State Nickname Streets

On November 29, 2015 · 3 Comments

I focused an inordinate amount of time and attention on Wikipedia’s List of U.S. State Nicknames as I wrote the Comparison Nicknames article. That wasn’t the original intent of the effort however, just an interesting byproduct somehow spinning into its own topic. I’d been working on something else, something finally revealed today. It all began when an obvious fact presented itself to me in a new way. There was a major road nearby that ran for about 25 miles from Arlington to Great Falls in Virginia named Old Dominion Drive. So what, I figured, my entire lifetime up until a few days ago. Then I recalled that Virginia’s nickname was the Old Dominion State. The connection should have been completely apparent to me years ago although I’d overlooked it somehow. I’ve never claimed to be the brightest kid in class.



That led me to wonder whether or not at least one street in every state incorporated its nickname. I needed to know every state nickname first and that led me to the list on Wikipedia, sparking the whole chain of events that brought us here today after the earlier tangent. Only two states didn’t have official nicknames, Alabama and Wisconsin. I called Dealer’s Choice for those and selected Heart of Dixie and the Badger State respectively, finding streets named for each of them without any trouble. It surprised me how quickly I discovered streets even for the most bizarre of nicknames such as Show Me Lane in Camdenton, Missouri (map).

Most were ridiculously easy and provided an abundance of choices. I selected one per state somewhat randomly because I didn’t want to add every occurrence to the map. I supposed I rationalized that as wanting to prevent cluttering although the real reason involved laziness. Fifty waypoints seemed enough. Better examples (e.g., longer, more significant roads) likely existed and 12MC readers should feel free to add their favorites in the comments if they feel their home state may have been slighted. Readers outside of the United States can play the game too. Good luck finding "The Land of Seed and Honey" Street in Saskatchewan, though.

The easiest might have been Delaware. How could I possibly mark every nicknamed street in Delaware? The state called itself the First State. As the state explained,

Delaware is known by this nickname due to the fact that on December 7, 1787, it became the first of the 13 original states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. "The First State" became the official State nickname on May 23, 2002 following a request by Mrs. Anabelle O’Malley’s First Grade Class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School. Delaware Code Title 29 § 318

I was a bit surprised that it didn’t become the official nickname until 2002 although kudos to the kids at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School. However, this resulted in any 1st Street in Delaware sharing a commonality with the state nickname. There must have been hundreds of them. The only thing that might possibly have been worse would have been if Maine had called itself the Main State (it didn’t thank goodness, it selected the Pine Tree State instead). I took a more complicated route and found a few that represented the entire state nickname, for example an actual First State Boulevard in Wilmington (map).


Why Atlanta Sucks
Why Atlanta Sucks by treybunn2 on Flickr (cc)

Georgia presented an interesting situation as the Peach State. There were so many Peachtree Streets and variants in its capital city of Atlanta that it became a running joke years ago. By some estimates, there were at least 71 separate occurrences of Peachtree in the city. However, Georgia wasn’t the Peachtree State, it was the Peach State. Oddly enough, there were very few Peach Streets minus the tree although I did manage to find several and I even found one with the full name, Peach State Drive in the town of Adel (map).


Boston - Boston University: The Castle
Boston – Boston University: The Castle by Wally Gobetz on Flickr (cc)

Most of the states did not include a street with the full nickname, specifically dropping the "state" portion from the street name. Hawaii, as an example, had an Aloha Drive although no Aloha State Drive, and so on. Nonetheless, several did as noted previously for Delaware and Georgia. The best example may have been Massachusetts. The Bay State had a Bay State Road in Boston that actually traversed a significant place, the campus of Boston University (map). Most of the other examples were stubby little roads serving industrial parks, shopping centers or a few rural homes.

Last place in this friendly competition went to Wyoming. It was the Equality State, a nickname applied when Wyoming became a state in 1890 and was the first to allow women’s suffrage. I had no argument with that, it was a notable historic fact. However I couldn’t find a single Equality Street much less an Equality State Street, making Wyoming the the only state without a nicknamed street. There were several streets that aligned with its unofficial nickname though, the Cowboy State so I took some solace there.


Completely unrelated

At long last, and after years of gentle nudging, Steve from CTMQ finally created a County Counting map. He was up above 700 counties too. Great start!

Comparison Nicknames

On November 4, 2015 · 4 Comments

I enjoyed reading Wikipedia’s List of U.S. State Nicknames recently. My amusement didn’t come from the familiar nicknames I already knew, rather it derived from the nicknames I never knew existed. Alabama was the Lizard State? Really? Did anyone else know that? Then I noticed that several of the states featured nicknames that compared them to other geographic locations.

I went ahead and researched all of them because that’s what happens on a geo-oddity blog and apparently I didn’t have anything better to do. I have issues.

A few of the geographic nicknames seemed relatively plausible. Others seemed strange. Still others were so ancient and obscure that I’d guessed they hadn’t been uttered seriously in at least a century. Wikipedia should be embarrassed to print that last batch. They should be stricken.

Arizona: Italy of America

The Grand Canyon State would resonate as a valid nickname for Arizona for many readers while the Italy of America seemed to be a vastly inferior option. I didn’t really understand the comparison and neither did the major Intertubes search engines. I did find links to the Italian Association of Arizona and the Arizona American Italian Club although I didn’t think either of those would explain the nickname. I dug deeper and went into Google’s book search — a recurring theme for this article — and finally found an obscure reference. It came from a Report of the Governor of Arizona (1879):

These considerations of the sensible and shade temperature will account for the absence of any detrimental effect from the extreme heat of Arizona. It is the long period of hot days that becomes tiresome, but this is balanced by the delightful cool nights and enjoyable season from October to May, inclusive, during which no better climate can be found, and may be termed a veritable Italy of America.

Verdict: Retire the nickname.


Colorado: Switzerland of America


U.S. 550, Ouray, Colorado
U.S. 550, Ouray, Colorado by Ken Lund via Flickr (cc)

Colorado was the Switzerland of America during the same basic era although the nickname found a little more traction. The expression faded over the years even though some sources still cited it, albeit as an anachronism. Smithsonian Magazine even published When Colorado Was (And in Many Ways Still Is) the Switzerland of America

Back in the 1870s, when American travelers imagined the West, they didn’t picture the desolate plains and cactus-strewn mesas so beloved by John Ford. They thought of somewhere far more sedate and manicured — a place, in fact, that looked surprisingly like Switzerland. For the restless city slickers of the Gilded Age, the dream destination was Colorado, where the high valleys of the Rocky Mountains, adorned with glacial lakes, meadows and forests as if by an artist’s hand, were reported to be the New World’s answer to the Alps. This unlikely connection with Europe’s most romantic landscape was first conjured in 1869 by a PR-savvy journalist named Samuel Bowles, whose guidebook to Colorado, The Switzerland of America extolled the natural delights of the territory…

The town of Ouray, Colorado (map) adopted the nickname and continues to use it.

Verdict: Ouray can continue to use it; retire it for the rest of the state.


Delaware: New Sweden



View New Sweden (Nya Sverige) in a larger map

I knew why this one existed. Twelve Mile Circle featured Delaware’s Swedish connection in an article called "New Sweden." I even created a map, reproduced above. The New Sweden colony functioned for decades during the Seventeen Century in northern parts of future Delaware and beyond.

Verdict: Accurate although I’m not sure anyone would commonly use the nickname today. I’ll defer to the opinion of 12MC’s Delaware readers.


Georgia: Empire State of the South

There were plenty of references that tied Georgia to the Empire State of the South, as exemplified by the New Georgia Encyclopedia Georgia History Overview: "By 1860 the "Empire State of the South," as an increasingly industrialized Georgia had come to be known, was the second-largest state in area east of the Mississippi River." The reference generally applied to the mid-Nineteenth Century. I can’t imagine anyone in Georgia or any other Southern state wanting to be compared to Yankees from the Empire State (New York) today.

Verdict: Retire the nickname.


Louisiana: Holland of America

I found plenty of information on the Holland America Cruise Line and precious little on Louisiana as a supposed Holland of America. It made some sense though. Both had extensive canals, dikes and levies designed to keep water from flooding their low-lying terrain. Finally I discovered an obscure reference from 1905, an article from the Meridional newspaper based in Abbeville, Louisiana that had been cataloged by the Library of Congress. I also found a few old books with similar references. The trail led back to the first quarter of the Twentieth Century.

Verdict: Retire the nickname.


Maryland: America in Miniature

I don’t live in Maryland although I’ve lived near Maryland’s border with Virginia for most of my life. I’d never heard anyone call it America in Miniature. Yet, I found numerous contemporary references to the nickname. This even included Maryland’s tourism website, Visit Maryland, on its Maryland Facts page: "Maryland has been called "America in Miniature" because so much is packed into its 10,460 square miles of land and water. You can find just about any kind of natural feature here, except a desert."

Verdict: I guess people still use it.


Minnesota: New England of the West

Numerous references existed, both outdated and contemporary. However, uniformly, they all pointed to a single period of Minnesota history circa 1850-1870. For example, the Library of Congress referenced Pioneering the Upper Midwest:

Early migration to Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota from the east came disproportionately from New England and New York. That pattern was mightily reinforced by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which funneled Yankees and ex-Yankees from New York into the southern portions of the Upper Midwest. Each state in turn for a time dubbed itself "the New England of the West."

I had ancestors who made that same journey, traveling from Maine to Wisconsin initially and then onward to Minnesota during its so-called New England of the West period. I found it interesting that the phrase also contained a double geographic reference, first to the New England region of the United States, and then farther back to England. That was a curious aside although it did nothing to legitimize the nickname for current usage.

Verdict: Retire the nickname.


New Mexico: New Andalusia



Andalusia Court

Using New Andalusia as a nickname for New Mexico held little water. I found a vague reference to New Andalusia being used an early name for New Mexico. That was back in 1583. Yes, 1583. There was a tiny Andalusia Court in Cloudcroft, New Mexico although I doubted there was any connection to the so-called nickname.

Verdict: Retire the nickname.

Highpoint to Lowpoint

On March 22, 2015 · 10 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle received an intriguing question from reader "Cary" a few days ago. Cary, a professional mapmaker, noticed something interesting while conducting research: the amazing proximity of Minnesota’s highest point of elevation to its lowest. This led to a natural question. Was this the shortest distance between a state highpoint and a lowpoint? I’d touched on something within a similar vein way back in 2008 in "Highest and Lowest, Oh So Close" However, I’d discussed only the curious case of California with its astounding elevation difference between Mount Whitney at 14,494 feet (4,418 meters) and Death Valley at -282 ft (-86 m). The two points were separated by only 88 miles (142 kilometers).

That earlier article didn’t answer anything to determine if those 88 miles represented the absolute shortest distance between highpoints and lowpoints; it simply noted that the distance was very small. Fortunately numerous sources existed on the Intertubes so I could steal — with proper attribution of course — wonderful items such as this map that had already been prepared to assist with such a quest.


Map of USA elevations
State Highpoints and Lowpoints
Wikimedia Commons via GNU Free Documentation License

My quick eyeball assessment created a few observations. The California distance was indeed very short. It wasn’t the shortest. Minnesota was shorter and a couple of east coast states might be viable too. There was also one other curious fact. With the exception of California and Louisiana with lowpoints below sea level, the lowest elevation in each state appeared to fall somewhere along its border where it abutted another state or a large body of water. I supposed that reflected water always seeking the lowest level as it flowed downhill.


Minnesota


Port of Duluth
Port of Duluth, Minnesota along the state’s lowpoint. My own photo.

The Minnesota highpoint mentioned by Cary was Eagle Mountain (map) at 2,301 ft (701 m). The elevation certainly didn’t rival California’s Mt. Whitney, however the summit was only about 12.8 miles (20.6 km) from the state’s lowpoint on the shores of Lake Superior. The lake had a consistent elevation so it was only a matter of finding the closest line between mountain and shoreline.

I noticed that Michigan’s highpoint on its Upper Peninsula also fell remarkably close to Lake Superior. I felt a momentary sense of elation until I realized that Michigan touched several of the Great Lakes including Lake Erie way down at the southeastern corner of the Lower Peninsula. Lake Erie, being considerably downstream from Lake Superior, obviously had a lower elevation and thus the Michigan highpoint and lowpoint were separated by hundreds of miles.


Rhode Island


Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge
Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge by Timothy Valentine, on Flickr (cc)
Located along Rhode Island’s lowpoint

When checking for diminutives one should always examine the smallest of U.S. states, Rhode Island. Right? Little Rhody failed to reign supreme this time around. It’s highpoint was Jerimoth Hill (map). However that was located on the far western edge of the state almost all the way to Connecticut. That put it some distance from the nearest stretch of sea level elevation, which even in this very tiny state measured 19.2 miles (30.9 km) by my rough estimation.


Delaware


Rehoboth Beach in the Winter
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in the Winter
along the state’s lowpoint. My own photo.

Then came the geo-oddity magnet that was Delaware. I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I believe Delaware holds more geographic anomalies per square mile than any other place. The streak continues!

Delaware’s highpoint occurred at Ebright Azimuth (12MC’s visit). Its lowpoint was at sea level which I’ve experienced many times along its wonderful Atlantic Ocean beaches. However the highpoint (map) was certainly too far away from the Atlantic coast to make it a top contender. The Delaware River, conversely, flowed quite close to the azimuth. Could the Delaware River along that stretch have an elevation of zero? I figured it might be possible. I knew that the Potomac River at Washington, DC, in an area of similar terrain was only about six inches above sea level considerably farther inland.

I thought 12MC might have to call out to hydrologists in the audience to see if we could calculate the elevation of the Delaware River at the point closest to Ebright Azimuth. Then it dawned on me. I didn’t need to do anything like that. I simply needed to learn if the Pennsylvania lowpoint located farther upstream had an elevation at sea level or not. Many sources listed that statistic so it should be easy. Bingo! Pennsylvania’s lowpoint was at sea level on the Delaware River at the Delaware border. Therefore the Delaware River flowing through Delaware, being downstream from Pennsylvania, had to have a sea level elevation by definition. That qualified it as part of the state’s lowpoint.

A rough measurement generated a Delaware highpoint-to-lowpoint distance of approximately 4.3 miles (6.9 km).

Thank you Cary for the suggestion.

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