Special Report

Most Important Historical Event in Every State

Grant Suneson, John Harrington

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. Hawaii
> Event: Attack on Pearl Harbor
> Year: 1941
> Location: Honolulu

The assault on the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire was a surprise attack, though relations between the two nations had been deteriorating for years. The United States did not think an attack would occur near the U.S. mainland, and the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor, where the fleet was based, were not well defended. The attack destroyed 20 American ships, more than 300 airplanes, and killed more than 2,400 people. Fortunately for America, oil storage depots, shipyards, and other facilities in Hawaii were not destroyed, and the U.S. aircraft carriers were not in Hawaii during the attack, which brought the United States into World War II.

See all stories featuring: Hawaii

Source: US Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

12. Idaho
> Event: The Big Burn
> Year: 1910
> Location: Northern Idaho

The Western United States in 1910 suffered from a severe drought that left much of the wilderness especially susceptible to fire. The conditions led to The Big Burn, a massive forest fire that torched over 3 million acres of land across Montana, Washington, and Idaho and killed 87 people, at least 78 of them firefighters.

The deaths and wide swath of damage started a renewed interest in conservation in Americans. President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to acquire land for the national forest system after his election in 1904, but Congress refused. The Big Burn shifted public interest, and in 1911, Congress passed a law leading to the purchase of more than 20 million acres of land for the national forest system. Also, the National Forest Service’s budget was doubled.

See all stories featuring: Idaho

Source: Chicago Historical Society

13. Illinois
> Event: Chicago Fire
> Year: 1871
> Location: Chicago

Prolonged dry weather and the haphazard construction of wooden structures all contributed to the conditions for the Chicago Fire. The blaze killed 300 people, destroyed thousands of buildings, and damaged an estimated $200 million worth of property. Luckily for the city, its transportation infrastructure was left intact. In the wake of the conflagration, Chicago implemented stricter building and fire codes. From the ruins emerged the nation’s first skyscrapers and a teeming metropolis.

See all stories featuring: Illinois

Source: Alonzo Chappel / Wikimedia Commons

14. Indiana
> Event: Native American Uprising
> Year: 1811
> Location: Tippecanoe

In the early 19th century, Native American tribes had had enough of white settlers moving into their lands. An organized resistance, brought together by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, set up a village in Central Indiana. Gov. William Henry Harrison led around 1,100 men to confront them.

Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa, initially requested a ceasefire, but he broke it and attacked the militia in the early morning. Harrison’s troops endured the attack and eventually forced the native fighters to retreat. Though Harrison lost more troops than the tribes, he developed a reputation as a war hero that eventually helped him get elected president decades later.

See all stories featuring: Indiana

Source: Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

15. Iowa
> Event: Creation of caucuses
> Year: 1976
> Location: Statewide

The caucuses are unique to Iowa in its political procedure of selecting presidential candidates. For candidates such as Jimmy Carter, success at the caucuses in 1976 generated momentum toward his eventual nomination for president. The process emerged out of the chaos of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

For the Democrats, the caucuses are akin to a neighborhood meeting in which supporters of a particular candidate make their pitch to caucus-goers. Caucus attendees then gather in groups in various parts of the room for the candidate of their choice. The elected chairperson of the caucus counts the supporters of each candidate. The Republican process is less complicated.

See all stories featuring: Iowa