How the States Got Their Shapes (Paperback)

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New York Times Bestseller

"Give me the splendid irregularities any day. God bless the panhandles and notches, the West Virginias and Oklahomas." -- Wall Street Journal

Why does Oklahoma have that panhandle? Did someone make a mistake?

We are so familiar with the map of the United States that our state borders seem as much a part of nature as mountains and rivers. Even the oddities—the entire state of Maryland(!)—have become so ingrained that our map might as well be a giant jigsaw puzzle designed by Divine Providence. How the States Got Their Shapes is the first book to tackle why our state lines are where they are. Here are the stories behind the stories, right down to the tiny northward jog at the eastern end of Tennessee and the teeny-tiny (and little known) parts of Delaware that are not attached to Delaware but to New Jersey.

Packed with fun oddities and trivia, this entertaining guide also reveals the major fault lines of American history, from ideological intrigues and religious intolerance to major territorial acquisitions. Adding the fresh lens of local geographic disputes, military skirmishes, and land grabs, Mark Stein shows how the seemingly haphazard puzzle pieces of our nation fit together perfectly.

About the Author


Mark Stein is a playwright and screenwriter. His plays have been performed off-Broadway and at theaters throughout the country. His films include Housesitter, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. He has taught writing and drama at American University and Catholic University and lives in Washington, D.C.

Praise For…


“Give me the splendid irregularities any day. God bless the panhandles and notches, the West Virginias and Oklahomas.”
Wall Street Journal

“For anyone who’s been confounded by the largest of all jigsaw puzzles, the one that carved out those fifty weirdly formed states, here is the solution. It’s history, it’s geography, it’s comedy, it’s indispensable.”
ANDRO LINKLATER, author of The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity

“If you ever wondered why Delaware owns a small portion of the southwest New Jersey coast, the answer is here!”
Library Journal

“A fascinating and wonderfully entertaining account of an often-overlooked oddity of America’s history: how the jigsaw-puzzle layout of the United States emerged. I never thought a book on geography could be funny, but Mark Stein has pulled it off.”
Vogue

“In this highly informative and engaging book, Mark Stein shows that the perimeters of the fifty states - familiar icons on license plates, tourist brochures, and government letterheads - are not just meaningless shapes. Stein’s carefully researched trove of regional histories embedded in our national map will delight history buffs, map enthusiasts, and anyone intrigued with political landscapes and American geography.”
MARK MONMONIER, author of How to Lie with Maps


Product Details
ISBN: 9780061431395
ISBN-10: 0061431397
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 7th, 2009
Pages: 352
Language: English