How the States Got Their Shapes
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Mark Stein is a playwright and screenwriter. His plays have been performed off-Broadway and at theaters throughout the country. His films include Housesitter, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. He has taught at American University and Catholic University.
elements of mid-19th-century American life. The location of its boundaries preserves something more. Since they were dictated by California, they were located with the concerns of California in mind, not, as when Congress located borders, with the concerns of the region as a whole. Why, for instance, did the state’s founders include southern California? In those years, it contained far more desert than it does today, with the irrigation that has since been developed. The valuable harbor at San
Pennsylvania Conigogee Creek 60 West Virginia Maryland Ana Potoma c costia D.C. Virginia Alexandria FIG. 49 The Area Along the Potomac Available for the Nation’s Capital Hagerstown, Maryland. (Figure 49) The reason for these parameters was that just beyond Conigogee Creek were the Appalachian Mountains, presenting a formidable barrier to diplomatic travel. Below Alexandria, prosperous plantations (including George Washington’s) lined the Potomac. Neither Maryland nor Virginia was
border continued west as a straight line to the mouth of the Chattahoochee River. This border remains to this day. (See Figure 55, in FLORIDA.) Georgia’s Western Border Shortly after the American Revolution, Georgia joined with the other states that had land claims west of the Appalachians and donated that land to the federal government. In the case of Georgia, the donated land would later become Alabama and Mississippi. Since there were no Appalachians except at the northern end of Georgia,
Territory—1838 pi I OWA 99 Iowa’s Western Border When Iowa was granted territorial status in 1838, it came with a vast amount of land—everything between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, from present-day Iowa up to the Canadian border. (Figure 71) While these boundaries would eventually be redefined, nearly all of Iowa’s western border had now emerged: the Missouri River. When an 1877 flood shifted the river’s channel to Omaha, Nebraska, Iowa and Nebraska disputed possession of the land
acquired another. The boundaries of its newly acquired colony, which the British named New York, were those inherited from the Dutch—and they conflicted with, among others, those of Massachusetts. Massachusetts argued that its western border should be the Hudson River (thus giving the western part of the colony access to the sea). New York claimed its border with Massachusetts should be the Connecticut River, as the Dutch had claimed. (See Figure 121, in NEW YORK.) Unable to resolve their