Ah, North America. What a great, varied, boundless, glorious, slightly confusing place you are. Are you a country? Are you a continent? Are you a subcontinent of the Americas? Are you all three, really, and offering no apologies to anybody about it? Yes, yes you are.
When those first brave Brits headed off on the Mayflower in 1620, they had no idea what the New World really held in store. It was a larger, more challenging land than they could have imagined, but made a home for themselves and generations upon generations to come.
Fast forward four centuries and look at the United States now. United they may be, but these States have all manner of curious customs that would seem completely alien to out-of-staters. This is nothing unusual, when you’re talking on a country-wide basis, but still. The sheer expanse that is North America can make it feel as though you’re traveling to, and talking to, someone from an entirely different planet.
This is the beauty of the US. Each of the fifty states lends something invaluable, something irreplaceable, to the whole. It’s like a family full of beautiful, eccentric personalities, which come together over the holidays to form a cohesive (if sometimes dysfunctional) whole.
From Alabama to Wyoming, every state adds its own crucial little layer to the proud onion that is the US. And, of course, its own share of intriguing and peculiar facts. Let’s dive into this rundown of 30 uniquely interesting facts about US states.
30 Idaho: The Legend Of The Sixteen-Foot Steel Potato
Across the world, different cultures have wildly different traditions. When it comes to a great global event like the New Year, celebrations take all kinds of fascinating forms.
In England, for instance, we all try and bundle over to London in the inevitable rain to watch the fireworks. In Boise, Idaho, things take a more glamorous turn. The state capital is witness to a huge and magnificent potato made from foam and steel, which is unleashed to the delight of the onlookers. Now that’s a tradition to be proud of.
29 Indiana: The 4000lb Baseball
Needless to say, across the US, baseball is all kinds of a big deal. The country has a proud tradition of playing and enthusiastically supporting the sport. There are monuments to players, museums and glorious stadiums all over the country, in testament to that.
None of these monuments are quite so spectacular as Alexandria’s 4000lb baseball, though. This project began when Michael Carmichael dropped the ball in some paint. Over more than five decades, he’s added a couple of coats of paint to it every year. The ball now boasts a 14ft circumference!
28 Kansas: Flatter Than A Pancake (Literally)
As the classic old joke goes, when is a pancake not a pancake? When it’s a US state. Okay, no, that’s the door thing, but this is definitely true in Kansas’s case.
Impossibly, scientists once tested Kansas’s legendary flatness against a pancake. This is real science, friends, comparing the topography of the two on a nought-to-one scale of flatness. The pancake scored 0.957 on this scale, while Kansas measured an impressive 0.9997. Have you ever heard that the state of Kansas is as flat as a pancake? That’s because it is. And flatter.
27 Louisiana: The American Football Earthquake
If there’s one thing that the whole world knows about the United States, it’s that they take their sports dang seriously. At the 2018 Soccer World Cup in Russia, jubilant Mexican fans celebrated a surprise victory so hard that they caused seismic activity, but that’s nothing new.
At Louisiana University Stadium in 1988, the ‘Earthquake Game’ was played between the LSU Tigers and Auburn. After a crucial play and upset, there was a huge reaction from the crowd, so strong that it is also said to have registered on a seismograph.
26 Massachusetts: The Wind! The Wind!
Now, Chicago, the Windy City, may be a fair distance away in Illinois, but that’s no matter to Massachusetts. When it comes to wind, this state is where it’s really at.
Of the top 25 windiest cities in the United States, sixteen (Boston, Cambridge and Brockton among them) are located in Massachusetts. Chicago, meanwhile, doesn’t even register up there. Sure, The Windy City’s famous nickname supposedly isn’t meant literally, but still. This is an impressive showing by Massachusetts, by all accounts. It’s great for their pioneering work in wind power, too.
25 Colorado: Not Quite A Perfect Rectangle
So, Colorado. What went wrong here? This reminds me of a math exam. One of those deviously-worded questions. Is Colorado a rectangle or not? Show your work.
The nineteenth-century surveyors intended the state to be a perfect rectangle, but methods at the time simply weren’t up to the task over so much rough terrain. As it is, the Western boundary is a little shonky, and there are mistakes of over a mile in the measurements at some points. As it is, the shape of Colorado has been debated since its founding.
24 Connecticut: The First (And Smallest) Phone Book Ever
Here in the UK, where I live, the phone book is a relic of a bygone age. As a child, I’d marvel as my parents flicked through this huge paving slab of a book (you could probably hit a target and even take it out at a hundred yards with one of these things), looking for some name or other out of a list of thousands.
As time and technology has advanced, it’s become more and more irrelevant. Let’s not forget their humble origins, though: the first phone book was published in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878, with only fifty names listed inside.
23 Montana: The Wacky Weather Of Loma
Here in the UK, I’m definitely used to the weather being a little shonky. In England, as you’ve probably heard, the rainy season… well, began around the year 1600, and there’s no sign of it letting up yet. We do have occasional heatwaves, though, and we’re thoroughly unprepared to deal with them when they do arrive.
All of which is nothing to the region of Loma. One day in January 1972, the temperature rose from -54 to 49 Fahrenheit, the most dramatic temperature change ever recorded over a 24-hour period. You can thank the Chinook Wind for that.
22 Oregon: The Fast Talkers
The proud state of Oregon is famous for a lot of things. The impressive Oregon Zoo, for instance; the museums, natural attractions such as Crater Lake National Park and Mount Bachelor too. Whether you’re a tourist in search of culture or a skier in search of a new thrill, Oregon won’t let you down.
But you may well have known that. Much more obscure and interesting is the fact that the people of Oregon have another claim to fame: An analysis of calls made to businesses by customers concluded that Oregon boasts the fastest talkers in the country.
21 Virginia: The Most Patriotic State?
Now, it isn’t news to anybody that the people of America take their patriotism seriously. It was quite a dang struggle building that nation, and they have a love of their history and their culture that is the envy of most of the world.
Is there a particular state that tops the rest in that regard? According to WalletHub, there is. By looking into a range of factors such as number of enlistees and civic engagement, the investigation concluded that Virginia was the most patriotic state in the US.
20 Washington: Man, That’s A Big Factory
Oftentimes, when comparing the size of buildings, we tend to priorities one aspect over all others: height. Skyscrapers dominate the skyline, looking down on us from imposing heights. They’re just awe-inspiring, which is probably why we tend to measure such things in this way.
What about the overall size, though? Take Washington, Everett’s Boeing assembly factory. The world’s largest building by volume, it’s just shy of 100 acres large. For some sense of scale, that’s the size of 75 football fields. That’s just incredible.
19 Wyoming: Escalators? Who Needs Them?
Speaking of buildings being more impressive outwards instead of upwards, that’s a popular philosophy in the state of Wyoming. “I think land is probably cheaper,” Sue Goodman of the Wyoming City Planning Office has stated. “We spread out.” This was of thinking is all well and good, but it’s the sort of thing that contributes towards a fascinating situation:
There are only two sets of escalators in the whole of Wyoming. In a state home to almost 600,000 people.
Where are they? I’m glad you asked. Both fabled sets are located in banks in Casper.
18 Alabama: George Washington Carver, The Peanut King
Now, I’m a huge fan of peanuts, there’s no denying that. As far as I’m concerned, there is no finer snack than dry roasted peanuts. They’re the sort of thing that you can sit there absently eating, like popcorn at the movies, only to find that you’ve eaten your whole bodyweight in them without noticing.
Reece’s? You’d better believe they’re great too. Having said all of this, though, Alabama’s George Washington Carver took the whole peanut fandom a stage too far. He’s famous for developing more than 300 uses for the humble nut, including recipes like peanut sausage.
17 Michigan: The Cereal State
Of all the towns in all the land, you wouldn’t expect Battle Creek, Michigan to be famous for its cereal production. It was named for a minor dispute between land surveyors and Potawatomi Indians in 1824. It all sounds quite dramatic, if you ask me.
However, it was here that W.K Kellogg first created his iconic corn flakes, and a booming business was formed. It’s only natural, then, that that the town came to be nicknamed ‘Cereal City,’ and is still the greatest producer of cereal in the whole of the US.
16 Pennsylvania: Magazine Mavericks
As we know, Benjamin Franklin was one of the most accomplished men of his day. Author, diplomat, scientist, inventor, national hero… there was nothing this man didn’t try his hand at. Once you’ve attached a key to a kite in a thunderstorm to try and prove your theories about electricity, you’ve just about reached the pinnacle.
Do you know what Franklin didn’t do, though? Publish America’s first magazine. He was beaten to press by three days by Pennsylvania’s American Magazine, which published for three months in 1741.
15 Wisconsin: Home Of The Typewriter
There’s something in the air in Wisconsin, I’m sure of it. Some kind of writer-ly vibe, that just floats around, waiting to inspire people to sit down and write out a bestselling book right then and there.
Well, I’m getting a little overexcited there, but look at the evidence. In 1867, the typewriter was invented in Milwaukee. If that’s not enough for you, how about this: just a few short years later, in 1873, the Qwerty keyboard we still use today was also invented in Wisconsin.
14 Delaware: The Chicken Takeover
Now, as a general rule, we humans like to think that we’re pretty safe up here at the top of the food chain. As long as we don’t try bringing dinosaurs back to life by splicing their DNA with that of frogs (there are now five movies on why that’s a bad idea) or something, we’re probably good to go.
In some places, though, we’re in more danger than we think. We’re hideously outnumbered. Take Delaware, for instance. Chickens are so important to the state that they outnumber people 200 to 1. The human population is almost one million, so you can do the math.
13 Florida: Disney is no place for ashes
Now, I can’t see how we could’ve possibly gone wrong here. Florida, the Sunshine State. Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth. That just sounds like a magical combination, which could end world hunger and achieve world peace just by looking at it.
According to ABC News, though, it’s not all happy funtimes around here. It’s illegal to spread a person’s ashes at Disneyland, although the practise is becoming more and more popular every year. The Haunted Mansion, of course, is one of the most popular sites.
12 Hawaii: Long Live Hawaiians
Along with technology, medical science has advanced in impossible leaps and bounds of late. If you compare our knowledge with that of just a few decades ago, it’s really quite incredible.
As a result of this, life expectancies are on the rise. They differ from country to country and city to city, of course. When it comes to US states, who comes out on top? The people of Hawaii.
In a study conducted by the University of Hawaii, life expectancy in the state was found to be 82.4 years, the highest in the US.
11 Illinois: No-One Will Ever ‘Catsup’ To Them
Illinois is a crucial cog in the United States machine. It’s very productive in agriculture, has a great deal of natural resources, and is a huge deal in terms of transportation as well. Its bellwether reputation precedes it, that’s for sure.
Do you know what else Illinois has going for it? The world’s biggest bottle of catsup, that’s what. This 170ft-tall tower is located in Collinsville, and is such a big deal that the people gather every year at the Annual Catsup Bottle festival to sing happy birthday to it.
10 Minnesota: The Golfer State
As we all know, it is not easy being a sports fan. There’s a lot of commitment there. If you’re following a team on tour, it’s super expensive, and dang stressful to boot. Even when your team is winning, sport can be both thrilling and excruciating to watch.
So how about taking a different stance? A more leisurely sort of sport, like the people of Minnesota? There are more golfers per capita in this state than any other. It is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, after all.
9 Missouri: Geronimo!
If there’s an abundance of leisurely golf being played in Minnesota, then what of Missouri? Well, that’s where all the action is. Thrillseekers, thy name is Missouri.
That’s right. As St. Louis Magazine reports, Missouri was the site of the first ever skydive. Or rather, the first Jumping Out Of A Moving Plane Because I Can, as there was no name for the activity at this point. It was the US Army’s Albert Berry who made the jump in 1912, above the Jefferson Barracks. There’s also competing talk of a daredevil named Grant Morton’s earlier jump, but they remain unverified.
8 Nebraska: The ‘Coolest’ State Drink
Here’s the thing that I like so much about the United States. They’re connected together, integral parts in the whole, but they retain their separate identities, their individuality. That isn’t easy to do in an arrangement like this, let me tell you (just ask Scotland).
Choices such as state animals, state flowers and such are enough to demonstrate. Did you know that Nebraska’s state drink is Kool-Aid? It has been for twenty years now. Which probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, when you consider that the Kool-Aid Museum is in Hastings.
7 Nevada: Horses, Horses Everywhere
On the subject of states with their own unique identities and legacies, Nevada is another fascinating piece of the puzzle. The fact that it’s one of the largest states, yet one of the least densely populated, probably tells you all you need to know about the geography of the place.
In short, it’s open space-amundo around here. Somehow, the fact that almost half of the entire country’s wild horses can be found here is a little less surprising. Many of these are of the Virginia Range herd in west Nevada.
6 New York: Traffic’s A Bear
Now, I live in London, and I can tell you that there’s something special about driving in a big city. By special, I mean something soul-destroying-ly awful. Occasionally, you get a lucky run, but other times, you’re stuck there in that traffic from now until doomsday.
Traffic in New York? That is a bad, bad time. Despite all of the horrors of the commute, New York has always had a connection with cars. It was the first state to require license plates on vehicles. If, you know, that’s any consolation to any drivers out there somehow.
5 North Carolina: Home Of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a funny sort of vegetable. For me, they’re more of a novelty, a treat. I’ll sometimes opt for sweet potato fries instead of regular ones, but I wouldn’t want to do it every time. They’re an acquired taste, I guess you could say.
One state that’s certainly acquired that taste is North Carolina. As the aptly-named North Carolina Sweet Potatoes points out, the state is the country’s biggest supplier, producing 60% of the USA’s stock. That’s a whole lot of sweet potatoes, right there, and you’ve got to respect that.
4 North Dakota: Smack Right In The Middle
So, as we’ve seen over the course of this rundown, every state has something to be proud of. All kinds of things, in fact. There are curious claims to fame everywhere, from having the largest chicken population to being the home of the world’s largest catsup bottle.
Some of these claims to fame are geographical. Things that can’t be denied, they’re just plain facts right in your face. North Dakota is the proud owner of one of these. Rugby, ND is the site of the exact geographical centre of North America. There’s a commemorative plaque marking the spot.
3 Ohio: You Don’t See Many Burgees Around Here
I’ve already touched on the fact that I have great admiration for the United States. The way they function as a whole while retaining their individual identities is something special. We see this in all kinds of factors, including state mottos and flags.
Flags are a particularly interesting one. In that sense, Ohio is the renegade, being the only one whose state flag is not rectangular. Instead, it’s of a swallowtail design, which is known as the Ohio burgee. It was designed by John Eisemann, and officially adopted as the state’s flag in 1902.
2 Maryland: Ouija? Oui!
Baltimore, Maryland is known as one of the places that the mysterious and macabre Edgar Allan Poe lived and worked. As such, it’s probably no surprise to learn that it’s the site of a notoriously dark invention.
That’s right. The Ouija board, that posterchild of adventurous teenagers in horror movies, was first created in Baltimore. The use and workings of the controversial device is still debated, and there are all kinds of theories and competing viewpoints about it. Still, the Ouija board has become an icon of the macabre, just like Poe himself.
1 South Carolina: A Tastier Peach
As the Guinness Book of Records and the like will tell you, this is a competitive arena. If you’ve ever so much as topped the leaderboards in a video game, you’ll know that you’ve got to be wary of being too boastful. Sooner or later, someone will come along who wants your crown for themselves.
Georgia, for instance, is proudly known as the Peach State. South Carolina, however, isn’t having any of that. So many peaches are produced here that the people tried to one-up Georgia with the nickname of The Tastier Peach State.
References: Daily World Facts, CBS, City-Data, Reader's Digest, Insider, ABC News