How the States Got Their Shapes - Season 1

Tuesday 10:00 PM on The History Channel Premiered May 03, 2011 Between Seasons




Episode Guide

  • Mouthing Off
    Episode 10

    Accents and language are probably the most obvious signifiers of where one hails from on the map. The use of common words, phrases and pronunciations tends to forge an identity that can cross, circumvent and undermine traditional borders. Southern accents, California slang, regional words like pop or soda or soda pop - all tend to bond a group of people with a sense of family togetherness, and clearly identify outsiders.

  • Culture Clash
    Episode 9

    Will cultural rivalries lead to the break-up of some states - or to the formation of new ones? Several states are almost divided in half - such as the great divide between northern Florida's cowboy culture and the more cosmopolitan society of the south. Likewise, some of the more rustic citizens of Maine are quick to distance themselves from the city-dwellers along the Massachusetts border - and would gladly be rid of them! The cultural disconnects were so great in California that some observers claim it took World War II to hold it together.

  • A Boom With a View
    Episode 8

    How important is money to the formation of our states? Gold strikes, bank runs, free land, job growth and depressions have each had a major impact on where people move - and where people move often determines where borders are set. The discovery of natural resources can draw a flood of folks, such as the first major American gold rush in North Carolina and the California Gold Rush (1848–55), which so captured the popular imagination that it led to the rapid settlement of that state and its almost immediate entry into the union in 1850.

  • Church and States
    Episode 7

    Faith, and the powers behind it, have shaped our states ever since the Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. Religious conflict helped form the borders of New England and limit the size of Utah. And even today, religious allegiances are rewriting our political borders as the struggle over "red" and "blue" states intensifies, "gerrymandering" us into separate groups and sections - essentially forming new "borders".

  • Use It or Lose It
    Episode 6

    Why did Washington, DC become our capital and not, say, St. Louis? And who took a bite out of the District of Columbia - which was planned as a perfect diamond? Political and legal decisions often overrule precedent and planning - and even reason. Will our map stay as it is today? Are our borders finally set in stone? Well, that's probably up to the politicians and the voters as much as anything else.

  • Living On the Edge
    Episode 5

    Why do we have "blank spots" like Area 51 all over our map? Who's hiding what from whom? And why do some sections of the country, such as Key West in Florida, yearn to secede from their "neighbors", while others adapt to change by reinventing themselves - such as the hardy folks in Kansas who transformed dusty old missile silos into beautiful, five-bedroom homes? And, although it remains a part of the state legally, why was Dade County apparently left off the Georgia State Quarter? Was it being punished for harboring secessionist sentiments left over from the Civil War?

  • State of Rebellion
    Episode 4

    Why do some states look like they've taken a bite out of their neighbors, while others look as if they've been broken in half? War and ornery attitudes have affected our map as much as anything else. Pride and political power have had a lot to say about some states surrendering large sections of territory while others, such as Texas, remain virtually untouched.

  • Force of Nature
    Episode 3

    More powerful than man, and even more powerful than steam locomotives or gas-guzzling Mack trucks, great geological formations have often had the final say in forming our borders. Glaciers, asteroids, earthquakes and floods have rewritten the map in the past and nature continues to alter it today - forcing people, and their borders, to adapt to unrelenting change.

  • The history of transportation has rewritten our map several times as we changed from a culture of canals and Riverboats to steam-powered locomotives and then to cars and trucks. As we expanded westward, even the shapes of states changed due to the landscape forged by train tracks, communication lines and highways. The "drive" for transportation prompted Illinois' fight to control Chicago, -which meant access to the Great Lakes and an all-important rail bridge. Later, however, as transport needs changed, some sections of the country were left behind and all but forgotten.

  • 5/3/11

    Water formed natural boundaries long before bridges and highways crisscrossed the country. But, over time, water changes course - and conflict often ensues when it does. Why do some states seem to get more water than they need while others go without? Today, far from forming stable borders, rivers, lakes and streams are still changing the map - and breeding conflict.

  • How the States Got Their Shapes

    This two-hour-long introductory special, which acted a s a pilot for the series, asked the question : "Do we know why our states look the way they do?" Congenial host Brian Unger than proceeds to take us on a fascinating road trip all across the country while captivating us with homespun tales concerning the formation of our country - and the camerawork, both putting us in the car with Brian and showing us around the country, is first-rate HD fare. This special, and the series which followed 13 months later (using much of this content), examines, as the History Channel puts it, "how every state is a puzzle piece ultimately revealing the unique geography, political and social history of America."

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