50 Facts About the 50 United States

Sure, the boring facts about states have been drilled into you by teachers and history books over the years. You might even remember all of the state capitals. But here are 50 trivia tidbits that you probably didn't learn in second grade.

1. Alabama. New Orleans might be the hot spot for Mardi Gras these days, but it was actually started as a sedate tradition in what is now modern-day Mobile, Alabama.

2. Alaska. The Alaskan flag was created by a 13-year-old-boy in 1926. For his efforts, Benny Benson received $1,000 and an engraved watch. Picture from Alaska.edu.

3. Arizona. London Bridge - yes, the London Bridge - was shipped stone by stone and reassembled in Lake Havasu City. It was meant to be a tourist attraction in the retirement community and was rebuilt over land, not water.

4. Arkansas. Sam Walton started a little store in Bentonville, Arkansas - today, it’s known as Walmart. However, Bentonville is also home to the headquarters of a lesser-known company: The Whistler Group, a company that makes radar detectors.

5. California. We all know Cali is known for its wine and grapes - but it’s also home to the self-proclaimed Avocado Capital of the World (Fallbrook), the Raisin Capital of the World (Fresno) and the Artichoke Capital of the World (Castroville). In fact, Marilyn Monroe was the first Artichoke Queen in 1947.

6. Colorado. Although the cheeseburger wasn’t invented in Colorado, a Denverite held the copyright to the word for a while. In 1935, Louis Ballast, owner of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In, applied for and received the copyright to a food he didn’t invent. That distinction goes to Lionel Sternberger of Pasadena, California.

7. Connecticut. PEZ is made in Orange, Connecticut.

8. Delaware. There’s no National Park System unit of any kind in Delaware - no park, no historic site, no battlefield, no memorial or monument. It’s the only state that doesn’t have something denoted by the National Park System (you can check out other National Park units here, though).

9. Florida. The first ATM designed just for rollerbladers resides in Miami. Of course.

10. Georgia. The sweetest onion in the world, the Vidalia, can only be grown in specifc Vidalia and Glennville areas of Georgia - only 20 counties in total. The Vidalia Onion is Georgia’s state vegetable.

11. Hawaii. Back in 1874, the village of Kalaupapa on the Island of Molokai was once a leper colony. The act naming the village such wasn’t repealed until 1969.

12. Idaho is the only state that might have been named because of a hoax. A lobbyist suggested the name in the 1860s, claiming that it was an old Shoshone word meaning “the sun comes from the mountains” or “gem of the mountains.” After the name was adopted, the lobbyist admitted he made the word up.

13. Illinois was once home to the largest city in the United States - no, not Chicago. Up until about 1800, Cahokia, Illinois, had more than 40,000 residents in the area thanks to its strategic spot near the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers. Philadelphia outgrew it sometime near the turn of the century.

14. Indiana. Santa Claus, Indiana, gets more than half a million letters from kids during the holidays. “Santa’s Elves,” a group of local volunteers, makes sure that each letter gets a reply from the man himself.

15. Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are totally formed by water - the Mississippi on the east and the Missouri on the west. It’s also the only state whose name begins with two vowels. 

16. Kansas. Amelia Earhart was from Atchison, Kansas.

17. Kentucky. The song “Happy Birthday to You” was written by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, Louisville residents. The women were kindergarten teachers who wrote the song as a ditty called “Good Morning to All” that would be easy for young kids to remember and sing.

18. Louisiana. There used to be more to Louisiana. Prior to 1856, there was an island southwest of New Orleans called Last Island. On August 11, 1856, it was completely and utterly destroyed by a category four hurricane. It was hit with such force that the island was split into five smaller islands. Everything on the island - which had been a popular resort destination - was gone. When the water levels went down five days later, the only evidence that there had been human life on the island was a wrecked steamer sent to save the people on the island at the time. More than 200 people died.

19. Maine. Up until a couple of years ago, a vast majority (90 percent) of the toothpicks used in the United States were made in Maine.

20. Maryland. Residents of Saint Michaels found out that the British were going to attack in 1813, so they strategically placed lit lanterns at the tops of ships and on high tree branches and cut all sources of light from the usual places on the ground. It confused the British and they overshot the town, hitting just one single house.

21. Massachusetts is home to the first U.S. zip code ever - 01001 in Agawam.

22. Michigan makes cars, yeah, you already knew that. But it also manufactures the most magic supplies in the world. The little town of Colon (population: 1200) was where magician Harry Blackstone made his home, including his headquarters and magic workshop. He invited other magicians to his abode, and the town eventually sprouted Abbott’s Magic Company, the world’s biggest producer of handmade illusions, and Abbott’s Magic Get-Together, an annual four-day convention. The high school nickname is “The Magi” and their mascot is a rabbit (rabbit out of the hat, get it?).

23. Minnesota. Minneapolis has 52 blocks of skyway - more than five miles - so people who work downtown in the frigid Minnesota winter can get around without getting frostbite.

24. Mississippi was the last state to end prohibition. Even though nationwide prohibition had ended more than 30 years earlier, Mississippi didn’t repeal it at a state level until 1966.

25. Missouri. With more than 200 fountains, Kansas City claims to have the most fountains of any city in the world, with a single exception: Rome.

26. Montana. The Montana Yogo Sapphire is the only North American gemstone to be included in the the royal Crown Jewels.

27. Nebraska. Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings, Nebraska. It was made in inventor Edwin Perkins’ mother’s kitchen and originated as a liquid called “Fruit Smack.” When he needed a cheaper way to ship it, Perkins figured out how to remove the liquid and leave only a powder, creating Kool-Aid.

28. Nevada. The first casino to open on the Las Vegas Strip (before it was the Strip) was called the Pair-O-Dice Club. It opened its doors in 1931.

29. New Hampshire has its own Stonehenge. “America’s Stonehenge” has had charcoal pits carbon dated to 2000 BC to 173 BC, potentially making the site 4,000 years old. It allegedly inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.”

30. New Jersey has the most diners in the world - and the most shopping malls in one area (seven major malls in a 25 square mile radius).

31. New Mexico. The cub that became known as Smokey the Bear, the National Fire Safety Symbol, was found trapped in a tree in New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest when it caught on fire in 1950. The black bear was chosen to be the official state animal in the little guy’s honor 13 years later.

32. New York isn’t home to Dorothy Gale - that’s Kansas, of course - but it does call her creator, L. Frank Baum, a native. In Chittenango, his hometown, yellow brick sidewalks lead to Oz-themed businesses, and you can go to the yearly Oz-Stravaganza every June.

33. North Carolina can boast that they had the first child born in America to English parents. Her name was Virginia Dare and she was born in Roanoke. 

34. North Dakota is a great state to drive through if you can manage to make the Enchanted Highway part of your route. It’s a 32-mile stretch of highway with giant sculptures. This one, called “Theodore Roosevelt Rides Again,” is 51 feet tall and weighs more than 9,000 pounds. Photo from EnchantedHighway.net.

35. Ohio, so far, has been the home state of seven U.S. presidents, making it the state that has produced the second-most Commander in Chiefs (Virginia wins that title with eight). In case you’re wondering, they are: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding.

36. Oklahoma is where the first-ever parking meter was installed. Oklahoma City was the first to start charging for prime parking real estate in 1935.

37. Oregon has the most ghost towns of any U.S. state, with 18 spots officially designated as such.

38. Pennsylvania is where you’ll find the Mutter Museum, a museum dedicated to medical oddities (for educational purposes, of course). Exhibits include a woman whose corpse turned to soap, famous Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, and the tumor removed from Grover Cleveland’s hard palate in a top-secret operation the world didn’t know about until years later.

39. Rhode Island claims the oldest, still-operating tavern in the U.S. The White Horse Tavern was built in 1673.

40. South Carolina. In case you’re interested in the first boll weevil ever found in South Carolina, don’t worry - you can still see it. The insect is on display at the Pendleton District Agricultural Museum. 

41. South Dakota has the world’s only Corn Palace, a building entirely decorated in different varieties of corn kernels and cobs. Exterior murals on the palace are redesigned every year.

42. Tennessee has the largest underground lake in the United States (and the second-largest in the world). It’s part of Craighead Caverns in Sweetwater and is known as The Lost Sea.

43. Texas has the only hotel in North America entirely built over water. The Flagship Hotel in Galveston juts out 1,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico.

44. Utah has a hotspot known as “Little Hollywood” - Kanab earned the nickname because so many movies and T.V. series have been filmed in the area. Which ones, you ask? To name a few: Gunsmoke, Planet of the Apes, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Lone Ranger and Stagecoach

45. Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, is the only state capital that lacks a McDonalds.

46. Virginia is where you’ll find a couple of Presidents’ mansions, including Jefferson’s Monticello, which is on the back of the $2 bill. Incidentally, the gift shop at Monticello is probably one of the only establishments in the country to routinely give $2 bills as change.

47. Washington is the only state named after a president.

48. West Virginia had a hand in the invention of billboards and outdoor advertising. A tobacco company there started painting barns and bridges with their slogan, “Treat Yourself to the Best, Chew Mail Pouch.”

49. Wisconsin. Love mustard? Then you’ll love Mount Horeb, which is where you’ll find the world’s largest collection of prepared mustards at the Mustard Museum. It is run by Barry Levenson, who used to be the Assistant Attorney General for the state.

50. Wyoming was the first state that gave women the right to vote.

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Stockton California is also the Asparagus Capitol of the world. Solvang is the Danish Capiol of the US (located in Southern California), and the Ancient Bristlecone forrest has the oldest trees in the U.S. California also has the tallest trees - the coastal redwoods and the trees with the largest circumference - the Sequoia redwoods.
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New Mexico trivia.... The correct name is actually Smokey Bear, not Smokey THE Bear, although that is the unofficial name. I'm sure that Wikipedia has a huge blurb on it if you look up Smokey Bear.
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