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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.

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Alabama

The only state whose official drink is an alcoholic beverage (Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey, originally distilled by legendary moonshiner Clyde May). These are the 50 dumbest laws in every state.

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Alaska

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.

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Arizona

The state that produces enough cotton each year to make two T-shirts for every American (that’s 599 million tees). Say these 9 words and we’ll be able to tell you where you grew up.

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Arkansas

Famous for its diamond trade, Arkansas is the only state where tourists can search for diamonds in their original volcanic source. At Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park, tourists can dig through fields maintained by the park and are allowed to keep any diamonds they discover. The park also offers a complimentary identification and registration of the gems.

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California

If it were a country, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world, beating out Italy, Russia, and India. These are the strangest food laws you’ll find in every state.

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Colorado

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

The first phone book was published in New Haven in February 1878, containing just 50 names. Similarly, Connecticut’s Hartford Courant is the country’s oldest continuously published paper, per Mental Floss. In case you’re curious, here’s how every U.S. State got named.

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Delaware

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

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Florida

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. These are the cheapest months of the year to visit all 50 states.

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Georgia

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

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Hawaii

The only state covered entirely by its own time zone, Hawaii-Aleutian, also doesn’t observe daylight saving.  Here are 50 hilarious jokes for each of the 50 states.

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Idaho

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.

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Illinois

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. Learn more about what every state in America is best—and worst—at.

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Indiana

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.

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Iowa

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

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. But it’s worth noting that Kansas isn’t the flattest U.S. state. That title goes to…Florida.

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Kentucky

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.

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Louisiana

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.

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Maine

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. You may think Maine is an odd name, but only because you haven’t heard these names of states that were almost part of the United States yet.

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Maryland

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

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Massachusetts

Sixteen of the top 25 windiest U.S. cities are located here. It’s a good thing Boston has the T to protect people from cold and windy weather. In fact, Boston established the country’s first subway system in 1897, per Mental Floss. Check out the 50 best adventures in each of the 50 states.

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Michigan

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.

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Minnesota

This Land of 10,000 Lakes technically has more than 11,000. Oddly enough, you’d be wrong if you said that state had the most lakes. It’s neighbor Wisconsin has over 15,000, but both of those pale in comparison to Alaska, with more than 3 million lakes. Here are some more state “facts” that everyone gets wrong.

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Mississippi

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

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. Sounds pretty spectacular, but did Missouri make the list of the happiest states in America?

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Montana

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

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Nebraska

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. Add viewing this migration to Nebraska’s entry on the best bucket list adventures in each of the 50 states.

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Nevada

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

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New Hampshire

This state’s license plates—bearing the slogan “Live Free or Die”—are made by prison inmates. Can you guess the one letter that doesn’t appear in any state name?

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New Jersey

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

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. Check out these 15 fascinating facts about America.

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New York

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

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North Carolina


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). Can you name the U.S. State without its vowels?

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North Dakota

In 2007, North Dakota nabbed the Guinness World Record for Most People Making Snow Angels Simultaneously. The State Historical Society of North Dakota organized the event and rounded up 8,962 people on the Capitol’s lawn to participate.

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Ohio

Half of the presidents who died in office were from Ohio: William Harrison, James Garfield, William McKinley, and Warren G. Harding. For more presidential trivia, check out these delightful little-known talents of U.S. presidents.

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Oklahoma

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

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Oregon

It boasts the nation’s fastest talkers, according to an analysis of consumer phone calls placed to businesses across the country. They may be speaking quickly, but they aren’t one of the most stressed-out states in America.

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Pennsylvania

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.

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Rhode Island

The smallest state in the country has the longest official name: State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. These are the best supermarkets in every state.

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South Carolina

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.

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South Dakota

Catching some z’s must be easier in South Dakota, which one survey found is the least sleep-deprived state in the country. Do you know what the 51st and 52nd states could be?

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Tennessee

On a clear day, seven states are visible from Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga. But you don’t have to look further than Chattanooga for the largest freshwater aquarium in the world.

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Texas

The phrase “Don’t mess with Texas” originated in 1985 as the slogan for a campaign meant to combat littering. It has gone on to be a very famous line within the state and even appears on the crest of the USS Texas submarine. These 30 brain facts will blow your mind.

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Utah

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.

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Vermont

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. Check out these 25 international laws you’d never know where real.

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Virginia

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.

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Washington

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. At least Washington isn’t on the list of states with the most dangerous drivers.

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West Virginia

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

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. You may not associate Wisconsin with an island paradise, but this Wisconsin island of 700 people is your next dream vacation.

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Wyoming

There are only two sets of escalators in the entire state. Next, check out the most iconic book set in every state.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest