Best of America

50 Astonishing Facts You Never Knew About the 50 States

Quick: Where are “idiots” not allowed to vote? Plus 49 other odd, outrageous, or revealing tidbits about America's 50 states.

Alabama

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The only state whose official drink is an alcoholic beverage (Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey, originally distilled by legendary moonshiner Clyde May).

Alaska

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The state is known for fishing, mining, and oil, but its latest industry is peonies. Peony farms blossomed from zero in 2000 to more than 200 in 2014.

Arizona

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The state that produces enough cotton each year to make two T-shirts for every American (that’s 599 million tees).

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Arkansas

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Site of the world’s most perfect diamond, the 3.03-carat Strawn-Wagner Diamond, and North America’s largest diamond, the 40.23-carat Uncle Sam Diamond, both unearthed at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro.

California

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If it were a country, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world, beating out Italy, Russia, and India.

Colorado

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Although Congress intended the state to be a perfect rectangle, its surveyors wandered a bit off course. A tiny kink in the western border disqualified it from rectangle purity.

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Connecticut

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The first phone book was published in New Haven in February 1878, containing just 50 names.

Delaware

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The state with the most generous laws regarding company ownership has been the model for Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens.

Florida

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The remains of an 8,000-year-old human civilization were found buried in a peat bog here. The bodies were so well preserved that human brain tissue was found in a woman’s skull with her DNA still intact.

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Georgia

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Just outside Atlanta, the picturesque community of Serenbe requires each of its 200-plus homes to include a porch.

Hawaii

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The only state covered entirely by its own time zone, Hawaii-Aleutian, also doesn’t observe daylight saving.

Idaho

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Boise celebrates the New Year by dropping a 16-foot-tall steel-and-foam potato in the state capital. Every year, thousands of “spec-taters” gather to watch. Check out these extraordinary uses for potatoes.

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Illinois

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In 1887, engineers began to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to stop pollution from contaminating the city’s water supply. The reversal was complete in 1900.

Indiana

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At 8 p.m. on March 31, 1880, Wabash became the first city in the world to be lit by electricity—via four “Brush lights,” invented by Clevelander Charles F. Brush.

Iowa

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The world’s largest painted ball resides in Alexandria: The 4,000-pound baseball with a 14-foot circumference is the creation of Michael Carmichael, who began the project more than 50 years ago after dropping a ball in paint; he now adds another coat or two every year.

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Kansas

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It’s the state that was proved to be—quite literally—flatter than a pancake. Scientists tested the flatness of the state against the topography of a pancake. On a zero- to-one scale of perfect flatness, Kansas was flatter, with a score of 0.9997. The pancake scored only 0.957. Curious? Here are the secrets to making perfect pancakes every time.

Kentucky

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Underground vaults at Fort Knox hold one of the largest stockpiles of gold in the country. Not many people have seen the stash, though—and some even question whether the 27.5-pound bars, worth $6 billion, truly exist. Check out these other mind-blowing facts about money.

Louisiana

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A last-second home-team touchdown at Louisiana State University in 1988 sent the fans into such a frenzy that the victory registered as an earthquake on a local seismograph. Here's how a big sporting event can give you a heart attack.

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Maine

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Maine is the loneliest number: the single state whose name is just one syllable, the lone state that borders precisely one other state, and the only state whose official flower, the pinecone, is not a flower.

Maryland

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It’s the wealthiest state in the country, as measured by median household income.

Massachusetts

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Sixteen of the top 25 windiest U.S. cities are located here.

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Michigan

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The Great Lake State offers the highest recycling refund in the country—10 cents per bottle or can. Unfortunately, a Seinfeld episode alerted out-of-staters to Michigan’s generosity, sparking a scheme that costs the state millions every year.

Minnesota

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This Land of 10,000 Lakes technically has more than 11,000.

Mississippi

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Dashing hatmaker John B. Stetson made his western creation at Dunn’s Falls after the Civil War, forever changing cowboy style.

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Missouri

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Thanks to St. Louis and snacks popularized at the 1904 World’s Fair, Americans can now throw back giant quantities of Dr Pepper, cotton candy, iced tea, waffle cones, and frankfurters.

Montana

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The temperature in Loma once climbed from -54 degrees F to 49 degrees within 24 hours—the largest one-day hike ever recorded.

Nebraska

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About 80 percent of the world’s sandhill crane population alights on Nebraska’s Platte River during the cranes’ annual spring migration, bringing with them thousands of bird-watchers.

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Nevada

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From 1951 to 1992, a swath of land about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas was used for hundreds of nuclear weapons tests.

New Hampshire

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This state’s license plates—bearing the slogan “Live Free or Die”—are made by prison inmates.

New Jersey

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When it comes to the Garden State, remember two things: horses and divorces. New Jersey has more horses per square mile than any other state, including Kentucky, and the lowest divorce rate in the country.

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New Mexico

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According to New Mexico state law, “idiots” are not allowed to vote. The statute doesn’t give a clear definition of who fits that description.

New York

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Twice a year, the setting sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan street grid, illuminating the borough’s east-west streets with an orange glow.

North Carolina

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The Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, is the largest privately owned home in the country, with more than four acres of floor space and 250 rooms (including 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms).

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North Dakota

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The state that drank the most beer per capita in 2013 and 2014 but fell to second place in 2015, according to one survey.

Ohio

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Half of the presidents who died in office were from Ohio: William Harrison, James Garfield, William McKinley, and Warren G. Harding. Check out these unlikely legacies of U.S. presidents.

Oklahoma

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It appears to serve up the only official state meal: a heaping plateful of fried okra, squash, corn bread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken-fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas.

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Oregon

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It boasts the nation’s fastest talkers, according to an analysis of consumer phone calls placed to businesses across the country. These are the most annoying speaking habits, according to science.

Pennsylvania

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This state’s name is spelled Pensylvania on the Liberty Bell. The Constitution uses one n in one section and two n’s in another.

Rhode Island

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The smallest state in the country has the longest official name: State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

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South Carolina

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The Angel Oak Tree, located near Charleston, is estimated to be one of the oldest living things in the country. It produces a shadow that covers about 17,000 square feet.

South Dakota

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Catching some z’s must be easier in South Dakota, which one survey found is the least sleep-deprived state in the country.

Tennessee

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On a clear day, seven states are visible from Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga.

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Texas

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The phrase “Don’t mess with Texas” originated 30 years ago as the slogan for a campaign meant to combat littering.

Utah

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The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry holds the highest concentration of Jurassic-era remains ever found. More than 12,000 dinosaur bones (and one egg!) have been excavated since the 1920s.

Vermont

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Don’t visit the Haskell Free Library and Opera House in Derby Line unless you’re prepped for travel. The stage is in Canada, while the fans watch from Vermont; the entrance is in the U.S., while the stacks are in lumberjack country.

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Virginia

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Virginia ranks number one in patriotism among the 50 states, according to one WalletHub survey, which based its list on factors like military and civic engagement.

Washington

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The world’s largest building by volume—Boeing’s final assembly factory in Everett—spans 98.3 acres and 472 million cubic feet. Seventy-five football fields could fit inside.

West Virginia

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In 1776, a group of residents asked the Continental Congress to create a 14th colony called Westylvania, including parts of West Virginia and surrounding areas; the plea was ignored.

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Wisconsin

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When the state dance is the polka, it’s awfully convenient that A World of Accordions, a museum with more than 1,000 types of squeeze-boxes, is also found in the state.

Wyoming

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There are only two sets of escalators in the entire state.

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