How Slavery, Trains, and Revolution Shaped USA's States

There's an interesting story behind the shape of every state in the US, but some of their stories are a little more crazy than others.

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Why Country Borders Are A Good Thing

Each week on TestTubePlus, we pick one topic and cover it from multiple angles. This week's subject is borders and boundaries. Why do we create them? How have they evolved over history? What, if any, good have they done? So far, Trace argued why borders might have actually been a good thing, the evolution of borders. and finally discussed some examples of where borders went bad, like in the Middle East. Today's topic is how the U.S. states got their shapes, how we decided the borders our our states (and what's their point, anyway?)

Historian/author Mark Stein says there are four critical events that affected how the states got their shapes: American Revolution, the 1808 proposal for the Erie Canal, adoption of railroads, and the enslavement of Africans. Before the American Revolution, the British crown had created colonies of varying shapes and sizes. After the American Revolution, the colonists turned them on their heads in protest. Thomas Jefferson, tasked with deciding how Northwest Territory (the land between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers) should be divided, devised the following strategy: The region should be divided into states having two degrees of latitude and four degrees of longitude, and 138 miles in height and 276 miles in width. That would have been roughly 38,000 square miles per state, and the U.S. would consist of about 100 states. Congress passed on Jefferson's plan.

TestTube Plus is built for enthusiastic science fans seeking out comprehensive conversations on the geeky topics they love. Each week, host Trace Dominguez probes deep to unearth the details, latest developments, and opinions on big topics like stereotypes, fear, terrorism, alcohol, survival, black holes, dreams, space travel, and many more.

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Learn More:
States and Their Shapes (Library of Congress)
"Mark Stein owes much to the Library of Congress for the completion of his recent book, "How the States Got Their Shapes." The institution's collections were central to his research."

Why border lines drawn with a ruler in WW1 still rock the Middle East (BBC News)
"A map marked with crude chinagraph-pencil in the second decade of the 20th Century shows the ambition - and folly - of the 100-year old British-French plan that helped create the modern-day Middle East."

Chimps Engage in 'War' for Turf (Discovery News)
"Chimpanzees kill their neighbors in order to acquire territory, new research shows. Chimps are our closest primate relatives, so the behavior could help to explain why humans sometimes conduct lethal raids."

Why border lines drawn with a ruler in WW1 still rock the Middle East (BBC)
"A map marked with crude chinagraph-pencil in the second decade of the 20th Century shows the ambition - and folly - of the 100-year old British-French plan that helped create the modern-day Middle East."