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How the States Got Their Shapes Paperback – April 7, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“For anyone who’s been confounded by the largest of all jigsaw puzzles, the one that carved out those fifty weirdly formed states, here is the solution. It’s history, it’s geography, it’s comedy, it’s indispensable.” (ANDRO LINKLATER, author of The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity)
“If you ever wondered why Delaware owns a small portion of the southwest New Jersey coast, the answer is here!” (Library Journal)
“A fascinating and wonderfully entertaining account of an often-overlooked oddity of America’s history: how the jigsaw-puzzle layout of the United States emerged. I never thought a book on geography could be funny, but Mark Stein has pulled it off.” (Vogue)
Top Customer Reviews
I was thrilled to see that this book was finally available.
The book has surpassed my expectations. The details are fabulous. The ample maps fully illustrate the narrative.
Each state is explained. For example, why does Rhode Island have "island" in it's name? Buy the book and find out.
When I lived in Mobile, I puzzled for years over Alabama's "tab" at the south. My guess was that it had something to do with giving the state a gulf shoreline. (Maybe for condos?) I was wrong. It's all Florida's fault.
In short, this book is fascinating! Even if you think you're not interested, you will be. The arcane knowledge you learn will make you the star of any party, or a total bore.
I love it!
It quickly glosses over major historical events to race through each state's borders. The choice of dealing with the states alphabetically is odd and leads to reiteration of the same facts over and over without deeper explanation. The French and Indian War is mentioned 16 times, but the causes of it are never described.
Errors are frequent. In "Arizona," Stein writes about a buffer "...around the town of Yuma, California..." Yuma is in Arizona. He states that Texas joined the United States in 1846. It became a state in 1845. He never describes New Hampshire's northern border, stating that the western border of that state is the Connecticut River but completely ignoring the fact that the northern border departs from the river on its way to Maine.
The book seems amateurish and incomplete. I realize the author is a playwright, but that is not an excuse. It left me wanting more.
I enjoyed learning such things as how a small valley was transferred from Massachusetts to New York hundreds of years after their borders were presumably set. Indeed, I wondered why Arizona didn't seek to cede the isolated and ungovernable Colorado City, home of alleged polygamists, to Utah on the same basis. It was also interesting to learn about how some lines were mis-surveyed, though Stein could have gone into further depth as to why in some cases courts would allow this to continue.
Given that nearly every school child knows about the Mason-Dixon line, it would have seemed natural for Stein to cover their work in far more detail than he did.
But what really bugged me is that he totally missed a number of interesting issues relating to borders. For example, there was an arbitration between the U.S. and Canada over the border between Alaska and British Columbia in the panhandle region. This makes for interesting history, the idea that our border was subject to a vote of six people, three from each country. Stein doesn't mention it at all. There was a war called the Pig War, commemorated by a National Historic Site, over British and American claims to the San Juan and Gulf Islands off Washington. And why does the border, which follows the 49th parallel even to include a tiny, noncontiguous area called Point Roberts, suddenly head southward so that Vancouver Island isn't split between the U.S. and Canada? Not a word from Stein.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stein expounds well researched historical details that led to the particular shape of each USA state. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
It was interesting but a bit hard to flip back and forth when other state boundaries were referenced. Certainly worth reading if you're interested in such things.Published 4 days ago by Roger G
Really good examination about the geography of the United States. Some really good unknown stories about disputed territories. Overall a very interested story!Published 13 days ago by McGrawfan12
Travels in the western states are really supplemented by this book. There's a preamble that provides a very good start to the details. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jerry Hopponen
Answers all my questions as to why the state borders are so weird. Well researched.Published 3 months ago by THE caveman