Stately Knowledge: Facts about the United States

States Ranked by Date They Entered the Union

Return to Stately Knowledge Home

“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 last 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.

The 13 colonies that first became part of the Union 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.

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 to join the nation – 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.

The table below shows the date each state joined the Union.

RANK STATE DATE ENTERED THE UNION
1 Delaware December 7, 1787
2 Pennsylvania December 12, 1787
3 New Jersey December 18, 1787
4 Georgia January 2, 1788
5 Connecticut January 9, 1788
6 Massachusetts February 6, 1788
7 Maryland April 28, 1788
8 South Carolina May 23, 1788
9 New Hampshire June 21, 1788
10 Virginia June 25, 1788
11 New York July 26, 1788
12 North Carolina November 21, 1789
13 Rhode Island May 29, 1790
14 Vermont March 4, 1791
15 Kentucky June 1, 1792
16 Tennessee June 1, 1796
17 Ohio March 1, 1803
18 Louisiana April 30, 1812
19 Indiana December 11, 1816
20 Mississippi December 10, 1817
21 Illinois December 3, 1818
22 Alabama December 14, 1819
23 Maine March 15, 1820
24 Missouri August 10, 1821
25 Arkansas June 15, 1836
26 Michigan January 26, 1837
27 Florida March 3, 1845
28 Texas December 29, 1845
29 Iowa December 28, 1846
30 Wisconsin May 29, 1848
31 California September 9, 1850
32 Minnesota May 11, 1858
33 Oregon February 14, 1859
34 Kansas January 29, 1861
35 West Virginia June 20, 1863
36 Nevada October 31, 1864
37 Nebraska March 1, 1867
38 Colorado August 1, 1876
39 North Dakota November 2, 1889
40 South Dakota November 2, 1889
41 Montana November 8, 1889
42 Washington November 11, 1889
43 Idaho July 3, 1890
44 Wyoming July 10, 1890
45 Utah January 4, 1896
46 Oklahoma November 16, 1907
47 New Mexico January 6, 1912
48 Arizona February 14, 1912
49 Alaska January 3, 1959
50 Hawaii August 21, 1959
Washington, D.C. February 21, 1871

FAQs

  • Which state was the first to enter the Union?

Delaware was the first state to enter the Union.

  • Which state was the last to enter the Union?

Hawaii was the last state to enter the Union

  • What were the 13 original colonies?

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

  • 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.

Related Resources