How the States Got Their Shapes

How the States Got Their Shapes

Book - 2008
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Baker & Taylor
An accessible history of how each of the fifty United States obtained their unique shapes offers insight into such topics as the super-sized geography of Texas, Oklahoma's panhandle, and Maryland's unusual layout.

HARPERCOLL

Why does Oklahoma have that panhandle? Did someone make a mistake?

We are so familiar with the map of the United States that our state borders seem as much a part of nature as mountains and rivers. Even the oddities—the entire state of Maryland(!)—have become so engrained that our map might as well be a giant jigsaw puzzle designed by Divine Providence. But that's where the real mystery begins. Every edge of the familiar wooden jigsaw pieces of our childhood represents a revealing moment of history and of, well, humans drawing lines in the sand.

How the States Got Their Shapes is the first book to tackle why our state lines are where they are. Here are the stories behind the stories, right down to the tiny northward jog at the eastern end of Tennessee and the teeny-tiny (and little known) parts of Delaware that are not attached to Delaware but to New Jersey.

How the States Got Their Shapes examines:

  • Why West Virginia has a finger creeping up the side of Pennsylvania
  • Why Michigan has an upper peninsula that isn't attached to Michigan
  • Why some Hawaiian islands are not Hawaii
  • Why Texas and California are so outsized, especially when so many Midwestern states are nearly identical in size

Packed with fun oddities and trivia, this entertaining guide also reveals the major fault lines of American history, from ideological intrigues and religious intolerance to major territorial acquisitions. Adding the fresh lens of local geographic disputes, military skirmishes, and land grabs, Mark Stein shows how the seemingly haphazard puzzle pieces of our nation fit together perfectly.



Book News
Drawing on the U.S. Geological Survey's "National Atlas of the U.S." website and other sources, Stein (a playwright/screenwriter who has taught writing and drama at American U. and Catholic U. in Washington, DC) relates interesting state-by-state backstories behind the jigsaw puzzle-like shapes of the 50 states--despite government efforts to equalize them in terms of size. Illustrations aid in explaining the historical derivation of their sometimes odd borders and answering questions such as: Why is California so big? Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Baker
& Taylor

An accessible history of how each of the fifty United States obtained their unique shapes offers insight into such topics as the super-sized geography of Texas, Oklahoma's panhandle, and Maryland's unusual layout, in a lighthearted chronicle that features complementary information on land disputes and military skirmishes. 30,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Smithsonian Books/Collins, 2008
ISBN: 9780061431388
0061431389
9780061431395
Branch Call Number: E180 .S735 2008
Characteristics: xv, 332 p. : maps ; 24 cm

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b
BLACKSQUIRREL_1
Jul 17, 2015

It was really interesting, especially the states where I've lived.

j
jhwendland
May 24, 2011

Great premise, horrible book. There are 51 chapters - in alphabetical order - that range from two to eight pages. This is the opposite of a page turner. Stein isn't a historian, and he actually admits in his introduction that most of his research came from an online atlas.

r
ryner
Jun 24, 2009

Mark Stein walks the reader through a virtual geographic tour of our fifty states, describing how each of them got its unique northern, southern, eastern and western borders.

While initially interesting, by the time the reader is about halfway through, it starts to feel repetitive. For example, once you've read about how Iowa got its northern border, reading about how Minnesota got its southern border feels redundant. Still, an interesting lesson in history and politics.

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