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The Most Historic Firsts from Every U.S. State

Which state was the first to declare Christmas a legal holiday? And where was the nation's first football game played? Read on to find out!

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Ornaments and lights on the Christmas tree


Alabama became the first U.S. state to observe Christmas as a legal holiday in 1836. And this state was way ahead of the curve; Christmas Day didn’t become a federal holiday for another 30 years. Here are 50 more astonishing facts you never knew about the 50 states.

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Hammer and nails on wood background


The Hammer Museum, the world’s first museum devoted exclusively to hammers, is located in Haines, Alaska. Its extensive collections offer everything from hammer sculptures, to handle-making machinery, to spring-loaded meat tenderizers. Check out these other little-known facts about America.

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A scenic view of a historic Route 66 sign with a sky blue background
Mike Flippo/Shutterstock


You can thank Arizona for your next cross-country road trip. Local Arizonans created the nation’s first Route 66 association in 1987 and received the first-ever “Historic Route 66” designation, bringing new life to the now-famous Mother Road. Try these iconic bucket list ideas for every state.

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In 1962, an Arkansan businessman named Sam Walton opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas with a $20,000 loan. Today, the discount mega-retailer has expanded to over 11,000 stores across 27 countries and makes over $100 billion in revenues each year.

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Did you know that the famous fast-food chain McDonald’s calls California home? Brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard McDonald opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California in 1948. Back then, a plain hamburger cost 15 cents. Don’t miss the U.S. state facts everyone gets wrong.

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In 2012, the residents of Colorado voted to legalize cannabis (or marijuana) for recreational use. Both Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to do so that year. Other “firsts” quickly followed, including the nation’s first drive-through marijuana dispensaries.

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two open telephone books, one with white one with yellow pages
Michal Kowalski/Shutterstock


The nation’s first phone book was published in New Haven in February 1878. Fun fact: The “book” was made with a single piece of cardboard and contained just 50 names.

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Mike Flippo/Shutterstock


The original U.S. flag, which consisted of 13 stars arranged in a circle, was reportedly flown for the first time during the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge in Delaware on September 3, 1777. American General William Maxwell ordered his men to raise the Stars and Stripes banner as the rebels clashed with British troops.

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Suntan cream bottle on beach towel with sea shore on background. Sunscreen on deck chair outdoors on sunrise or sunset at luxury spa resort. Skin care and protection concept and travel. Golden tan.
Artie Medvedev/Shutterstock


It probably comes as no surprise that the Sunshine State is also the birthplace of sunscreen. A Miami pharmacist named Benjamin Green invented the first suntan lotion to protect himself from UV rays during World War II. We now know Green’s product as Coppertone sunscreen.

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SABAH, MALAYSIA April 10, 2015 : Coca-Cola can with background blurring tree in a park. suitable for decorating supermarkets and restaurants
Mejini Neskah/Shutterstock


It may be the most recognized soda in the world, but had humble beginnings. In 1886, inventor John Pemberton carried a jug of the sweet, carbonated beverage across the street to a small pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, where it was first sold at a soda fountain for five cents a glass. These are the most famous inventions from every state.

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Colorful surf boards on the beach


Before it became a U.S. state, Hawaii is said to have invented an original sport. Ancient Hawaiians created the very first surfboards, some of which could reach up to 150 feet in length.

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Mountain skiing are on the background of snowy mountains, 4K.
PERO studio/Shutterstock


Colorado and Utah might be among the most popular destinations for skiers. But Sun Valley, Idaho has gone down in history as the home of America’s first ski resort.

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Looking up Lower Manhattan skyscrapers, New York City


The Home Insurance Building, built in 1885 and located in Chicago, Illinois, claims to be the world’s first skyscraper. Designed by William Le Baron Jenney, who was known as the “Father of the Skyscraper,” it towered at a whopping 10 stories tall. Here’s the strangest fact from every state.

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Hanging decorative christmas lights for a wedding ceremony


Wabash, Indiana was illuminated by electric lights at 8 p.m. on March 31, 1880, becoming the first city in the world to be lit by electricity. To make it happen, four “Brush lights” were placed at the top of the Wabash courthouse.

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Electronic circuit board close up.


An Iowa State University physics professor named John Vincent Atanasoff, along with his graduate assistant Clifford Berry, invented the world’s first digital computer in the 1940s. They named it the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, or the ABC for short. Believe it or not, this early computer could only perform basic addition and subtraction—and was about the size of a desk.

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Woman hand casts a ballot as she votes for the local elections at a polling station. Focus on hand.
Damir Sencar/Shutterstock


Susan Madora Salter was elected mayor of the city of Argonia in 1887, making her the first female mayor in the United States. Back then, she had to win the support of an all-male voter base; it would be more than 30 years before women could cast a ballot.

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Wrapped white eustoma flowers bouquet


Mother’s Day was first celebrated by Kentucky schoolteacher Mary Towles Sasseen on April 20, 1887, which was her mother’s birthday. The holiday became increasingly popular over the years, and President Woodrow Wilson officially declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914.

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closed theater curtain of red velvet, texture, background
Irina oxilixo Danilova/Shutterstock


New Orleans’s Théâtre de la Rue St. Pierre hosted the first documented opera performance in the United States on May 22, 1796. The production? Ernest Grétry’s Sylvain. Check out these iconic movies set in every state.

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Sunrise in the morning, sunrise with clouds.


As the easternmost city in the United States, Eastport, Maine is considered the first place in the United States to see sunlight each morning.

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The old and vintage electrical telegraph, Morse system.


The world’s first telegraph was sent on May 24, 1844, from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland. The message simply said “What hath God wrought?,” a quote from the Bible. It was recorded on a paper tape and sent by inventor Samuel F.B. Morse.

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College campus in the spring
Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock


While several schools claim to be the first university in the United States, Harvard University is the most widely accepted one. Founded in 1636, the Ivy League school even got a special shout-out in the 1779 Massachusetts Constitution. Find out the U.S. trivia your teacher never taught you.

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mechanic hands are fixing old rusted drum brake and disc brake mechanism of car by hand


The world’s first moving automobile assembly line, developed by Henry Ford, kicked off at a Hyland Park facility in 1913. In just one year, the plant decreased production time from 12 and a half hours to 93 minutes.

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Harry Thomas Flower/Shutterstock


Hibbing, Minnesota is home to the nation’s very first bus line. When it was established in 1914, the route consisted of one bus that drove back and forth between the towns of Hibbing and Alice. The bus line eventually grew to become Greyhound Lines, Inc., inspiring the American bus industry as we know it today.

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instruments for plastic surgery on white background top view
279photo Studio/Shutterstock


Both the world’s first lung and heart transplants were performed in the state of Mississippi. Dr. James D. Hardy, a surgeon at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, completed the world’s first human lung transplant in 1963. One year later, he also performed the first heart transplant surgery in the world.

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In 1904, Missouri hosted the first Olympics held in the United States. But because many European nations complained about the cost and time required to travel to the state’s capital, only 12 other countries participated. The United States ended up taking home 239 medals, the most ever won in a single Olympics at the time. Can you guess the U.S. state from its nickname?

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Holy Bible book lying in a open drawer. selective focus on a holy bible sign
Alexey Rotanov/Shutterstock


For a seasoned traveler, few things are more reliable than finding that small Gideon Bible inside every hotel room’s bedside drawer. The practice is said to have originated in Montana when two traveling salesmen met in a hotel room and began distributing Bibles to hotels around the United States.

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Two hands of the men was carrying a bag of potting seedlings to be planted into the soil.


Hoping to encourage people to plant more trees in Nebraska, politician J. Sterling Morton proposed a holiday solely dedicated to that purpose. The state celebrated its first “Arbor Day” on April 10, 1872; residents planted an estimated 1 million trees that day. Find out the hidden gems in every state.

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A young man in a voting booth, side view


Long before it became the entertainment capital of the nation, the state of Nevada was the first state to ratify the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving African-American men the right to vote.

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Charlotte potatoes background which are a popular early variety potato
Tony Baggett/Shutterstock

New Hampshire

In 1719, a group of Scotch-Irish immigrants settled in the town of Nutfield, New Hampshire. There, they planted a field known as the Common Field, where they harvested the first potato ever grown in North America.

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old leather balls

New Jersey

Princeton and Rutgers University faced off in the nation’s first intercollegiate football game, which took place in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1869. Twenty-five players from each college played in street clothes, while several hundred people watched from the sidelines. Rutgers won the game 6 to 4.

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New Mexico

The first atomic bomb was detonated in the desert sands of south-central New Mexico on July 16, 1945. Known by the code name Trinity, its replica was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, a few weeks later. The area is now a National Historic Site.

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Young woman and little child holding american flag. Independence Day concept. Family together
Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock

New York

New York—not Washington, D.C.—is the site of the first presidential inauguration. George Washington took the oath of office on April 30, 1789, while standing on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. Check out these 11 surprising facts about George Washington you never learned in school.

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North Carolina

The Wright Brothers tested and launched their first planes in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The rural area had soft, empty fields and steady winds, making it an ideal place for flying. To this day, North Carolina license plates claim that their state was “First In Flight.”

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Grizzly bear closeup
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North Dakota

While traveling through North Dakota, the Lewis and Clark expedition made the first-ever recorded encounter with a grizzly bear. The bear weighed an estimated 600 pounds, and the men fired ten shots before killing it.

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the devices of baseball


The Cincinnati Red Stockings were established in 1869, becoming the first professional baseball team in the nation. Ohio also claims two other baseball fan favorites: America’s first chewing gum and the first hot dog. Find out the craziest world record from every state.

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Strongest tornado in Canada
Justin Hobson/Shutterstock


Oklahoma City issued the first “tornado warning” in the United States on March 25, 1948, hours before a tornado hit the Tinker Air Force base. Air Force Captain Robert C. Miller and Major Ernest J. Fawbush had correctly predicted that atmospheric conditions could cause a tornado and issued the warning, saving many lives.

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one way


Eugene, Oregon was the first city in America to have one-way streets, which made it safer for bicyclists to share the roads with cars. In fact, “Bicycling Magazine” has named it one of the top ten cycling communities in the United States.

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Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia
Songquan Deng/Shutterstock


Contrary to popular belief, Washington, D.C. hasn’t always been the nation’s capital city. The first city to claim the title was actually Philadelphia where the First Continental Congress met in 1774. Seven other cities have held the title since then, until Washington, D.C. became the permanent U.S. capital in 1790. Learn more facts you never knew about our nation’s capital.

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Speed Limit 25 Mph Sign on a Bright Sunny Morning with Fluffy Clouds in the Background
Mike Kuhlman/Shutterstock

Rhode Island

Rhode Island appears to have a zero tolerance policy for speeding. This state created the nation’s first traffic law in 1678 when its officials banned galloping horses on streets in Newport. In 1904, the first speeding ticket was also issued in Newport. But that doesn’t beat the 50 dumbest laws in every state.

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Jose Gil/Shutterstock

South Carolina

Soldiers fired the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in 1861. The military base continued to be occupied through World War II, and it now attracts over 750,000 visitors each year. Don’t miss more historic landmarks in every state.

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Hot balloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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South Dakota

The first modern hot air balloon system—which used propane instead of hydrogen gas—was invented by engineers at Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in the late 1950s. On its maiden flight, the new balloon lasted 25 minutes and traveled three miles.

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native american indian chief headdress
seagames50 images/Shutterstock


While living in Tennessee, a Cherokee silversmith named Sequoyah developed the first written language for his Native American people. In doing so, he also became the only known man in history to single-handedly create an alphabet.

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American West rodeo cowboy traditional white straw hat with roping lasso rope and vintage western riding spurs on brown leather boots over hide background
Olivier Le Queinec/Shutterstock


Although several states claim to have hosted the first rodeo in America—including New Mexico and Colorado—it’s Texas that boasts the earliest. Pecos, Texas held the world’s first rodeo in 1883.

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TY Lim/Shutterstock


Believe it or not, the location of the first-ever KFC wasn’t in Kentucky, but rather in Salt Lake City, Utah. Colonel Sanders’s beloved fried chicken recipe was first served at a friend’s café in the area, and within weeks, customers were lining up around the block to get a taste.

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Document text "We the People" of the preamble to the United States constitution with american flag in background
Charles Brutlag/Shutterstock


In 1777, as an independent republic, Vermont abolished slavery. It wasn’t until 1965 that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery across the nation—nearly 100 years after Vermont did.

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Christmas turkey


You might remember from high school U.S. history class that Virginia is home to the first permanent English settlement, Jamestown, which was established in 1607. The first American Thanksgiving was also held in Virginia in 1619. For this reason, Virginia is known as “the birthplace of the nation.”

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These days, it seems like you can find a Starbucks store on every block. But when the multi-million dollar franchise launched in 1971, it owned just one storefront in Seattle. The company eventually expanded to Chicago and Canada in 1987, and today it boasts over 27,000 stores worldwide. Find out the best state fair or festival in each state.

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Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock

West Virginia

Georgeann Wells, a basketball player at West Virginia University, became the first woman to dunk in a college basketball game in 1985. But because nobody recorded the feat, she did it again three games later. This time, it was caught on tape.

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roll of toilet paper


Wisconsin isn’t only known for its world-class cheese and beer; it is also the “Toilet Paper Capital of the World.” Yes, you read that right. The first splinter-free toilet paper was invented by Northern Paper—which eventually became Quilted Northern—in Green Bay, Wisconsin in the 1930s.

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Yellowstone national park sign


Located mostly in Wyoming (although found in parts of Montana and Idaho, too), Yellowstone National Park is the first-ever national park in the United States and the world. It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Find out more U.S. geography facts you didn’t learn in school.

Brooke Nelson Alexander
Brooke is a tech and consumer products writer covering the latest in digital trends, product reviews, security and privacy, and other news and features for Reader's Digest. She's a two-time Emmy-nominated reporter with nearly 10 years of publishing experience, and her work has been recognized by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.