States in Order of Statehood

When Did States Join the Union?

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The preamble of the US Constitution.“E Pluribus Unum” (Latin for “one from many”), the original motto of the United States, refers to a group of individual political units fusing into a single federal state. From Delaware, the first state to join the newly-created Union in 1787, to Hawaii, the latest one to join in 1959, each state comes with a unique history, geography and cultural heritage. Each state of the US is an individual entity as well as an inseparable part of the country. Statehood is granted when the entity ratifies the US Constitution.

Order of States by Statehood

The table below lists the states in the order in which they joined the Union.

1DelawareDecember 7, 1787
2PennsylvaniaDecember 12, 1787
3New JerseyDecember 18, 1787
4GeorgiaJanuary 2, 1788
5ConnecticutJanuary 9, 1788
6MassachusettsFebruary 6, 1788
7MarylandApril 28, 1788
8South CarolinaMay 23, 1788
9New HampshireJune 21, 1788
10VirginiaJune 25, 1788
11New YorkJuly 26, 1788
12North CarolinaNovember 21, 1789
13Rhode IslandMay 29, 1790
14VermontMarch 4, 1791
15KentuckyJune 1, 1792
16TennesseeJune 1, 1796
17OhioMarch 1, 1803
18LouisianaApril 30, 1812
19IndianaDecember 11, 1816
20MississippiDecember 10, 1817
21IllinoisDecember 3, 1818
22AlabamaDecember 14, 1819
23MaineMarch 15, 1820
24MissouriAugust 10, 1821
25ArkansasJune 15, 1836
26MichiganJanuary 26, 1837
27FloridaMarch 3, 1845
28TexasDecember 29, 1845
29IowaDecember 28, 1846
30WisconsinMay 29, 1848
31CaliforniaSeptember 9, 1850
32MinnesotaMay 11, 1858
33OregonFebruary 14, 1859
34KansasJanuary 29, 1861
35West VirginiaJune 20, 1863
36NevadaOctober 31, 1864
37NebraskaMarch 1, 1867
38ColoradoAugust 1, 1876
39North DakotaNovember 2, 1889
40South DakotaNovember 2, 1889
41MontanaNovember 8, 1889
42WashingtonNovember 11, 1889
43IdahoJuly 3, 1890
44WyomingJuly 10, 1890
45UtahJanuary 4, 1896
46OklahomaNovember 16, 1907
47New MexicoJanuary 6, 1912
48ArizonaFebruary 14, 1912
49AlaskaJanuary 3, 1959
50HawaiiAugust 21, 1959
Washington, D.C.February 21, 1871 (Passage of the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871)

The Thirteen Original Colonies

The 13 colonies that first became part of the US were British territories founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. They fought for and won independence from Britain in 1776 and went on to form The Thirteen Colonies. The colonies became part of the United States in 1788 with the merging of New Hampshire as the ninth state to ratify the United States Constitution. Each state was formally accepted as a member of the Union once it ratified the Constitution.

Admitting the Remaining States into the US

Each state has had a unique trajectory and a different reason for joining the Union. In the 19th century, Americans, impelled by a sense of “Manifest Destiny,” felt it was their duty to bring the entire continent under the banner of the United States. From 1812 to 1850, the United States entered an expansionist phase when 14 new states joined the Union, bringing the total number of states to 31. Five more states joined the Union in the 20th century. Alaska and Hawaii were the last—both were admitted together in 1959.

In some cases, new states were formed after they chose to separate from existing states. Kentucky, for example, broke away from Virginia due to political differences and disagreements. Maine separated from Massachusetts in order to maintain the balance of free states and slave states after Missouri joined the Union. Some states were quickly absorbed into the Union, while others found it more difficult. California, for instance, was allowed to enter the Union as early as 1850, primarily for economic reasons. Utah, on the other hand, remained a territory for decades until it was finally admitted in 1896. For over 60 years, the US hasn’t added another star to its flag but more expansion cannot be ruled out. Five US territories, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands have been pushing to become the 51st state of the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many states are in the US today?

As of 2023, there are 50 states in the US. This is signified by the 50 stars on the American flag. However, there are strong popular movements that are demanding statehood for the territory of Puerto Rico and for the capital city,  Washington, D.C.

  • Which was the first state in the United States?

Delaware was the first state in the United States (US). It became so by ratifying the US Constitution on December 7, 1787. It has been nicknamed “The First State,” and December 7 is celebrated in the state as “Delaware Day.”

  • Which state was the last to join the US?

Hawaii was the last state to join the US. The United States had annexed the island of Hawaii in 1898, during the Spanish-American War. But it was 1959, over 60 years later, that it was admitted as a state.

  • What were the 13 original colonies in order?

The 13 original colonies in order were Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

  • How many US territories are there and what are their names?

There are 14 US territories. They are Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Wake Island, and Navassa Island.


Latest News on Statehood in the US

  • Puerto Rico’s status: Puerto Rico went from being a rebellious Spanish colony to an American territory in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. Since then, the status of the island has been a matter of public debate there and on the American mainland. Beginning in 1900, through various acts, Puerto Rico was given the status of an unincorporated US territory. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship and their own constitution. However, while they are subject to US federal laws, they have not been granted equal representation in Congress as Puerto Rico does not have statehood. The island also lacks electoral college votes and thus has no say in the presidential election. Instead, it has a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives. Over the years, six non-binding referendums have been conducted in the island on the question of its status. Some have presented voters with options besides those of statehood and continuation of the current status. In recent referendums, voters appear to favor statehood. However, the final say lies with Congress where Puerto Rico’s statehood faces opposition from several Republican legislators as well as those in favor of more deliberative options.
  • The latest referendum on the question of Puerto Rico’s status was held in November 2020 in which the majority (52.52%) of voters voted for statehood. Following this, in March 2021, two separate bills were introduced in Congress regarding Puerto Rico’s status: the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Bill by Rep. Darren Soto, supported by the Puerto Rican governor Pedro Pierluisi and the island’s non-voting delegate Jeniffer González-Colón, and the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Bill by Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Rep. Bob Menedez, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 
  • Washington, D.C.’s status: Washington, D.C. the seat of the US government is a federal district. It was created by the District Clause in the Constitution, which grants Congress “exclusive legislation” in all matters pertaining to it. This was further justified by James Madison who said in Federalist No.43 that the area in which the nation’s governing body was situated ought to be independent of any state in order to avoid undue influence by that state. The land for the city was donated by Maryland and Virginia (this area was returned to the state in 1847). The absence of statehood for the area resulted in its residents losing voting rights and representation in Congress in spite of being American citizens. Over the years, the city has been allowed its own civil bodies and mayoral office. The 23rd Amendment (1961) granted D.C. three electoral college votes. However, it still lacks adequate representation in the legislature; it has no representatives in the Senate and a single non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives. On the other hand, as US citizens, the residents of Washington, D.C. are taxed. This has prompted the “taxation without representation” argument for the district’s change of status, either by granting it statehood, or by retrocession of the District of Columbia (returning the land to the state of Maryland).
  • The Washington, D.C. Admission Bill has been introduced in Congress two times—in September 2020 and in June 2021—by the district’s non-voting representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. Both times, it has been passed by the House of Representatives but faced challenges in the Senate. The bill proposed the creation of a smaller new federal district that covers the main federal government buildings—the White House, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, and the National Mall. The rest of the city would become a  new state, named “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.” This arrangement would have remedied “taxation without representation” for the residents of the city while maintaining the federal capital’s constitutionally required independence. However, a key argument against the bill comes from the 23rd Amendment: the three electoral college votes granted to the federal district would still stand even as the population of the region would drop to just a handful to a couple hundred voters depending on how the boundaries were drawn. 
  • 6th January 2021 marked the one year anniversary of the attack on the US Capitol Building. The occasion also saw renewed calls by activists and legislators such as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton for statehood for Washington, D.C. and strengthened voting rights legislation.

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