How the States Got Their Shapes

Season 1 Episode 6

Use It or Lose It

Aired Tuesday 10:00 PM Jun 14, 2011 on The History Channel



  • Trivia

    • Jennifer Brunner, who appears on the show to explain gerrymandering, is a former Secretary of State from host Brian Unger's home state - Ohio. Also appearing are Dr. Kevin F. Kern of the University of Akron; author Don Fabor; Columbus, Ohio Mayor Michael B. Coleman; George Wunderlich of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine; urban explorer Vaughn Edelson; historian C.R. Gibbs and Mike Panetta, the "Shadow" Representative of Washington, D.C.

    • In addition to Lenny Williams and Chris Biondo, music for this episode was provided by Audio Network, Clean Cuts, Extreme Music, Jingle Punks, Music Box and Produkt Sound.

  • Quotes

    • Brian: So, who drew the map of the United States? Well, we did. Whether we're declaring our independence, picking a new president or adding a new star to our flag, we've shaped our history and our states through the simple act of voting.

    • Brian: LA makes it so easy, it's hard to come up with an excuse for not voting.
      Max: Twenty minutes ago I was ... sitting in my house in my underwear and now I've voted. And, uh, I think if I can do that than that guy can vote, too.
      Brian: And you've just assured a place in this series, by the way.
      Max: Congratulations to me.
      Brian: Yeah, Max, you're definitely in this show.

    • H.W.: California filled up with people far faster than anybody knew that it would because of the discovery of gold there. There were a hundred thousand people in California banging to be admitted to the union.
      Brian: Californians joined the U.S. - but only on their terms. They drew their own oversized borders and told Congress "Take it or leave it". Why did Congress take it?
      Mark: There was tremendous fear that California, and with it probably all the land, uh, west of the ... Rocky Mountains, may go off and become its own republic, so they said to California "Okay, we'll accept your boundaries".
      Brian: Today, California is still a powerhouse. If it seceded, it would be the world's eighth largest economy.

    • Dr. Kern: When you get to Ohio, it is the very first state carved out of the public land system of the United States. Ohio was kind of a guinea pig for the country.
      Mark: The process for becoming a state is not in the constitution, and so there's a separate piece of legislation that they passed , the ordinance of 1787.
      Brian: This ordinance included the instruction manual for shaping states. First, there's a territory. Then, it can apply to become a state. This was a radical shift from everything that had been tried before.
      H. W.: This was novel and revolutionary - because - previously, when countries expanded, the new regions weren't admitted as the equals, they were created as colonies, they were subordinate.

    • Brian: Ohio, the heart of America. It's clearly a state, right? Well, according to some ... No. Why not? Well, Ohio was the first state created out of the new territory in the West; but to be an official state, you need some documents. It all came out in 1953. Ohio wanted to celebrate its 150th birthday - but the festivities took a strange turn. Officials discovered they'd never received something important : an official proclamation of their statehood. They wanted one - and fast.
      Dr. Kern: So you actually had Dwight David Eisenhower himself signing this, this document retroactively making Ohio a state in, in 1803.
      Brian: So, so what you're saying is that Ohio was missing its birth certificate?

    • Brian: Gerrymandering to me sounds to me like a crime, like racketeering. What is that name from? What does it mean?
      Jennifer: Well, there was a Governor Elbridge Gerry in Massachusetts ... who came up with a plan of drawing districts that looked so ... out of kilter that some of the districts looked like salamanders ... It still happens today except it's happening in a more dangerous way because they didn't have computers to draw things with surgical precision like they do today. Because, in the end, what you'll hear a lot of people say is "why should the politicians pick the voters when it's supposed to be the voters who pick the politicians.

    • H. W.: The location of state capitols has almost always been a matter of political negotiation. Occasionally, there is a city that just sort of screams out by virtue of longevity or something else "This is where the capitol ought to be - Boston, Massachusetts. But most states, especially the ones that were created after the original thirteen, there was a conscious decision ... the capitol is gonna go here rather than there.
      Brian: Picking capitols is like playing politics. You're often safer going right for the middle.

    • Brian: From 1775 to 1800, the nation's capitol was wherever Congress met - which was in eight different cities. This worked okay until one time when Congress met in Philadelphia - 400 soldiers rioted trying to force Congress to cover back pay. The congressmen escaped but learned a key lesson : if they were going to function free of outside pressure, they'd need their own city. But no one had ever created a city just for a federal government before ... so, how did America pick a capitol?
      H. W.: When Washington, D.C. was established, it was in the middle of the country. It was the middle between the northern states along the Atlantic Ocean and the southern states along the Atlantic Ocean - and those were the only states there were so it was pretty much right in the middle. It made very good sense. It was a political compromise, but also, it was a geographical compromise.

    • Brian: D.C. might have once been in the middle of America, but countries grow and people move. As the decades passed, the mean center of the U.S. population began shifting west and south. Today, the very center of the U.S., by population? It's in Texas County, Missouri - which is fitting, because in the 1870's there was a movement to make St. Louis the capitol of America.

    • C.R. Gibbs: Slaves were bought and sold at Market Square in Alexandria ... We find, this is just another example of how essential, uh, slavery or the slave trade was to the beginning of the nation's capitol. And, in fact, it was a major economic engine for the country at this ... period.
      Brian: This shameful trade became the source of a common expression. Alexandria slave dealers specialized in buying slaves from nearby Virginia plantations. Then, they sold them where demand was strongest - cotton plantations along the Mississippi River. What was the phrase that came out of this?
      C.R. Gibbs: Being sold down the river.

  • Notes

  • Allusions