The formation of the United States’ 50 states

The Original 13 Colonies The story begins with the original 13 colonies, which declared independence from Britain in 1776. These colonies became the first states: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Their ratification of the Constitution between 1787 and 1790 solidified their place in the new Union.

Early Expansion: Following the Revolutionary War, the fledgling nation sought to expand westward. Vermont joined in 1791, followed by Kentucky in 1792 and Tennessee in 1796. Ohio’s admission in 1803 marked the beginning of expansion into the Northwest Territory. 

Louisiana Purchase and War of 1812   

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 nearly doubled the size of the country, leading to the admission of Louisiana as a state in 1812. The War of 1812 fostered a sense of American identity and unity, setting the stage for further statehood. Indiana (1816), Mississippi (1817), Illinois (1818), and Alabama (1819) were among the states formed during this era. 

Missouri Compromise   

In 1820, the Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri’s admission as a slave state and Maine’s as a free state, maintaining the balance between free and slave states. This delicate balance continued with the admission of Arkansas (1836) and Michigan (1837). 

Manifest Destiny and Civil War   

The concept of Manifest Destiny spurred westward expansion. Texas joined in 1845 after gaining independence from Mexico, followed by Iowa (1846) and Wisconsin (1848). The discovery of gold led to California’s rapid admission in 1850. Minnesota (1858), Oregon (1859), and Kansas (1861) followed. The Civil War saw West Virginia secede from Confederate Virginia, joining the Union in 1863. Nevada’s admission in 1864 was strategic for Union support. 


Post-Civil War and Reconstruction   Post-Civil War Reconstruction saw the admission of Nebraska in 1867. Colorado, known as the “Centennial State,” joined in 1876, marking the nation’s centennial. 

Closing the Frontier   

The late 19th century saw the admission of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington (all in 1889), Idaho, and Wyoming (both in 1890), solidifying the nation’s expansion to the Pacific. Utah’s admission in 1896 followed the resolution of conflicts between the federal government and the Mormon settlers. 

20th Century Additions   

The 20th century brought significant growth with Oklahoma (1907), and the southwestern territories of New Mexico and Arizona achieving statehood in 1912. Alaska and Hawaii, the last two states, joined in 1959, completing the Union. 

From the original 13 colonies to the expansive nation of 50 states, the story of the United States is one of continuous growth, driven by a quest for new opportunities and the resilient spirit of its people. 

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