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How the States Got Their Shapes

by

How the States Got Their Shapes Cover

ISBN13: 9780061431388
ISBN10: 0061431389
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"America's first century was defined by expansion and the negotiation of territories among areas colonized by the French and Spanish, or occupied by natives. The exact location of borders became paramount; playwright and screenwriter Stein amasses the story of each state's border, channeling them into a cohesive whole. Proceeding through the states alphabetically, Stein takes the innovative step of addressing each border-north, south, east, west-separately. Border stories shine a spotlight on many aspects of American history: the 49th parallel was chosen for the northern borders of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana because they ensured England's access to the Great Lakes, vital to their fur trade; in 1846, Washington D.C. residents south of the Potomac successfully petitioned to rejoin Virginia (called both 'retrocession' and 'a crime') in order to keep out free African-Americans. Aside from tales of violent conquest and political glad-handing, there's early, breathtaking tales of American politicos' favorite sport, gerrymandering (in 1864, Idaho judge Sidney Edgerton single-handedly 'derailed' Idaho's proposed boundary, to Montana's benefit, with $2,000 in gold). American history enthusiasts should be captivated by this fun, informative text." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Stein explores the borders of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia....If you ever wondered why Delaware owns a small portion of the southwest New Jersey coast, the answer is here!" Library Journal

Book News Annotation:

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)

About the Author

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 writing and drama at American University and Catholic University and lives in Washington, D.C.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

richard.e.edwards, December 4, 2008 (view all comments by richard.e.edwards)
It's a useful and enjoyable book, written for the average reader and not the professional. Only one thing has really disappointed me: Stein doesn't explain how Georgia manage to retain on its border with Alabama the entire Chattahoochee River to the high water mark on the west bank. It seems grossly unfair to Alabama, and I'm curious why Congress allowed it.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
uaimh, September 11, 2008 (view all comments by uaimh)
was expecting an informative historical or geographical work about US boundaries, instead I read a book of stories, and mistruths. I am a geographer by education and profession and I find a book like this without obvious research a danger to learning. There are a number of much more accurate works on the subject. One of the most egregious errors is the statement that George Washington appointed Benjamin Bannecker to survey the DC boundary. Actually Andrew Ellicott was appointed to the position. Bannecker was hired to work as an astronomer with the survey. Since there appears to be a major error every other state, this book is worthless. Does anyome fact check anymore? Read The Fabric of America by Andro Linklater instead or American Boundaries: The Nation, the States, the Rectangular Survey by Bill Hubbard This is one book I will recycle rather than resell.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061431388
Author:
Stein, Mark
Publisher:
Smithsonian
Author:
by Mark Stein
Author:
by Mark Stein
Subject:
History
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Boundaries
Subject:
Historical geography
Subject:
U.S. states - Boundaries
Subject:
United States Boundaries.
Subject:
US History-General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20080527
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1.13 in 18 oz

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Americana » General
History and Social Science » Geography » North America
History and Social Science » US History » General
History and Social Science » World History » General

How the States Got Their Shapes Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Collins - English 9780061431388 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "America's first century was defined by expansion and the negotiation of territories among areas colonized by the French and Spanish, or occupied by natives. The exact location of borders became paramount; playwright and screenwriter Stein amasses the story of each state's border, channeling them into a cohesive whole. Proceeding through the states alphabetically, Stein takes the innovative step of addressing each border-north, south, east, west-separately. Border stories shine a spotlight on many aspects of American history: the 49th parallel was chosen for the northern borders of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana because they ensured England's access to the Great Lakes, vital to their fur trade; in 1846, Washington D.C. residents south of the Potomac successfully petitioned to rejoin Virginia (called both 'retrocession' and 'a crime') in order to keep out free African-Americans. Aside from tales of violent conquest and political glad-handing, there's early, breathtaking tales of American politicos' favorite sport, gerrymandering (in 1864, Idaho judge Sidney Edgerton single-handedly 'derailed' Idaho's proposed boundary, to Montana's benefit, with $2,000 in gold). American history enthusiasts should be captivated by this fun, informative text." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Stein explores the borders of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia....If you ever wondered why Delaware owns a small portion of the southwest New Jersey coast, the answer is here!"
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