Russia controlled most of the area that is now Alaska from the late 1700s until 1867, when it was purchased by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward for $7.2 million, or about two cents an acre.
During World War II, the Japanese occupied two Alaskan islands, Attu and Kiska, for 15 months.
Alaska contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States. At 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America.
Alaska has roughly 5,000 earthquakes every year. In March of 1964, the strongest earthquake recorded in North America occurred in Prince William Sound with a magnitude of 9.2.
The most powerful volcanic explosion of the 20th century occurred in 1912 when Novarupta Volcano erupted, creating the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Katmai National Park.
The temperature dropped to a record -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.
The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska more than 420 times.
People have inhabited Alaska since 10,000 BCE. At that time a land bridge extended from Siberia to eastern Alaska, and migrants followed herds of animals across it. Of these migrant groups, the Athabaskans, Aleuts, Inuit, Yupik, Tlingit and Haida remain in Alaska.
In 1858, incumbent Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln—for the most part unfamiliar at the time—engaged in a series of debates throughout Illinois for the state’s Senate seat. Although Lincoln lost the race, his warning against a nation divided between free and slave-holding states drew the attention of the nation, and he was elected president only two years later.
What began as an ordinary fire in Patrick and Catherine O’Leary’s barn on October 8, 1871, quickly turned into what became known as the Great Chicago Fire, which devastated roughly 18,000 buildings, left close to 100,000 inhabitants homeless and killed between 200 and 300 people.
On May 4, 1886, after weeks of protests in which workers were demanding an eight-hour workday, a bomb was thrown during a demonstration at the Randolph Street Haymarket. Eight officers were killed and 60 were injured, spurring a public cry for justice. Although the bomber was never identified, eight anarchists were tried and convicted of murder in what is often referred to as a grave miscarriage of justice.
The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago attracted 27 million visitors during its six-month operation—more than 40 percent of the United States’ total population at the time. Among the many inventions exhibited there was the first Ferris wheel, built to rival the Eiffel Tower that had been built for the Paris Fair in 1889. The 250-foot diameter wheel carried 36 cars with up to 60 riders each.
When an angry mob formed outside of the city jail in Springfield on August 14, 1908, seeking revenge against two black men accused of separate crimes against whites, policemen escorted the prisoners out the back door to safety. In the violent riot that ensued, buildings were destroyed and looted and two unrelated black members of the community were lynched. The appalling event led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) a few months later.
Illinois has the largest recoverable bituminous coal reserve of any state in the United States–close to 1.2 billion tons.
Chicago’s Willis Tower, formerly named Sears Tower, is the tallest building in North America.
The Johnson Space Center in Houston, originally established as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in 1961, is the site of Mission Control for all flights into space. On July 20, 1969, its flight controllers oversaw the Apollo 11 flight that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon and returned the astronauts safely home. Referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome in Houston was the world’s first domed stadium when it was opened in 1965. Drawing crowds for sporting events, concerts, rodeos and entertainment, the Astrodome was last used in 2005 as a shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Texas is the leading crude oil- and natural gas-producing state in the U.S. In 2011, it also produced more cattle, sheep, hay, cotton and wool than any other state. The name Texas derives from a Caddo Indian word that means “friends” or “allies,” which was incorporated into the state motto: Friendship.
During Texas’ war for independence from Mexico, a group of 200 volunteers who were defending the fort and former Franciscan mission known as the Alamo near San Antonio was attacked by a much larger force of Mexican troops. The siege, which had begun on February 23, 1836, lasted for 13 days before the Mexican forces broke through the courtyard and annihilated most of the Texans, including famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee, Davy Crockett.
On September 8, 1900, a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 130 miles per hour pummeled Galveston, Texas, killing more than 8,000 people and destroying the once-thriving city. It remains the deadliest natural disaster in United States history.
While traveling through Dallas in an open convertible on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Two hours later, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States aboard Air Force One while stationed at Dallas Love Field airport.
Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the first permanent European settlement in the United States at St. Augustine in 1565.
Before he was president of the United States, General Andrew Jackson led an invasion of Seminole Indians in Spanish-controlled Florida in 1817. After Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams appointed Jackson its military governor.
Constructed over a 21-year period from 1845 to 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West was controlled by Federal forces during the Civil War and used to deter supply ships from provisioning Confederate ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was also used during the Spanish-American War.
In 1944, airman and pharmacist Benjamin Green from Miami developed the first widely used sunscreen to protect himself and other soldiers during World War II. He later founded the Coppertone Corporation.
John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth when he blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on February 20, 1962. Seven years later, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon after Apollo 11 was launched from the nearby Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969.
members of the Corps of Discovery entered Idaho for the first time in 1805, making it the last of the U.S. states to be explored by European-Americans. Along with a reconnaissance team, william clark attempted to find a passage across the Salmon River in August, but was deterred by the churning rapids and steep rock walls. The river is often referred to as “The River of No Return.”
The state seal of Idaho is the only state seal in the United States designed by a woman. In 1891, Emma Edwards Green, who had previously attended art school in New York, entered and won a competition sponsored by the First Legislature for the State of Idaho with her depiction of a miner, a woman signifying justice and various state natural resources.
Carved by the Snake River, Hell’s Canyon is North America’s deepest river gorge—even deeper than the Grand Canyon—with a width of ten miles and a depth of 7,913 feet below He Devil Peak in the Seven Devils Mountains.
Idaho’s State Capitol, constructed between 1905 and 1920, is the only capitol building in the nation to be heated by geothermal water from a source 3,000 feet below the ground. In operation since 1982, the water system currently heats about 1.5 million square feet within the Capitol Mall complex.
Author Ernest Hemingway, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man in the Sea in 1953 and who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature the following year, died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in his home in Ketchum on July 2, 1961. A memorial, exhibit and festival held near Sun Valley pay tribute to the renowned author’s accomplishments and time spent in Idaho.
Rigby, Idaho, is known as the birthplace of television. Inventor Philo Farnsworth, who grew up in the tiny town, reportedly sketched out the principle behind the technology for a high school science paper.
Due to the high demand for beaver hats and coats and unregulated trapping during the early settlement years, beavers were nearly eliminated by the mid-19th century. Since then, proper management has allowed the semi-aquatic mammals to flourish once again. Known as the “Beaver State,” Oregon features a picture of a beaver on the back of its state flag.
Beginning in 1836, roughly 12,000 emigrants made the 2,000-mile trek from Independence, Missouri, to the Oregon Territory. Heavily traveled until 1884, the Oregon Trail was the most used of all routes in the westward expansion of the United States.
Mount Hood, a dormant volcano that last erupted around 1865, is covered by 12 glaciers. At 11,239 feet, it is the tallest peak in Oregon.
In November of 1986, the 80-mile-long Columbia River Gorge, which traverses the border between Oregon and Washington, was designated the country’s first National Scenic Area. Since the mixture of cool marine air on the western side of the Cascades and the drier air from the inland basin creates a natural wind tunnel, the gorge is considered to be one of the best places in the world for windsurfing.
Oregon grows 99 percent of all hazelnuts produced in the United States. It is also the country’s leading producer of Christmas trees, with an output of more than 4.9 million trees in 2009.
Oregon’s Crater Lake, formed in the remnant of an ancient volcano, is the deepest lake in the United States.
Nevada’s Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park contains the largest known Shonisaurus popularis ichthyosaur fossils. These extinct marine reptiles, which ranged in size from 2 feet to over 50 feet long, swam in the ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago during the Triassic Period.
Nevada was the first state to ratify the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave African-American men the right to vote, on March 1, 1869.
Discovered near Virginia City in June 1859, the Comstock Lode produced about $36 million worth of silver ore each year from 1876 to 1878. By 1882, the Comstock had produced more than $300 million in both gold and silver.
Although legal between 1869 and 1910, gambling was banned in Nevada in October 1910. Much like the national prohibition on alcohol that soon followed, the law was largely ignored as machines, wheels and tables simply moved to more discreet locations. On March 19, 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression, gambling was re-legalized.
Located in a remote desert northwest of Las Vegas, Area 51 was established in 1955 by the Central Intelligence Agency to develop and test covert military projects. One of those projects resulted in the Archangel-12 (A-12) stealth plane, which traveled at speeds of over 2,000 miles an hour and could traverse the continental U.S. in 70 minutes. After only a year in active service, the A-12 was decommissioned in 1968.
Nevada is the fourth-largest producer of gold in the world following China, Australia and South Africa, and supplies three quarters of all gold mined in the United States.
The federal government owns nearly 85 percent of all land within Nevada.
In 1864, in an effort to hasten its admission to the union, Nevada’s entire state constitution was sent to Washington, D.C., by telegram.