States in Order of Statehood

Stately Knowledge: Facts about the United States

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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.

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

RANK STATE DATE OF STATEHOOD
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

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 – 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.

FAQs

  • Which state was the first in the United States?

Delaware was the first state in the United States (US).

  • Which state was the last to join the US?

Hawaii was the last state to join the US.

  • 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.

 

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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