America Dismantled Devastated Destroyed – WIF Fiction

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 Sci-Fi Writers (Not Gwen)

On How America

Will be

Ripped Apart

In American history, there are many incidents that could have drastically changed, or even destroyed, America. Altered versions of these “What If” events are a popular genre of science fiction called “alternate history.” To help visualize their Alt-Histories, authors often supply maps of the ALT-USA… and that’s precisely what we’re going to take a look at today. Warning, though: Below Be Spoilers.

10. The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle is a TV show based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name. In this universe, history diverged from our own when Franklin D. Roosevelt was assassinated by Giuseppe Zangarast in 1933. This was based a real event, but in our history Zangarast missed FDR and killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak instead. In Dick’s history Roosevelt was killed, and without him America struggled under the Great Depression and became extremely isolationist. This allowed the Axis powers of World War II (Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan) to become victorious in Europe and in the Pacific.

By 1945, the Axis powers have invaded North America from both the Pacific and the Atlantic. A Nazi atomic bomb in Washington DC forces America’s surrender, and the occupation creates the division of the United States between Germany and Japan; much like how, during our timeline, Germany was divided into the East and West. The events in The Man in the High Castle TV show take place in the 1960s, and maps show that Germany and Japan had split America between them with a small neutral zone separating the two.

9. Revolution

Revolution was an American post-apocalyptic NBC TV show that takes place in 2027. In this universe, a mysterious 2012 event called “The Blackout” caused all electricity to permanently cease to function. The show, produced by JJ Abrams, followed the survivors as they deal with the consequences of a world without electrical power.

After the Blackout, America descends into chaos and fragments as technology reverts back to pre-electricity, steam-powered tech. Most of the action in the TV show takes place in the Monroe Republic, which is made up of Northeast America. The character Monroe was able to seize power after setting up a tyrannical military dictatorship that takes away the guns of its people. The West Coast is dominated by the California Commonwealth, and Texas exists as a separate republic… which is pretty much par for the course. The Southwest is abandoned to the desert, and a reemergence of a nomadic lifestyle takes over in the Midwest Plains Nation.

8. Southern Victory

Celebrated science fiction author Harry Turtledove created an alternate universe called Southern Victory. In 1997 he released the first of 11 alternate history books, How Few Remain. In this universe, history diverges during the American Civil War (which you probably guessed based on the title) on September 10, 1862. In real life on this day, a Confederate messenger lost Top Secret Order 191, which outlined the South’s invasion. With these secret plans, the North was able to check the invasion and slog on to eventual victory. In Turtledove’s universe the secret plans weren’t lost. This allows the South to successfully launch a surprise invasion and defeat the Union Army of the Potomac, and eventually the South captures Philadelphia. Capturing such a large city enables the United Kingdom and France to ally with the Confederate States of America, forcing an end to the war with the South declaring independence from the United States on November 4, 1862.

On the map you can see how America wasn’t able to afford buying Alaska from Russia, and the Second Mexican Empire (which at the time was still ruled by the Emperor of Mexico, Maximilian I) crumbles into poverty. In our universe, Maximilian ruled Mexico until he was killed in 1867. In Turtledove’s history the bankrupt Mexico allows the South to purchase the northwestern regions of Sonora and Chihuahua, giving them access to the Pacific. The series continues with North and South being mortal enemies who ally with other world powers to fight each other over the next hundred years.

7. Jericho

In the CBS TV show Jericho, a shadow government plans a coup via a nuclear attack on 23 major cities in America, using small bombs smuggled to their targets in cargo vans. After the bombs detonate, civilization breaks down and the American government is destroyed. The first season of the show dealt with a small town as it tried to keep its citizens alive during the aftermath of the nuclear attack.

The show pulled in low numbers and was canceled after one season. Jericho’s fans revolted and launched an online campaign for CBS to do a second season, sending nuts to CBS (it actually makes sense in the context of the show, if you haven’t seen it). Eventually, over 20 tons were mailed to the network. This online outcry was an “unprecedented display of passion in support of a prime-time television series.” CBS caved and made a second season, where it was revealed that civilization had returned but the coup planners had only succeeded in seizing Western America, while Texas became independent (that seems to be a theme in these kinds of alternate histories) and the Eastern USA stopped enough nuclear bombs that some form of federal government survived the WMD attack.

Even with the successful nuts viral campaign, CBS still canceled the show after the second season. However, the universe lived on in comics, which revealed that the East and West USA fragmented into smaller nations while some parts of America were occupied by UN forces.

6. The Handmaid’s Tale

Celebrated author Margaret Atwood first published her book The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985. A 1990 film adaptation of the same name was released, and in 2017 Hulu adapted it into a critically acclaimed series. In Atwood’s America, a polluted country is wracked by falling fertility rates, which cause huge civil unrest. A staged attack wipes out the President and most of the federal government. In the chaos, a Christian Fundamentalist movement calling itself the “Sons of Jacob” seize control. Some surviving elements of the government flee to the West, where America still exists, while east of the Rockies is ruled by a new government called “Gilead.”

The new Christian theocracy decrees Baptists are heretics and brutally suppresses its followers, causing much of the American South to be in continuous revolt. Gilead is able to keep the remnants of America and the world at bay by threatening to use nukes that are seized after coup’s success. A number of areas are radioactive, implying that there was nuclear sabotage or that Gilead demonstrated its nuclear might. Condemned criminals and opponents of the new regime (which are often one and the same) are sent to these areas as “clean up” teams, but due to their high mortality these men and women really face a death sentence.

5. Dies the Fire

Stephen Michael Stirling’s Emberverse series spans 14 novels, with the first book Dies the Fire being released in 2008. More installments are expected as the series chugs right along.

In the Emberverse universe a mysterious event called “The Change” alters the laws of physics, throwing the world into chaos. After the Change, modern technology stops functioning, throwing the world back into the Iron Age, with people arming themselves with swords and bow and arrows. Large population areas collapse when food runs out, and from the ashes of urban centers emerge large cannibal groups that create “Death Zones.” From more rural areas, city-states emerge. This is the universe that Dies the Fire sees for post-apocalyptic America.

4. A Canticle for Leibowitz

Walter M. Miller, Jr. first published A Canticle for Leibowitz in 1959. The award-winning book is considered a classic and has never been out of print. It’s a post-apocalyptic story that takes place 600 years after a horrible nuclear war, which sparked a movement to destroy all knowledge called the “Simplification.” During this movement, all books are destroyed except for some hidden away in a Catholic monastery, the Abbey of Saint Leibowitz, in the deserts of the American Southwest.

After all knowledge is wiped out during the Simplification, America reverts to tribal, feudal societies. Sometime in the 600 years after WWIII, the Catholic Church relocates from Rome, Italy, to New Rome, somewhere in the former United States. Surrounding New Rome are a number of Catholic papal states. Also emerging from the fragments of Western civilization are the Empires of Texarkana, Laredo, Denver. Back at the Abbey of Saint Leibowitz, the monastery keeps its vast collection of pre-war books and knowledge alive by painstakingly copying them by hand. From these books, civilization is reborn.

3. The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins released the first book of her Hunger Games trilogy in 2008, and the novels were adapted into the blockbuster series starring Jennifer Lawrence as the story’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Over their cumulative worldwide releases, the four movies pulled in almost $3 billion dollars. So… we’re guessing you’ve probably seen at least one of them.

The Hunger Games takes place sometime in the future after a great war. Rising sea levels have swallowed up vast parts of North America, leaving a new nation called Panem to rise. This dystopian nation is divided into 12 districts that each specialize in specific goods or services.

A lot of the story takes place in District 12 (D12), which is thought to be in the coal-rich Appalachian region. D11 grows grain, and D10 raises livestock. Both are very large, given their tasks of feeding an entire nation. Close by is D9, which processes the food. D8 produces and treats textiles, while D7 specializes in forestry. D6 specializes in research and development, while D5 does genetic research. D4 is on or near the ocean, while D3 works with Information Technology and D2 specializes in weaponry and training peacekeepers. D1 produces luxury goods for the Capitol District and has a diamond mine – possibly the now-commercially closed Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine. The secret, rebellious District 13 is hidden away in bunkers thought to be in the Northeastern part of America.

2. Crimson Skies

Jordan Weisman and Dave McCoy created the Crimson Skies universe first for a board game released in 1998, and then a video game franchise produced by Microsoft Game Studios beginning in 2000.

History diverges from our universe when, in the 1930s, a series of deadly diseases devastate America and the country becomes increasingly isolationist to the point where the federal government devolves all power to the states, leading to the Balkanization of the United States into a series of small regional-states. With no federal government to pull the nation together interstate highways decay while at the same time aviation technology takes off. With a focus on air travel, roads and trains are abandoned in favor of the skies. With so many city-states there are many grievances, which quickly turn into open war. From the chaos of near constant warfare, large groups of air pirates raid commerce and other settlements.

1. The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead has been airing on AMC since October 31, 2010, and is based on a comic book series of the same name created by Robert Kirkman. Even with declining ratings over the last couple seasons, the show was renewed for a ninth season and Forbes’ Paul Tassi has talked about how the series should catch up to the comic books by season 9 or 10. After that, Kirkman hopes the show will diverge from its source material (which it has already started to do, given a few major cast and character shakeups).

In this alternate reality, America has been overrun by a zombie virus that reanimates the dead. The story starts off with the main character, Rick Grimes, waking up from a coma to find the world overtaken by the un-dead. He and a group of survivors first go to Atlanta, and then after meeting another group head to the nation’s capital, Washington DC – which is the general area around which the show now takes place. The main locations are the Alexandria Safe-Zone south of the capital, the Hilltop colony north of DC, and in the urban core of the city, Ezekiel’s Kingdom. They fight against Negan and the Saviors, who are based east of Washington DC at The Sanctuary. Everything outside of these areas is more or less abandoned, given over to the hordes of the walking dead.

Oh, so that’s where they got the title.


America Dismantled Devastated Destroyed –

WIF Fiction

Guidebook to America Must-Sees – WIF Travel

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 Must-Visit

Tourist Attractions

in the United States

For all intents and purposes, the United States can almost be considered an entire continent in itself. This means that a person from another country can’t come, visit for several days or a week, and say that he or she has seen what the entire US is all about. But there are several landmarks that every traveler needs to see before they can even begin to consider checking the US off of their travel bucket list. Even though there are plenty to choose from, and these are presented in no particular order, here are 10 must-visit tourist attractions in America.

10. The Statue of Liberty

As far as famous American national monuments go, the Statue of Liberty is probably the most easily recognizable of them all. Officially known as Liberty Enlightening the World, it was a gift from the French to the American people in 1886 – celebrating the centenary of American Independence. It stands at a total of 305 feet tall, of which 151 feet is the copper statue itself, while the rest is comprised of the pedestal and foundation. Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the statue is in a neoclassical style with Art Nouveau elements, and is a representation of Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty and personal freedom. Gustave Eiffel was responsible for the framework, while the pedestal was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, a prominent American architect.

While the statue’s construction and shipment were paid for by the French, the building of the pedestal was left to the Americans. Nevertheless, the whole project was under threat when the US government wasn’t able to raise sufficient funds. Luckily, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World newspaper, organized a drive to raise $100,000 (roughly $2.3 million today) from readers across the country by pledging to print the name of every contributor, regardless of the sum given – and the construction was finally finished. The site was chosen on Bedloe’s Island, now called Liberty Island, in New York Harbor, and the statue was aligned to face towards the southeast, thus greeting ships entering from the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2016, the Statue of Liberty was able to draw in roughly 4.5 million tourists – a number higher than in previous years. Still, this is a relatively small number compared to other famous NYC landmarks such as Central Park or Times Square, which both draw nearly 40 million visitors annually.

9. Yellowstone National Park

Covering an area of almost 3,500 square miles, mostly in Wyoming,Yellowstone National Park is one of the most stunning and unique national parks in the world. It’s home to a wide variety of wildlife (many of them endangered), vast natural forests, numerous waterfalls, roughly half of the world’s geothermal features, and two thirds of the planet’s geysers (more than 300, the most famous being Old Faithful). The park is also one of the largest intact ecosystems in the northern temperate regions of the Earth. When it was first discovered back in 1869, explorers David E. Folsom and Charles W. Cook described Yellowstone Lake as “a scene of transcendental beauty.” The two later wrote an account about their expedition, but had trouble in selling it since most magazine editors found the stories to be too far-fetched. Nevertheless, Yellowstone became the first ever national park in the world in 1872, even before the states it’s in were… well, States.

Another interesting fact about Yellowstone, and the reason why it is home to so many geological features, is because it sits right on top of one of the largest active supervolcanoes in the world. In fact, much of the park itself is the actual caldera of this huge volcano. There is so much magma below the surface that it’s estimated it could fill up the Grand Canyon to the brim 11 times over. Last time Yellowstone erupted was roughly 640,000 years ago, with a force 2,500 times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Luckily, however, an eruption isn’t believed to be happening anytime soon, even though the ground has bulged up by about 10 inches over a seven-year time frame. In 2016, the park drew in roughly 4.2 million visitors, making it among the most visited natural attractions in the country.

8. Niagara Falls

Now, even though they aren’t the tallest waterfalls, Niagara Falls is definitely a sight worth seeing. Located at the border between Canada (Ontario) and the United States (New York), Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall in terms of volume in the US. Over 3,160 tons of water flow over the falls every second, at a speed of 32 feet per second. There are three waterfalls in total here. The American and Bridal Veil Falls are located on the American side of the border, and are separated by Luna Island. Some 75,750 gallons of water flow through these two waterfalls every second. The larger Horseshoe Falls is shared by both Canada and the US, and with the length of the brink at 2,600 feet, this waterfall sees over 600,000 gallons of water falling every second from a height of 167 feet. Some 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, the falls extended some seven miles down the river. But over time, the brink has steadily eroded away, bringing it to its current location.

Four of the five Great Lakes drain their waters through Niagara Falls before emptying into Lake Ontario. There are two hydroelectric plants that draw water into their reservoirs prior to the falls. Depending on the time of day and the season, the volume of water varies considerably. The best time to visit is during the day, in summertime, when the volume is greatest. People can admire the falls from both sides of the border, by making use of the many observation decks, walkways, towers, as well as a boat tour that takes you to the heavy mists of the falls themselves. Estimates point to roughly 8 or 9 million people visiting Niagara Falls every year, but local business aren’t convinced and believe the real number to be closer to 3 million.

7. The Las Vegas Strip

Sometimes called Sin City, Las Vegas is a must-see for every tourist visiting the US. The city saw its beginning with a group of Mormons that established a fort there in 1855. The settlement eventually failed, but the fort was taken over Octavius D. Gass, an American businessman and politician. Later, in 1905, Las Vegas was connected to the Union Pacific Railroad, and in 1931 the construction on Hoover Dam began. To help draw in workers for the construction project, as well as to help them pass the time, casinos and showgirl venues opened up in Las Vegas’ only paved road, Fremont Street. In 1941, the first official casino was built just outside of the city’s limits, the El Rancho Vegas resort – and the famed Las Vegas Strip began to take shape. Notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo in 1946 and during the 1950s and ’60s, other mob-backed casinos began to appear, like the Sahara, the Riviera, the Sands, and the New Frontier.

What many don’t know is that the Strip is not inside Las Vegas proper. It stretches for 4.2 miles south of the city and passes through the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester. The famed Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was built back in 1959, exactly 4.5 miles south the actual city limits. Over 39 million people visited the Las Vegas Strip in 2017. Surveys also show that most US travelers marked Vegas as their desired destination for 2018. The Strip has also been designated as an American Scenic Byway, and the only one that’s enjoyable at night. It has one of the highest concentrations of neon lights in the world, and is packed with over 75 years of extravagance, history, and charm.

6. Independence National Historical Park

When it comes to history, Philadelphia is the city every tourist needs to see. Known as the birthplace of American democracy, the Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia’s historic center, is said to be “America’s most historic square mile.”  The park is home to the Liberty Bell Center, Congress Hall, the New Hall Military Museum, the Bishop White House, the Graff House, the Franklin Court, the First Bank of the United States, and Independence Hall, among other historically-important buildings. The centerpiece of the park is Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is where both the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution of the United States (1787) were debated and signed.

Among the many other buildings in the park, there is also the City Tavern. John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, called it the most genteel tavern in America” after he was taken there by the citizens of the city when he arrived to Philadelphia to attend the First Continental Congress in August 1774. This history-packed hot spot draws in roughly 5 million visitors every year, and is a perfect place to immerse yourself in America’s Revolution against the British and the founding of the nation itself.

5. Hawaii’s Volcanoes

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park draws in roughly 1.5 million visitors every year. Located on the island of Hawaii, this national park holds two of the world’s most active and easily accessible volcanoes – Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth in terms of volume and area covered – 19,999 cubic miles. The summit stands at 13,680 feet above sea level, and roughly 56,000 feet from the depressed sea floor. This makes it more than 27,000 feet higher than Mount Everest, and the second largest sea mountain in the world after Mauna Kea, which is on the same island and only 110 feet higher.

But despite these record-breaking figures, Kilauea is the more impressive, and rightfully so. As the youngest volcano on the island, Kilauea has not stopped erupting since 1983, continuously spewing out lava over the landscape and creating numerous fountains and rivers of molten rock. Unlike continental volcanoes, which usually erupt in a devastating explosion, these island volcanoes are far less gaseous and more fluid, thus making them much safer to admire from a safe distance. And besides the volcanoes themselves, the park also offers a glimpse into the native flora and fauna of the isolated island, as well as the cultural heritage of the people who’ve called it home for hundreds (and hundreds) of years.

4. The Redwood Forests of Northern California

For the many interesting things California has to offer, almost nothing is more humbling and awe-inspiring than the redwood forests located in the northern parts of the state. But unlike many of the other entries on this list, these forests and the four national and state parks they encapsulate receive a relatively small number of annual visitors – almost 1.5 million in total. Nevertheless, these huge trees have been standing since before the Roman Empire. The Redwood National Park is also home to Hyperion, the world’s largest living tree that we currently know about. Discovered only in 2006, this humongous coast redwood is 379.7 feet tall, or 74 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Hyperion is also a relatively young tree – roughly 600 years old (or about 20 in human years). This means that it’s still growing. And it’s not the only one to reach this gargantuan size. Other similarly-tall coast redwoods have been discovered in the area in recent years.

Thanks to their close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, these forests have a relatively stable and pleasant climate all year round. Nevertheless, peak tourist season is during the summer and early fall months, from June to September. Now, besides the redwood forests themselves, the region has other natural wonders to offer. Over 40 mammal species call this area their home, like bobcats, coyotes, black-tailed deer, mountain lions, and black bears, as well as over 400 bird species. There are also several points that overlook the ocean and which are prime locations for spotting migrating gray whales, especially between the months of December and April.

3. Mesa Verde National Park

Another great place to experience American history is to look into the heritage of the Native Americans. The Mesa Verde National Park, located in the state of Colorado, has a total area of 52,485 acres and houses over 5,000 sites, as well as over 600 cliff dwellings. The whole area was inhabited at least as early as 7500 BC by a group of nomadic people known as the Foothill-mountain paleoindian complex. Then, in around 1000 BC, a new culture emerged in the region, the Basket makers. They were then followed by the Pueblo Culture in around 750 AD, and flourished in the region up until the end of the 13th century when they were finally driven out by social and environmental instability. It was during their last 150 or so years in the area that they built the many cliff dwellings that the park is most famous for.

One of the largest and best preserved sites here is the Cliff Palace – which is also the largest cave dwelling in the whole of North America. This settlement once contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas (special rooms used for religious rituals and political meetings). At its height, Cliff Palace was able to house over 100 people – something which doesn’t sound like much, but given its location and the fact that most other cliff dwellings contain only one to five rooms, that’s definitely a lot. Based on its size, the Cliff Palace is believed to have held an important social and administrative significance for the Puebloans before they were forced out of the area altogether. Every year, over half a million people visit the park and admire these unique structural marvels of pre-Colombian America.

2. The Grand Canyon

No list of this kind could ever be complete without the Grand Canyon. It’s nearly impossible for someone to visit this incredible geological feature and not stand in awe at its sheer size. Anyone with any sense of wonder about the world cannot help but feel a little overwhelmed by the power of nature presented here. For over 6 million years, the Colorado River and its tributaries have carved their way through the rock, deepening and widening the canyon to its current proportions. Today, the Grand Canyon measures some 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, exposing nearly 2 billion years of geological history in its sides.

Native Americans have been living in the area for thousands of years, even building settlements within it and in its many caves. The first Europeans to see it were the Spanish during the 1540s. The first pioneers here were prospectors looking to mine copper during the 1880s, but they soon realized that tourism was a better alternative. In its first year after becoming a national park in 1919, the Grand Canyon received roughly 44,000 visitors. In 2016, than number was closer to 6 million people.    

1. Route 66

Established back in 1926, US Route 66 was the Main Street of America. Also known as the Will Rogers Highway or the Mother Road, Route 66 used to connect Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California. Covering a total of 2,448 miles, this road passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, as well as the two other states mentioned, and was the main path used by the people who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Route 66 also supported a thriving economy for the communities it passed through, and harbored much of the country’s distinct style. Among these we have the iconic American gas stations, motels, bars, diners, entertainment venues, and much more.

But as all good things inevitably come to an end, so did Route 66. With the arrival of the new Interstate Highway System, much of the historic route was being bypassed. By 1985, the entire route was replaced. Nevertheless, conservation efforts since then have revived certain portions of the route. Parts of it have also been included in America’s Scenic Byways project, and considered to be an All-American Road. In more recent years, a preservation program has been initiated, aiming to salvage and restore much of the route and its landmarks to their former glory. In more ways than one, Route 66 is a better alternative to capturing real America than taking a stroll through Manhattan or down Hollywood Boulevard.


Guidebook to America Must-Sees

– WIF Travel

 

The Name Game – United States Style

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How Did These

States Get

Their Names?

The study of place names and their origins, known as toponymy, can reveal a lot about human society as a whole. Did you know that almost every country in the world can place the origin of its name in one of only four categories? These are either a directional description of the country, a feature of the land, a tribe or ethnic group that lived there, or after an important person. Now, let’s see if the same thing applies to some of the United States.

10. Arizona

There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding the name of Arizona, with two versions of the story circulating out there. One says that Arizona comes from the Basque aritz onak, which translates to ‘good oak’. The name is said to have been given due to the many oak trees in the area, which reminded the Basque settlers of their home country. The other version says that the word actually comes from the Spanish, who called the region Arizonac, which itself was a corruption from a word in the native Tohono O’odham language, spoken in the area.  Ali-shonak loosely translates to ‘small spring’ and is in reference to the 1736 discovery of some rich silver veins located near some clear springs in the area. That silver didn’t last for long, but it made people aware of the existence of a place called Arizona.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, when the boundary between the US and Mexico was drawn at the Rio Grande and the Gila River, Arizona was part of New Mexico. But soon after its annexation, people living in what is now Arizona wanted a separate status from New Mexico. Several names were suggested for the new state, among which was also “Gadsonia.” It was proposed as a means to honor James Gadsden, the man who negotiated the purchase of land south of the Gila River. Nevertheless, in 1863, the name Arizona won out, and the rest is history.

9. Maine

Did you know that Maine is the sole state whose name contains just one syllable, and it’s the only one in the lower 48 to border only one other (New Hampshire)? Anyway, people aren’t entirely sure where its name comes from. The first time it appeared in writing was in 1622 when it was mentioned in a charter of the Council of New England as a province. The region was to be given to two English Royal Navy veterans, Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason. Captain Mason called his portion of the province New Hampshire, while Gorges proposed New Somerset for his. New Somerset was strongly disliked by King Charles I, who in 1639 issued another charter saying that it “shall forever hereafter be called and named the Province or County of Mayne and not by any other name or names whatsoever.” Nevertheless, some other names were being proposed in 1819, such as Yorkshire, Lygonia and Columbus, which were to be some other potential candidates for when the province became a proper state one year later as part of the Missouri Compromise.

As of 2001, the state legislature officially adopted the version in which the state draws its name from the no-longer-existing French province of Maine. Up until 1845, historians believed that the connection between the American and French regions was through King Charles’ wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. It was believed that the queen had once owned the French province, but subsequently discovered evidence shows that there was no connection. Furthermore, the king and queen married three years after the name Maineappeared in that previously mentioned charter. Another possible origin story says that Gorges proposed the name himself as a means to honor the village where his ancestors once lived in England. That village is now called Broadmayne, but in a 1086 manuscript, it appears under the name Maine – which in primitive Welsh or Brythonic meant ‘rock’. The most generally accepted version, however, is that the state name was based on a practical nautical term. As its coast is littered with many islands, sailors call the mainland simply “the main” or sometimes “Meyne” – so as to easily distinguish between it and the islands. This practice is still in use today within the Navy.

8. Oregon

Of all the states, Oregon’s name may be the most hotly debated in regard to its origins. There are several theories out there, each of which has its own share of plausible arguments. The most probable among them, however, is that it originated with the Spanish. In fact, the first mention of the term orejón in relation with the region comes from a historical chronicle dated in 1598, written by Spanish explorers who made their way into the area at the time. The term translates to “big-eared” and may be in reference to the natives they encountered there. Another possible Spanish root is that the name comes from oregano, which grows in the southern regions of the state.

Others believe that it comes from oolighan – the Chinook word for the eulachon, a smelt fish found on the Pacific coast and a valuable food source for the native tribes that lived there. Another possible Native American connection would be with the Sioux tribe, who referred to the Columbia River as the “River of the West.” The Sioux may have borrowed some words from the Shoshone, another tribe living in what is now Nevada, among other places, and whose words for river and west are Ogwa and Pe-On respectively.

A different theory talks about the French and their word for hurricane – which is ouragan. It’s believed that French explorers in the area called the Columbia River ‘le fleuve aux ouragans’ or “Hurricane River” because of the strong winds blowing through its gorges. The first use of the word Ouragon appeared in a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom of Great Britain where heasked for an overland expedition as part of the search for the so-called Northern Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Back then, people believed that the Columbia River began somewhere in Minnesota and flowed all the way to the Pacific. In an 18th century French map, the Ouisiconsink(Wisconsin) River was misspelled as “Ouaricon-sint” and broken into two lines, with the “-sint” written below. This incomplete map gave the impression that a river called Ouaricon was flowing westward – and could have possibly been the “River of the West” that spilled into the Pacific.

7. Pennsylvania

If you’ve ever felt that there’s a connection between Pennsylvania and Transylvania, then you’d be right. But the connection has nothing to do with vampires or the two lands themselves, but through the way they were named in the first place. The word Transylvania can be broken down into three parts as follows: trans (which is Latin for over or beyond), sylva (Latin for woods), and nia (which is a common suffix used for nouns and countries). In other words, Transylvania translates to ‘Lands beyond the forest’. Now, when it comes to Pennsylvania, the difference is with the word Penn. Pennsylvania was named in honor of British Admiral William Penn, father to William Penn, the founder of the state. William Penn (senior) actually loaned some money to King Charles II of England, and in return, the king gave his son a tract of land for him to found a Quaker settlement in America.

The younger Penn proposed the name Sylvania, but King Charles II wanted Penn’s name to be included – thus the name Pennsylvania (which translates to Penn’s Woodland). The story goes that William Penn felt embarrassed about it, fearing that people would think that he named it after himself, and petitioned the name be changed to New Wales. But the King’s secretary, who was a devout Christian from Wales, was completely against it – not wanting any connection between his homeland and the Quakers whatsoever.

6. Texas

Texas also goes by the name of The Lone Star State. This is as a way to represent and signify its former status as an independent republic, as well as its struggle for independence from Mexico. That lone star can still be found on the state flag, as well as its seal. But when it comes to its actual name of Texas, its origins can still be linked to the Spanish and by extension, Mexico. The name actually comes from the Caddo – a sedentary tribe of Native Americans who lived in the area around the time when the Spanish made it there.

The Caddo, as well as other tribes that lived in the region, all had the same word, or a similar variation of it, to refer to “friends” and “allies.” That word was teysha, which the Caddo also used as a greeting in the form of “hello, friend.” This greeting was similarly used on the Spanish, who later named the Natives after it. Over the years, that word went through several changes including Tejas, finally settling on Texas. Interestingly enough, Texas’ official motto is “Friendship.”

5. Rhode Island

Back in 1524, an Italian explorer by the name of Giovanni da Verrazzano, working in service for the French crown, was heading towards Florida as part of an expedition to find a way to the Pacific Ocean and establish a trade route with Asia. On his way there, he had to make a stop in North Carolina for some ship repairs. But once he was back on the move, he no longer stuck to the original plan and began heading north instead of south. He went past the Hudson River and Long Island, ending up in Narragansett Bay, which opens up in what is now the Rhode Island Sound. As he was exploring the many islands within and around the bay, he kept a record of his discoveries. In a letter he wrote back to France in July of that same year, he said that he “discovered an Ilande in the form of a triangle, distant from the maine lande 3 leagues, about the bignesse of the Ilande of the Rodes.” Now, Verrazzano originally named that particular island Luisa, in honor of the Queen Mother of France, but in his letter he described the island as being reminiscent of the Island of Rhodes in Greece.

For almost 100 years, his letter was the only description people had about that part of the New World. Over the following decades, his letter was translated and printed into Italian and English, further distributing the idea of a Greek-looking island in North America. Now, there has been some debate about which of the many islands Verrazzano was actually referring to in his letter, and for a time it was believed that it was Aquidneck Island – the largest in Narragansett Bay. Modern-day scholars believe that there’s a better chance that he was actually talking about Block Island, which is also part of the state of Rhode Island today, and better fits Verrazzano’s description. In 1637, Roger Williams, a political and religious leader who also founded the state of Rhode Island, established a settlement on Aquidneck Island. The name was officially given to the island in a 1644 declaration saying: “Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Isle of Rodes or Rhode-Island.”

4. Idaho

When it comes to state names, Idaho does seem like the kind that sounds Native American, doesn’t it? That’s the main reason why the name was chosen in the first place. Now, Idaho was originally given to the Colorado Territory at the suggestion of George M. Willing, an eccentric lobbyist and industrialist. He claimed that the word comes from the Shoshone language and meant something along the lines of “gem of the mountains” or “light on the line of the mountains.” And it seemed appropriate, given the fact that the name was to be chosen for a new territory around the Pikes Peak region, close to present-day Colorado Springs – a mountainous area. During the debate in the Senate, several other names were proposed, among which were Colorado, as well as Jefferson. But most senators seemed to favor Idaho instead. Luckily, Sen. Joseph Lane, from Oregon, brought to light the fact that no Indian tribe in the area has that word, or something resembling it. As it turned out, and what Willing himself reportedly confirmed some years later, is that he actually invented the word, as well as the meaning he gave for it. The name Colorado was then given instead.

This could have simply been the end of that story, but as it turns out, the word Idaho didn’t fade into obscurity. In fact, it gathered great momentum and vitality among the people living in those parts of North America. In 1861, the same year the Colorado Territory was created, Idaho County was also being established in the Washington Territory. It was christened after a steamship with the same name, which was launched on the Columbia River one year prior. With the whole affair seemingly forgotten, Idaho Territory was nevertheless created in 1863, which also included the previously mentioned Idaho County and other parts of the Washington Territory. Funnily enough, even well into the 20th century, many school books gave Willing’s version for the word Idaho as fact. In any case, there’s another theory circulating out there in regards with the name. Some people attribute it to the Plains Apache whose word for enemy is “ídaahe.”

3. Florida

Juan Ponce de León is a name that should sound at least somewhat familiar, even if you don’t really know what he was famous for – it just has that ring to it, right? Anyway, Ponce de León was a possible crew member in Christopher Columbus’ 1493 voyage to the New Word – though nobody is really sure. A decade later, he served as governor of the eastern part of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic). During his time as governor in Hispaniola, he also explored the nearby island of Puerto Rico and became governor of that too. Following some rumors of other possible islands to the northwest of Hispaniola, Ponce de León received exclusive rights from the King of Spain to become governor for life on whatever lands he might discover in that region. In return, he was expected to finance the voyage and future settlements himself. On April 2, 1513, the three ships part of the expedition came across an island, or what they thought to be an island, and named it La Florida.

The name was chosen because of the incredibly verdant and flowering landscape, and because it was the Easter season, which the Spanish called Pascua Florida or Festival of Flowers. Nobody is really certain where they made their first landing in La Florida, but they stayed there for five days before they left. A second voyage took place in 1521 with the intention of colonizing the newly discovered lands. But before the colonists could establish the settlement, they were attacked by the native Calusa warriors. Ponce de León was severely wounded in the skirmish and the colonizing attempt was abandoned. Historians believe that he was hit by a poison-tipped arrow, and died in Cuba. Now, legends have it that he was actually looking for a rumored Fountain of Youth when he discovered Florida, and this is probably why his name is so familiar. Unfortunately, however, there was no mention of any such fountain in any documents at the time, and the story was only attached to him after his death. Furthermore, it’s also believed that he wasn’t the first European to set foot in Florida either. Spanish slavers looking for new prisoners may have made it there in the years prior.

2. Delaware

The state of Delaware is named after the Delaware River. That’s it – that’s the whole story! Well fine, we’ll expand on this a little further. The river itself was first discovered by the Dutch in their attempt to find an alternative route to China in 1609. The leader of that expedition was Henry Hudson, an English navigator under the service of the Dutch East India Company. His discoveries along the East Coast ignited instead the Dutch colonization of North America, and not a new trade route to China. Both Dutch and Swedish settlers established themselves on the lower sections of the river.

Prior to the English expelling the Dutch from their New Netherland colony in 1664, the Delaware and Hudson Rivers were generally known as the South and North Rivers, respectively. After this, however, the North River was officially named after its discoverer, Henry Hudson, while the South River was named after the first governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas West 3rd Baron De La Warr. The South River may have been known to the locals as Delaware prior to the Dutch expulsion, though.

Nevertheless, this De La Warr title is pronounced the same as Delaware, but with a different spelling. Located in Sussex, England, the barony’s name has an Anglo-Norman origin. Now, there are several possibilities as to where this title actually draws it roots from. One possible connection would be with the French La Guerre, which translates to The War. It could also come from the Latin word ager which means field or land. Or from the Breton Gwern – which was a figure in Welsh tradition. The most plausible of these, however, is the French La Guerre – which would make the state of Delaware mean something along the lines of “Of the war.”

1. California

Did you know that some people are naming their kids after popular Game of Thrones characters? Well, naming people and places after fiction isn’t something new. In fact, California was named in the exact same manner. Its name was given by two Spanish sailors, Diego de Becerra and Fortun Ximenez, who landed on the southernmost tip of Baja California in 1533. The two were sent there by Hernán Cortés to claim that land on his behalf. The name was chosen based on a fictional island called California that appeared in a romantic novel at the time, written by Spanish author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo in the early 16th century. Known as Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián), the novel mentions a mythical island located east of Asia and “very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons.

In the book, this island was ruled over by Calafia, a warrior queen who once led an army of women and a flock of mythical griffins from the island of California to aid a Muslim army battle against the Christians, who were defending Constantinople. Her name, and by extension the name of the fictional island, are based on the Arabic word Khalifa which is a religious state leader, and known as Caliph in English. The two Spanish navigators named the place California, thinking that the Baja California peninsula they landed on was an island. To be fair, we should also mention that some people believe that California actually comes from an indigenous phrase, kali forno, which means ‘high mountains.’ But equally as important is the fact that many other places and settlements around the world, including in South America, Europe, Australia, and the Philippines, are named California – something which makes the indigenous phrase being the actual origin seem highly unlikely.


The Name Game

– United States Style