Friday, July 18, 2008

How the States Got Their Shapes

When I showed this book to David he said, "Sounds boring." And I admit, this wasn't a book to keep me up nights and think deeply. But it had some little interesting tidbits, and was a perfect book to read while I was eating or just in small chunks, which is how I read most of the time.

I learned more about treaties the US has made with other countries, and how that give and take process works. That is where a lot of the state boundaries come from, treaties as the US was gaining territory. It was also funny to see how big each territory wanted to be and how Congress chopped them all down. I had always thought it was only Utah that it happened to, but all territories overstepped their reach and were cut back.

The square design of the central states also indicates something I thought was non-existent: foresight and planning on the part of the United States Congress. They wanted to make the states as equal as possible, so making the even boundaries, three degrees high and seven wide was one way to do that. Pretty impressive that they stuck to it for that many states. Proof all is not lost in hoping for intelligence from our elected officials.

How the States Got Their Shapes. Mark Stein. Smithsonian Books. 2008

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