Every state in the U.S. has its own unique set of quirks, odd history, and vernacular that sets it apart. Some of these singularities are fundamental to the state’s identity, while others are just eccentric details that give the state a little extra flavor. Chances are, there are plenty of things you still don’t know about the state you call home. So it’s time to find out 50 state facts that might just make you love the place you’re from even more. And for more stateside factoids, check out The Most Famous Celebrity from Your State.
You may not know that every state has an official drink. Most opted for juice, soda, or milk as their beverage of choice. But not Alabama. It’s the only state to have an official drink that requires you to be of legal drinking age to enjoy it.
In 2004, Alabama raised the bar, if you will, and named Conecuh Ridge Whiskey its official beverage. This moonshine whiskey was produced and marketed by a distillery of the same name and was originally made illegally during the mid to late 20th century. The distillery’s owner was actually busted for liquor law violations, and it’s now sold under the name Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Whiskey.
Airport Pizza in Nome, Alaska will fly hundreds of miles just to deliver pizza to remote areas of the state. The company’s founder, Matt Tomter, was a former bush pilot, and now he flies pizza for a free delivery charge. Their most popular pizza is made with reindeer meat, feta cheese, and red peppers. Any way you slice it, pizza delivery by air is pretty cool.
The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) was created in 1958 as a result of a collision that happened in Arizona. In 1956, two planes detoured over the Grand Canyon for a better view and ended up colliding, killing all 128 people on board both aircrafts.
The tragedy highlighted the fact that, even though U.S. air traffic had more than doubled since the end of World War II, little had been done to mitigate the risk of collisions. As a result of the crash, the FAA was created to provide safe and efficient use of national airspace.
Today, Walmart is one of the world’s leading retailers, employing 2.2 million associates worldwide, and serving more than 200 million customers each week at more than 11,000 stores in 27 countries. But it all started in Rogers, Arkansas.
Despite growing up in Oklahoma and Missouri, owner Sam Walton opened his first Walmart in Arkansas in 1962.
The highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States are only 85 miles apart from one another, and both are located in the state of California.
The highest is Mt. Whitney, which sits at an elevation of 14,505 feet at the southeastern end of the Sierra Nevada. The lowest is Badwater Basin in Death Valley, which is 282 feet below sea level, making it the lowest point in all of North America.
Florence, Colorado is home to the ADX Florence prison, the highest-level security prison in the United States. It provides long-term, segregated housing for inmates classified with the highest security risks in the prison system—and those who pose a severe threat on both a national and global level.
Its prisoners have included Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Unabomer Ted Kaczynski, KGB spy Robert Hanssen, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to name a few.
Connecticut was the very first state to pass a motor vehicle law in 1901. This first auto law set the speed limit to 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on country roads.
Speed limits had been established previously in the United States for wagons, carts, and sleds, but this was the first speed limit ever set for automobiles. It included requirements for drivers to slow down when approaching or passing horse-drawn vehicles and to come to a complete stop to avoid scaring animals.
It seems no one loves seeing a sizable pumpkin burst upon impact more than Delaware does. Since 1986, the state has held the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association’s annual competition, which involves competing teams going up against one another with catapults, slingshots, and other elaborate “chucking” devices.
In 2016, an injury at the competition led to a lawsuit that threatened the organization. The event has been on hiatus, but Delaware can only hope for a triumphant relaunch soon.
Trillions of dollars in treasure is hiding on the ocean floor along Florida’s coastline, according to estimates.
Thanks to shipwrecks and wealthy European travelers, divers are continuously finding gold coins and other precious stones in Florida’s waters. In 2015, for example, one diver discovered hundreds of 300-year-old real gold coins off the coast of Vero Beach, a literal $4.5 million goldmine.
There are plenty of bizarre laws in every state, but this one from Georgia is pretty unique. In the Peach state, a funeral director could lose their license for cursing in front of a corpse.
According to state law, “using profane, indecent, or obscene language in the presence of a dead human body, or within the immediate hearing of the family or relatives of a deceased, whose body has not yet been interred or otherwise disposed” is grounds for license revocation. Fun fact: Texas also has a similar law.
The term “island time” takes on a whole new meaning in Hawaii. The state has the longest life expectancy rate, which is an average of 81.3 years of age.
Hawaii has actually been considered one of the healthiest states in the U.S. for several years. Only 19 percent of Hawaiians suffer from obesity, which is the lowest rate in the country. Also, only about 14 percent of Hawaiians smoke. Hawaii also has some of the lowest depression rates in the country as well. Let’s all move to Hawaii, shall we?
The world’s first aerial chairlift came to Sun Valley, Idaho in 1936. With it came a four-story ski lodge, making Sun Valley the country’s first destination ski resort. While the original chairlift is no longer in operation, Sun Valley is still one of America’s premier ski destinations and a training base for many Olympic skiers and snowboarders.
In 2007, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators did a survey to determine which states have the most personalized (AKA vanity) license plates. Though Virginia had the highest percentage, Illinois had more than any other state—nearly 1.3 million, to be exact.
You can thank Indiana for New York’s Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Pentagon, the U.S. Treasury, and many other famous buildings. That’s because the town of Bedford, Indiana has one of the world’s richest deposits of limestone, which was used to create these historic landmarks. The city is actually known as the “Limestone Capital of the World.”
Otto Frederick Rohwedder, an Iowa inventor, devised the first automatic bread-slicing machine meant for commercial use in the 1920s. So he’s literally the greatest thing since sliced bread. Rohwedder’s novel machine was first put into practice at Korn’s Bakery—in his home town of Davenport, Iowa—in 1928.
Chicago may have earned the title, but the actual windiest city in the U.S. is Dodge City, Kansas. According to data from The Handy Science Answer Book, Dodge City’s wind speed averages about 14 miles per hour. By comparison, Chicago’s average wind speed is just over 10 miles per hour.
Mother Nature Network notes that there are locations in the U.S. with higher averages, but Dodge City is the windiest place with a significant population (roughly 27,000 people).
The first “radio” was invented in Kentucky by Nathan B. Stubblefield in 1902. The battery-operated wireless telephone, as it was called then, could be transported to different locations and used on mobile platforms such as boats. Stubblefield received a U.S. patent for his so-called radio system but was unsuccessful in commercializing it. Supposedly, a bunch of New Yorkers later stole his invention and made the first official radio their own.
The most famous hot sauce, Tabasco, comes from Louisiana, first produced by Edmund McIlhenny in the mid-1800s. The McIlhenny Company, which is currently helmed by the same family, is still based in Louisiana.
Back in the day, to distribute his sauce, McIlhenny used discarded cologne bottles sourced from a New Orleans glass supplier for his Tabasco sauce. “He found cologne bottles that had stoppers with sprinkler fitments in them,” Paul McIlhenny told NPR. “The sprinkler would allow something to be dispensed by the drop or the dash rather than poured on and his sauce was so concentrated that it was practical, so the legend is that he found old cologne bottles and filled them with Tabasco sauce.”
Maine may be known for its lobsters, but proportionally, it should probably be better known for its blueberries. The state is the source of virtually all—99 percent, to be precise—of America’s wild blueberries, harvesting some 80 to 100 million pounds each year.
According to the Bangor Daily News, a small amount of Maine’s blueberries are sold fresh, but “99 percent is processed, making its way into blueberry muffins, cereal, yogurt and other food products.”
The first hot air balloon in the United States to carry a person took flight in Baltimore in 1784. Peter Carnes, a tavern-keeper and lawyer, built the balloon based on French designs and sold tickets to a vast crowd of spectators.
Unfortunately, he didn’t test his creation until the big launch day, and it turned out that he was too heavy to ride in the balloon himself. A 13-year old boy stepped up and took the ride in his place. His successful flight was the start of the country’s balloon craze in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is the real name of a lake in Webster, Massachusetts. It is not only the longest geographic name in the U.S., but it’s also the longest name for a lake in the entire world. The 45-letter lake is called Webster Lake by the locals since its real name is obviously hard to read or write, let alone say.
The Michigan Triangle is just as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle. The area has seen numerous unexplainable ship and plane disappearances, and many accounts of strange activity have been reported, including UFO sightings and suspicions of time travel. So, you probably want to avoid the region that stretches over Lake Michigan from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
If you want top-notch medical care, head to Minnesota. Its town of Rochester is the home of the first Mayo Clinic, so the state has an impressive history of ground-breaking medical research and innovations. The first open-heart surgery, first human bone marrow transplant, and the development of the first successful heart-lung machine all happened in Minnesota.
In 2015, the University of Mississippi was awarded $69 million from the National Institutes of Health to grow marijuana and analyze it. The university’s marijuana research lab has been producing federally legal marijuana since 1968. Ole Miss bid for and won the government contract for developing new methods for growing cannabis containing different levels of THC (the chemical responsible for pot’s psychological “high” effect) and cannabidiol (a non-psychoactive compound used to treat disorders like epilepsy).
For those seeking to make a deep commitment to their partner, the Bridal Cave in Camdenton, Missouri is the place to do it. The location is the most popular underground wedding venue in the country, offering ceremonies among stalactites below the local Thunder Mountain. As a bonus, the wedding packages include lifetime passes to the caves for the couple.
Montana is the first state in the U.S to elect a woman to Congress. Jeannette Rankin, a Montana native, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1916 and re-elected in 1940. She was the first woman to hold a federal office in the United States. Rankin was against the World Wars and also opposed the U.S. attack on Pearl Harbor. Her vote was the only one against the war.
Oh, yeah! Kool-Aid got its start in Hastings, Nebraska, thanks to Edwin Perkins. The liquid concentrate the inventor had made was not only costly to ship, but it kept ending up damaged in transit. So Perkins had the brilliant idea of dehydrating the sweet fruit drink instead.
His powdered “Kool-Ade” (which would soon become Kool-Aid) could be sprinkled into water instead, proving less expensive, less risky, and wildly popular.
When a tsunami hits Japan, Nevada feels it—at least a geothermal pool in Death Valley known as Devils Hole does. The cavern sits about 500 feet below ground—and is believed to have been formed about a half billion years ago. What’s really crazy about it is that when earthquakes hit other parts of the world, Devils Hole experiences its own “miniature tsunami” as a direct result.
New Hampshire is the only state that doesn’t have a seat belt law for adults, taking the state’s motto—”Live Free or Die”—a little too far. New York was the first state that passed a law requiring everyone to wear a seat belt, and within a couple of years, all the other states followed… except for New Hampshire. In this state, only passengers or drivers under 18 years of age must wear a seat belt.
Pork roll is a popular breakfast staple in New Jersey. Also known as Taylor Ham, the processed meat is typically sliced thin, pan-fried, and then served on a “Jersey Breakfast” sandwich. That’s pork roll, a fried egg, and cheese on a hard roll with salt, pepper, and ketchup to top it off.
The people of New Jersey love their pork roll so much that there are multiple festivals dedicated to it each year, including ones in Trenton and Phillipsburg.
New Mexico is one smart state. It is home to more people who hold PhDs per capita than any other state in the country. Many of them come to Albuquerque because of the multitude of research facilities within a 20-minute drive of the city, including Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Fun fact: Microsoft was also founded in Albuquerque in 1975 by Paul Allen and Bill Gates.
From colonial times up until 1945, the only day people were allowed to move within Manhattan was May 1. The date signified when the Dutch originally set out to colonize the city.
On February 1, which was also known as “Rent Day,” landlords would give notice on the new rent amount to their tenants, who could then renew their lease or go apartment hunting in early-spring for their next home. All leases expired on 9:00 am on May 1, causing thousands of people to all be moving at the same time. Any New Yorker knows that’s a true nightmare.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks is a beautiful tourist destination, but it has a deadly reputation for sailors. The region is nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to a series of sandbars, hurricanes, and strong currents that have sent many sea vessels to a watery grave.According to the records from the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB), over 5,000 ships have wrecked in the area.
The explorers William Clark and Meriwether Lewis made their way through many parts of the country, but none seemed to captivate them quite as thoroughly as North Dakota. It was here that the men spent more time than any other state on their journey. Their Corps of Discovery wound through the state twice between 1804 and 1806, spending about 214 days total in North Dakota during their visits.
The Cuyahoga River in Ohio was one of the most polluted rivers in the country and would catch fire from train sparks which would fall into the water. In fact, it caught on fire at least 13 times, causing numerous fatalities and millions of dollars in damage. After a highly media-covered fire in 1969, Congress was inspired to clean up pollution across the country, eventually establishing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Many people have reported Bigfoot sightings in Oklahoma, leading the state to host an annual Bigfoot Festival in Honobia, a town nestled in the heart of the Kiamichi Mountains. The three-day event attracts Bigfoot believers, skeptics, and enthusiasts alike.
The state of Oregon has one town named Sisters and another called Brothers. There is also a town named Boring—which is the sister city of the Scotland town of Dull. They even have their own state holiday “Boring and Dull Day.” Sounds like a blast.
For one season only in 1943, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles merged their teams and formed what was officially called the Phil-Pitt Eagles-Steelers Combine. Catchy, huh? The reason for this merger was because many NFL players headed overseas to fight in World War II. Rather than shut both teams down, the league approved the merger. Both the Steelers coach and Eagles coach led the combined team, which was colloquially referred to as the Steagles.
In January 1919, Congress ratified the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages within the U.S. and its territories. But only one state rejected the amendment: Rhode Island (though Connecticut did hold out for a bit).
Rum running was a thriving industry in the state and its large Catholic population—composed mostly of Irish and Italian immigrants—viewed the 18th Amendment as Protestants’ attempt to impose their values on them. Rage on, Rhode Island rebels.
South Carolina’s Morgan Island, better known as Monkey Island, is the home to some 3,500 monkeys, including one of only two Rhesus monkey colonies in the country.
The 2,000-acre island became Monkey Island after there was an outbreak of Herpes B thanks to a group of monkeys at the Caribbean Primate Research Center in Puerto Rico in the 1970s. Out of fear of the virus spreading further in Puerto Rico, the monkeys needed to be re-homed. The state of South Carolina swooped in and offered up an empty island where the primates could live.
Still today, humans are prohibited from visiting Morgan Island, thanks to a mandate from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That said, it’s not far from the better-known and much larger Hilton Head Island, so the curious can scope the monkeys out via binoculars from the distance via boat.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota was known as the “divorce capital of the nation” in the late 1800s. Couples who wanted a speedy divorce at the time would head to the city because most states would only grant a divorce on the grounds of adultery. South Dakota would issue a divorce on five other counts as well.
On top of that, most states required you to establish residency for a least a year before filing for a divorce there. In South Dakota, on the other hand, you only had to establish residence for six months. Wealthy out-of-state couples would pay for a hotel room for months, then return later for their divorce hearings.
More than 6,000 divorces were granted in South Dakota from 1889 through 1909, when a reformed divorce law went into effect. Two-thirds of those divorces were for people who weren’t really South Dakota residents.
The famous coffee brand Maxwell House originated in Tennessee. It’s named after the now-defunct Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, the coffee’s first major customer. But that’s not Maxwell House’s only connection to Tennessee.
Its famous advertising slogan reportedly came from Andrew Jackson’s estate, The Hermitage, near Nashville. In 1907, former president Theodore Roosevelt drank some Maxwell House coffee on a visit to The Hermitage, where he proclaimed the coffee was “good to the last drop.”
Everything is indeed bigger in Texas, including its capitol. This state’s capitol building in Austin makes a statement, standing 311 feet tall, about 23 feet higher than the U.S. capitol.
Though Nebraska, Kansas, Florida, Illinois, and Louisiana’s state capitol buildings are still taller than Texas’, it is technically the largest at 360,000 square feet.
Seagulls miraculously helped save the lives of pioneers shortly after their arrival to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. After they planted approximately 900 acres of wheat, millions of crickets came from the foothills and threatened to wipe out the crops. The pioneers couldn’t get rid of the pests until a flocks of seagulls attacked them, saving the crops in return.
The event was dubbed the “Miracle of the Gulls,” and the California gull has since been named as Utah’s official state bird.
The Von Trapp family that inspired The Sound of Music moved to Stowe, Vermont in 1942 after touring the United States as the Von Trapp Family Singers. They chose a farm with sweeping mountain vistas that reminded them of their beloved Austria.
Today, the Trapp Family Lodge has 96 rooms and sits on 2,500 acres in Vermont, where guests can enjoy tons of amenities. It’s still owned and operated by descendants of the Von Trapp family.
About 70 percent of all internet traffic flows through data centers located in northern Virginia. The centers make up a total of 5.2 million square feet. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent to 25 Walmart superstores, all within 521 square miles.
During World War II, Boeing camouflaged a secret bomber-making factory south of Seattle, Washington by covering it entirely with a fake neighborhood that was created by a Hollywood set designer. It had faux houses, artificial trees, and even fake sidewalks to give the illusion that it was a real neighborhood, hiding the fact that it was where thousands of 5-17 bombers were being produced.
In 1907, on the second Sunday in May, West Virginia native Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mom at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had died on the second Sunday in May in 1905.
Anna felt like Americans too often overlooked the important place of mothers. She began to campaign to make Mother’s Day a widely-recognized holiday. West Virginia was the first to make it an official holiday in 1910. And a few years later in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official national holiday. So mothers everywhere have Jarvis to thank for adorable handmade cards and coupon books.
The famous Wisconsin cheesehead hat proudly worn by Green Bay Packers fans originally came from a couch cushion.
One day in the mid-1980s, Wisconsin resident Ralph Bruno used foam from his mother’s couch cushion, burned holes in it, painted it yellow, and headed to the Packers game. And the rest as the say, is history. Today, the cheesehead hat is trademarked and owned by the Wisconsin company Foamation Inc., which has been manufacturing them since 1987.
Wyoming is the least populous state in the country, even though it’s the 10th largest state. Its total population is approximately 579,000 people who live within its 98,000 square miles. To put that in perspective, the smallest state in the U.S., Rhode Island, is only 1,200 square miles and its population is 1.1 million people. And for more obscure trivia, check out 100 Random Facts So Interesting You’ll Say, “OMG!”
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