Interesting Facts About the United States

The American flag hung in a fancy hall in the United StatesI’m unexpectedly back in the United States for two weeks. After four and a half months in Europe, I needed a bit of a break from traveling to start writing my book. Hostels just aren’t the right environment for writing, and with an airline credit I needed to use, I figured my parents’ house was a good place to go. Despite all my time overseas, I really do like the United States. It’s got a fascinating history. Here are some interesting facts:

The US is the fattest country in the world, with a third of adults being obese.

Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest airport.

College Park, Maryland has the oldest functioning airport in the US.

Point Roberts, Washington cannot be entered or exited without going through Canada. Both nations have immigration points of entry despite a population of less than 1,000.

Wisconsin has more lakes than Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes.

The longest stone arch bridge in the world is the Rockville Bridge in Marysville, Pennsylvania.

Salt Lake City has a law against carrying an unwrapped ukulele on the street.

The Hollywood Bowl in California is the world’s largest amphitheater.

The first motion-picture theater opened in Los Angeles in 1902.

Tallahassee, Florida was the only Confederate state capital that did not fall to the Union during the Civil War.

Maine grows 98% of the nation’s blueberries.

Wabash, Indiana was the first electrically lighted city in the world.

Pensacola, Florida (not St. Augustine) is actually the oldest European-founded settlement in the US. It was settled in 1559 by Don Tristan de Luna.

The first public university in the US was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kentucky has the longest cave system in the world—the Mammoth cave system has over 200 miles of caves.

Wyoming was the first place in the US to allow women to hold office and vote.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France in 1884.

Though the statue is associated with New York City, it’s physically located in New Jersey.

Some of Gandhi’s ashes can be found in the Lake Shrine Temple near Los Angeles.

The first person to become president who was born in a hospital was Jimmy Carter.

Arlington National Cemetery was once Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s plantation.

Manhattan’s Chinatown has the most Chinese residents in the Western Hemisphere.

The nineteenth-century London Bridge was transplanted to Lake Havasu, Arizona in 1968.

American Indians were not US citizens until 1924.

The King of Thailand is technically an American citizen. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1927.

The US has no official language.

The word “sideburns” is named after US Civil War General Ambrose Burnside.

Harvard was the first university in the US and was founded in 1636.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had a bet on who would die first. They both died on July 4th, 1826, each thinking the other had outlived him.

The holiday of Thanksgiving actually dates to the Civil War and was designed to help bring the country together.

New York was once ruled by the Dutch and called New Amsterdam.

The original capital of the U.S. was Philadelphia. Washington DC became the capital in 1790.

The US Navy has the second-largest air force in the world. The US Air Force has the first.

The US debt per person is $45,000 USD.

George Washington used to grow hemp.

In 1776, the Republic of Ragusa, now part of present-day Croatia, became the first country to recognize the US.

John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre and was found in a warehouse. Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and was found in a theatre.

All three major 1996 Presidential candidates, Clinton, Dole, and Perot, were left-handed.

The US outlawed alcohol in 1919 with the 18th amendment. It was legalized again in 1933 with the 21st amendment.

American women got the right to vote in 1920.

In America, you can drive a car when you are 16, vote and own a gun when you are 18, and buy alcohol when you are 21.

The US is a republic with three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial.

Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, was the first (and only) foreign-born first lady.

Ohio is listed as the 17th state in the US, but technically it’s number 47. Until 1953, Congress forgot to vote on a resolution admitting Ohio to the union.

The population of the US is 307 million.

40% of Americans don’t believe in evolution.

One-fourth of Americans believe the sun revolves around the Earth.

63% of young Americans can’t find Iraq on a map.

The top 1% of Americans owns 33% of the wealth in America, more than the bottom 50% combined.

The bottom 50% of Americans controls 2.5% of the nation’s wealth.

Nine out of 10 young Americans can’t find Afghanistan on a map, even if you give them the advantage of a map limited to Asia.

Gerald Ford was the only man to be both President and Vice President but who was not elected to either post.

When Harry Truman left office in 1952, he got in his own car and drove himself back to Missouri.

Andrew Jackson was the only US President to believe the world is flat.

President Taft got stuck in his bathtub on his Inauguration Day and had to be pried out by his attendants.

George Washington’s false teeth were made of whale bone.

George Washington had to borrow money to go to his own inauguration.

Ronald Reagan was the oldest President elected to office.

The Baby Ruth candy bar was actually named after Grover Cleveland’s baby daughter, Ruth.

The Pentagon is the largest office building in the world by area.

32% of all land in the US is owned by the federal government.

The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.

For more information, facts, and articles on the US, check out these two helpful posts:
Articles on the United States
United States travel guide

    • nedd

      Here’s the facts on Minnesota & Wisconsin lakes. Looks like Wisconsin may be counting puddles: “In Minnesota the official number is 11,842 lakes. So how about Wisconsin? Well, the Wisconsin department of natural resources claims that there are 15,074 lakes in Wisconsin. So Ha! But hold on. It turns out that the two states have different definitions of a lake. Minnesota’s count includes only those that are all over ten acres and named. Wisconsin counts them even without a name and has no size limit. Wisconsin only has about 6,000 named lakes, even including those under ten acres. If Minnesota counted all lakes down to four acres without names, it is likely there would be over 20,000.

  1. Great list! I wonder about the numbering of Ohio, though. I live in Arizona, which became the 48th state in 1912. If Ohio were forgotten until 1953, wouldn’t that make Arizona 47th and Ohio 48th? Or were other states also forgotten?

    • NomadicMatt

      One could say anyone born before the US was a country is foreign born. Don’t tell the Tea Party Washington wasn’t an American. Their heads might explode! :)

    • NomadicMatt

      I didn’t include American Samoa because it is an American territory. I hadn’t seen the Kiribita stat before. I had just saw the top industrialized country list.

    • Laila

      According to The Lancet, Feb 2011, Kuwait is the fattest industrialized nation. The rest of the middle east are gaining and they’re gaining fast. So alas, even if USA isn’t getting healthier, somebody else is getting even more unhealthy fat. New Zealand is also on a fast climb to become the worlds fattest nation. Sad really.

      • one of the issues for NZ (Auckland is the world’s largest Polynesian city) is that Pacific Islanders tend to have much higher BMI’s than Caucasians – so they are, at least partly overcounted in these types of stats (I bet Hawaii ranks high in a US-state list for the same reasons)

  2. Matt

    all islands in New York Harbor are New Yorks, any landfill added to these islands is New Jersey so the Statue of Liberty is in NY while the docks might be NJ. You can get a great look at this on google maps, its on the jersey side of the river but when you zoom in it shows the land as NY, same for Ellis Island.
    also check out its mailing address
    Statue of Liberty
    Liberty Island
    New York, NY 10004

    • NomadicMatt

      Also the Pentagon is the largest office building by floor space and I have adjusted the fact up there to reflect that caveat.

    • NomadicMatt

      I didn’t say Pensacola was the oldest continuously populated city, which as you correctly say, is St. Augustine. But, though abandoned, Pensacola was settled first.

  3. High school age students in Point Roberts attend classes in Blaine, Washington, the closest town on the U.S. mainland. That means they go through immigration and customs four times each weekday. The horror!

    By the way, the province of Ontario in Canada has as many as 250,000 lakes if you’re not too picky about size. Its license plates used to say 100,000. There are nearly 4,000 substantial ones.

    So there, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

  4. Oliver

    This has the potential to be a great article.

    Unfortunately it is poorly written and the facts aren’t all correct.

    What constitutes “real” Matt?

    Rennie’s version of the London Bridge was sold and parts of it used in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. That was just over 130 years old. The previous bridge to that was in place for over 600 years. The current London Bridge was built to replace Rennie’s.

    What about Cahokia, Illinois. With that being founded 1000 years before Pensacola, would that not be the “oldest city” in the US?

    • NomadicMatt

      Rennie’s version is the original one. The one that was built first. Instead of using “real” I went back and changed it to “original.”

      As for Cahokia, Illinois, if your point here is to say what comes first, we could say that some Indian site that was used after the great migration across the land bridge was the first settlement. Pensacola is the first known European settlement. And before you jump down my throat, yes, the Vikings were in what is now New England and Newfoundland (Canada) but there is no record of a specific date to their founding.

  5. Great list! can’t believe all the bickering in the comments lmao A lot of them are familiar to me, but I did google the one about women voting. Ah, right…some places allowed women to vote before the 19th amendment. And seriously, no matter who is technically #1 for obesity in the world, Americans definitely have problems in that area (I’m American).

  6. Elwyn Richards

    Great list about a great country. Here’s another fact to add to the list: Austin, Texas, is the southernmost state capital in the continental US.

  7. Elwyn Richards

    Just to add a postscript to my last posting. I am British, but having spent every vacation since 2003 in the U.S. I feel I am qualified to say that the U.S. is most definitely the best country on the planet. My wife and I wouldn’t even consider going anywhere else on our vacation. After all when you’ve experienced the best why settle for second best?

  8. Jim

    In sentences such as “Wabash, Indiana was the first electrically lighted city in the world.”, there should be a comma after the state!

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