There’s a lot to learn about the United States, and most of it isn’t taught in history books. Here is the last installment of our look at some of the little-known state facts:
Ohio. The Ohio state flag is the only state flag that isn’t a rectangle. It’s believed that the designer may have been inspired by the shape of a pennant carried by the U.S. Cavalry. There’s also quite a bit of symbolism in the flag. The red circle represents the buckeye, while the white ring around it is an “O” for “Ohio.” The triangles are meant to symbolize the state’s hills and valleys. The 17 stars remind us that Ohio was the 17th state to join the Union in 1803 (although due to an oversight it wasn’t made “official” until 1953 – retroactively of course!).
Oklahoma. Oklahoma is known as the Sooner state for good reason. In 1889, when the U.S. government had planned to open approximately 2 million acres of land for settlement, many people entered the land before the land’s run designated time. These people were dubbed “sooners.” In 1908, the year after Oklahoma officially became a state, the University of Oklahoma’s football team took “Sooners” as its nickname. The nickname became so popular that the state adopted it as its official nickname.
Oregon. The world’s smallest park is located in Portland, Oregon. Mill Ends Park is a only 2-square feet, and was the creation of Oregon Journal columnist Dick Fagan. In 1948 he claimed to have spotted a leprechaun digging in that spot, and after running out of his office and catching it, made a wish for his very own park. Many years and several creative musings on the two-foot circle later, the city designated it an official park in 1976. It’s also considered the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland!
Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is home to the first drive-in gas station in 1913. While there were many places to buy gas before this Gulf Oil station opened, it was the first one designed specifically to sell gas. And the rest is history.
Rhode Island. The oldest tavern in the U.S. is the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, which originally opened its doors in 1673. At nearly 350 years old, the restaurant is still up and running today!
South Carolina. Morgan Island, also known as Monkey Island, is an uninhabited island that is home to the only free-ranging colony of rhesus macaque monkeys in the United States. There are over 4,000 monkeys on the island. The original colony arrived in South Carolina via a Puerto Rico research facility in the 1970s, and has been used by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ever since.
South Dakota. The Crazy Horse mountain carving now in progress will be the world’s largest sculpture (563′ high, 641′ long, carved in the round). It is the focal point of an educational and cultural memorial to and for the North American Indian.
Tennessee. Tennessee hosts America’s longest-running radio show, The Grand Ole Opry. The show went on the air as the “WSM Barn Dance” in 1925. It was later deemed “The Grand Ole Opry” by show host George Hay, and it’s still on the air 95 years later.
Texas. The King Ranch in South Texas is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island. It covers 1,289 square miles, versus Rhode Island which is only 1,212 square miles. There's also a windmill farm that's about seven times the size of Manhattan.
Utah. We associate Kentucky Fried Chicken with Kentucky, but it was actually first sold in Utah! Utahans were the first to buy and get a taste of KFC. It was at the Harman Cafe in Salk Lake City that Colonel Sanders experienced his first success with the fried chicken recipe.
Vermont. Vermont produces an average of 1.2 million gallons of maple syrup every year. That makes it the largest producer of maple syrup in the country.
Virginia. The first woman-run bank in the U.S. started in Richmond, Virginia. Maggie Lena Walker was a successful African American businesswoman who chartered a bank, St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, in 1903. She was the bank’s first president and later chairman of the board of directors, providing black bank patrons a safe space to do business in the Jim Crow South. After a merger with two other banks, it survived as the oldest continuous black-run bank in the U.S. until 2009.
Washington. Washington is the biggest producer of apples, raspberries, and sweet cherries in America. In fact, 6 out of 10 apples consumed in America are from Washington.
West Virginia. The historic Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs has hosted more than half of all U.S. Presidents. During the Cold War, it was also the location of a secret bunker where Congress could operate for up to 40 days in the event of a nuclear strike – until the Washington Post exposed the facility in 1992.
Wisconsin. Wisconsin prohibited the sale and use of margarine from 1895 to 1967 to protect its dairy industry. Although the ban has since been lifted, there are still some restrictions that remain on margarine. Today, it is still illegal for restaurants to serve their customers margarine in place of butter unless the customer requests for it.
Wyoming. There are only two sets of escalators in the entire state of Wyoming. Both are located in the city of Casper, and no one is exactly sure of the reason behind the strange rarity. Outside of stairs, some think that it may be due to the cost effectiveness and efficiency of elevators.
That wraps up our fact-finding mission across all 50 states! One thing is certain – the United States is truly unique from coast to coast!
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