Special Report

This Is How Each State Got Its Shape

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26. Montana
> Population: 1,062,305
> Size (square miles): 145,545
> Capital: Helena
> Founded: Nov. 8, 1889 (41st state to join)
> Famous landmarks: Glacier National Park

Montana owes its contours to Sidney Edgerton, the state’s first territorial governor. Montana was split from the massive Idaho Territory that included what is now Idaho, Montana, and part of Wyoming. Lincoln chose Edgerton as chief justice of the Idaho Territory Supreme Court, and Edgerton was picked to make Montana’s case to become its own territory. Edgerton proposed making Montana’s western boundary along the Bitterroot Mountains, and as a result Montana, gained the riches of the Bitterroot Valley as well as the eventual wealth of Butte.

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27. Nebraska
> Population: 1,929,268
> Size (square miles): 76,824
> Capital: Lincoln
> Founded: March 1, 1867 (37th state to join)
> Famous landmarks: Scotts Bluff National Monument

The current area that comprises the state of Nebraska is just a fraction of what the Nebraska Territory used to be. After being organized in 1854, the Nebraska Territory stretched from the Canadian border to present-day Kansas’ northern boundary, in between the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri River. This area contained parts of modern Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The territory was gradually whittled down as the federal government introduced the Dakota, Idaho, and Colorado Territories. Nebraska actually grew after becoming a state in 1867, acquiring land from the Sioux Tribe in 1889.

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28. Nevada
> Population: 3,034,392,
> Size (square miles): 109,781
> Capital: Carson City
> Founded: Oct. 31, 1864 (36th state to join)
> Famous landmarks: Hoover Dam

Nevada’s borders have expanded since it joined the Union in 1864. The northern border where Nevada meets Idaho and Oregon is the oldest boundary in the West. The first southern boundary of the Nevada Territory was the 37th parallel, about 60 miles north of where Las Vegas is today. Nevada reached this southern point in 1867, when it took a section of the Arizona Territory. The northern section of the western border of Utah Territory, from which Nevada would be created, had been first established shortly after California’s entry into the Union in 1850 at the 120th degree of longitude. The diagonal line with California is described by California’s constitution as a straight line from the intersection of longitude 120 degrees with latitude 39 degrees down to the Colorado River at latitude 35 degrees.

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29. New Hampshire
> Population: 1,356,458
> Size (square miles): 8,952
> Capital: Concord
> Founded: June 21, 1788 (9th state to join)
> Famous landmarks: Mount Washington

New Hampshire’s shape traces its history back to the 1620s, when it was made a colonial settlement through a series of grants from the British Monarchy. It was initially smaller, running between the Piscataqua and Merrimack Rivers.

New Hampshire and Massachusetts engaged in a series of disputes about the size and control of the region throughout the 1600s and early 1700s that were finally settled in the 18th century by a royal decree from King George II. The state’s eastern border with Maine was decreed to run through the middle of the Piscataqua River in 1740, but it was in dispute until a 2001 Supreme Court ruling settled it. New Hampshire’s border to the west with Vermont was decided in 1790, when the state agreed to allow Vermont to have all lands to the west of the Connecticut River as Vermont was considering whether to join the United States, remain independent, or become a British colony.

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30. New Jersey
> Population: 8,908,520
> Size (square miles): 7,354
> Capital: Trenton
> Founded: Dec. 18, 1787 (3rd state to join)
> Famous landmarks: Washington’s Crossing

New Jersey was originally a Dutch colony founded by Henry Hudson and called New Netherlands. Then the British took over in 1664. They divided the colony in half and gave control of the eastern portion to George Carteret and the western side to John Berkley. The land was renamed New Jersey after the Isle of Jersey of which Carteret had been governor. The Delaware River separates New Jersey from Pennsylvania in the west; the Hudson River provides the eastern border with New York; and the Delaware Bay divides New Jersey from Delaware.

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