They're also the only known set of 900-pound drumsticks found anywhere in the world.
You know all about the musical. You know all about the homesteading and the state's Native American past, but do you know about shopping carts? The very first shopping cart was invented by the owner of the Humpty Dumpty grocery store chain in the mid-1930s. Sylvan Goldman wanted to make shopping easier for his Oklahoma City customers, so he grabbed a folding chair and went to work. Although his carts were originally a huge failure, his ability to market them saved the day.
Oregon is famous for something that you might be able to look down and see. If you're looking at a pair of Nike shoes, you are looking at one of Oregon's most valuable logos. In 1971, Portland State University student Carolyn Davidson designed the iconic logo. When she was finished, she invoiced the company for a grand total of $35. Although she was later compensated with stocks, we're certain she didn't make as much as the logo's $26 billion net worth.
Pennsylvania's rolling farm country is the ideal place to stop and take a picture. Some people do not appreciate being photographed, though. Numbering close to 30,000, the state is home to the largest Amish population in the world. The Amish believe that having their photo taken creates a graven image — and that's against their religion. By all means, take a picture of a beautiful sunset. But the Amish respectfully request that you leave them out of it.
Everyone knows that Rhode Island is the smallest state, but it has brought a lot of big things to the table. In addition to being the home of America's first textile mills, the state also created the very first shopping mall. Built in 1928, The Westminster Arcade was the nation's first enclosed shopping space. These days, the location is home to 45 historic apartments, but the mall that once stood there predated Minnesota's first commercialized mall by 130 years.
If a visitor asked you about some of South Carolina's best things, peaches might not be the first things that come to mind. But they should! California produces more on the west coast and Georgia's nickname is the Peach State, but South Carolina is the east coast's highest producer. In 2018, the state grew 54,600 tons of the juicy stonefruit! It was over double what the state of Georgia put out.
Every state is known for something, but none of them get to be the home to the "Divorce Capital of the Nation" like you do, South Dakota. Getting a divorce in the late 1800s came with a stiff set of state requirements. Sioux Falls stood alone, disagreed and relaxed the rules. With more lenient rules about residency, over 6,000 divorces took place there before the laws were changed in 1902. If you would like to honor the distinction, you can find a historical marker in the once rebellious city.
Tennessee gets its fair share of severe weather, and it's not unusual to hear about a blizzard or a tornado. But earthquakes? It might sound unlikely, but one of the state's biggest lakes, Reelfoot Lake, was formed by a series of them that occurred between 1811 and 1812. Reelfoot Lake sprawls across 25,000 acres offering some of the best fishing and camping in the state. It's quite common to see bald eagles nesting and raising their young there.
There's a big reason you should be glad to live in Texas, and it doesn't involve the Longhorn steer. Texas is the only state in the U.S. to have its own power grid. Called ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), the self-sustained system was created during WWII to make sure that all farming and industrial facilities could stay up and running during an emergency. If the lights go out around the rest of the country, you'll still be able to see!
You should be proud to have roots in Utah. The trees at Fishlake National Forest are so happy with their roots there that they've existed for over 80,000 years! Called The Trembling Giant, you can find over 47,000 genetically identical trees that share the same ancient root system. Not only is the Pando the heaviest single organism on earth, it's also something that can't be found anywhere else in the world.
Don't worry, Vermont. It's perfectly legal for you to dry your clothes the old-fashioned way! The Right-to-Dry movement made its way into the state in 2009 and lifted a previous ban on having an outdoor clothesline. In many states, solar access laws prevent residents from having the privilege. Not, you, though. You are welcome to hang your knickers on the line any time of the year!
Virginia is for lovers! It's also for female bankers. The very first female-owned bank started in Richmond in 1903. Maggie Lena Walker started the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and proved to be an instrumental figure for other African Americans hoping to run businesses in the segregated era. Although the bank was merged with others, it remained a prominent figure in the financial world until 2009.
Common knowledge points to Washington state as being the home of tons of apples and fantastic music scenes. Unfortunately, both overshadow the state's number of ancient glaciers. Formed over 18,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, Washington still hosts over 3,000 of the icy remnants. In fact, Washington has the highest number of glaciers than any other state — even Alaska!
Family is important to those who live in West Virginia! In 1908, Anna Jarvis wanted to show her love for her mother by creating the first Mother's Day. Until the holiday became more recognized and commercialized, Jarvis was thrilled with the sentiment. Once card companies began to monetize the day, she spent the rest of her life protesting it. You can travel to Grafton to see her memorial.
There's a lot more to Wisconsin than bratwurst or cheese! While is it known for copious amounts of both, its contribution to modern-day music shouldn't be ignored! Les Paul — sometimes called the Wizard of Waukesha — was a Wisconsin local whose electrified guitars went on to form the Gibson company. And he was in good company! Wisconsin is also home to the founder of the Rickenbacker line of guitars. There's a lot to see, taste and hear in America's Dairyland.
Wyoming is packed full of natural beauty and fascinating history! Did you know that one of the world's most famous outlaws named himself after one of your towns? The Sundance Kid, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, was once jailed in Sundance, Wyoming. He spent 15 days serving his sentence for stealing horses there. Upon his release, he adopted the town's name as his own. The rest, as they say, is history!
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