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How the States Got Their Shapes

How the States Got Their Shapes

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.


Chapter 1: Roger Williams: The Boundary of Religion

Chapter 2: Augustine Herman: Why We Have Delaware

Chapter 3: Robert Jenkins’s Ear: Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Chapter 4: Robert Tufton Mason: Winning New Hampshire

Chapter 5: Lord Fairfax: What You Know or Who You Know?

Chapter 6: Mason and Dixon: America’s Most Famous (and Misunderstood) Line

Chapter 7: Zebulon Butler: Connecticut’s Lost Cause

Chapter 8: Ethan Allen Vermont: The Fourteenth Colony

Chapter 9: Thomas Jefferson: Lines on the Map in Invisible Ink

Chapter 10: John Meares: The U.S. Line from Spanish Canada

Chapter 11: Benjamin Banneker: To Be Brilliant and Black in the New Nation

Chapter 12: Jesse Hawley: The Erie Canal and the Gush of Redrawn Lines

Chapter 13: James Brittain: The Man History Tried to Erase

Chapter 14: Reuben Kemper: From Zero To Hero?

Chapter 15: Richard Rush: The 49th Parallel: A New Line of Americans

Chapter 16: Nathaniel Pope: Illinois’s Most Boring Border

Chapter 17: John Hardeman Walker: Putting the Boot Heel on Missouri

Chapter 18: John Quincy Adams: The Massachusetts Texan

Chapter 19: Sequoyah: The Cherokee Line

Chapter 20: Stevens T. Mason: The Toledo War

Chapter 21: Robert Lucas: Ohio Boundary Champ Takes on Missouri and Minnesota

Chapter 22: Daniel Webster: Maine’s Border: The Devil in Daniel Webster

Chapter 23: James K. Polk: Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!

Chapter 24: Robert M. T. Hunter: Cutting Washington Down to Size

Chapter 25: Sam Houston: The Man Who Lassoed Texas

Chapter 26: Brigham Young: The Boundary of Religion Revisited

Chapter 27: John A. Sutter: California: Boundless Opportunity

Chapter 28: James Gadsden: Government Aid to Big Business

Chapter 29: Stephen A. Douglas: The Line on Slavery: Erasing and Redrawing

Chapter 30: John A. Quitman: Annexing Cuba: Liberty, Security, Slavery

Chapter 31: Clarina Nichols: Using Boundaries to Break Boundaries

Chapter 32: Lyman Cutler’s: Neighbor’s Pig The British-American Pig War

Chapter 33: Robert W. Steele: Rocky Mountain Rogue?

Chapter 34: Francis H. Pierpont: The Battle Line That Became a State Line

Chapter 35: Francisco Perea and John S. Watts: Two Sides of the Coin of the Realm

Chapter 36: Sidney Edgerton and James Ashley: Good as Gold

Chapter 37: William H. Seward: Why Buy Alaska?

Chapter 38: Standing Bear v. Crook: The Legal Boundary of Humanity

Chapter 39: Lili’uokalani and Sanford Dole: Bordering on Empire

Chapter 40: Alfalfa Bill Murray, Edward P. McCabe, and Chief Green McCurtain: Oklahoma’s Racial Boundaries

Chapter 41: Bernard J. Berry: New Jersey Invades Ellis Island

Chapter 42: Luis Ferré: Puerto Rico: The Fifty-First State?

Chapter 43: David Shafer: When the Grass Is Greener on the Other Side

Chapter 44: Eleanor Holmes Norton: Taxation without Representation


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