I’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:
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.
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.