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February2009
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Fifty Nifty United States

In September 1898, tuition at Louisiana State University, which was then an all-male military academy, was free and the previous semester saw some 250 students. To provide a new and short route to the gold mines of the Black Hills, Montana and Idaho, Congress appropriated $105,000 in 1865 to open wagon roads. And, in 1913, baseball fans could get a mounted image of teams in the National or American League, like the Washington Senators with star pitcher Walter Johnson (who won AL MVP for the first time that year), for only 40 “Fatima” cigarette coupons.

United States map. Washington, D.C. : Central Intelligence Agency, 2002 Washington Nationals (Senators). 1913

The extensive collections at the Library of Congress contain historic artifacts and cultural materials from across the United States. These are just a sampling of the wealth of information that can be gleaned from the resources. As part of the Library’s Learning Page, a teacher’s-eye view of the resources offered in the American Memory collections, reference librarians have pulled together a selection of primary resources by state, including the U.S. territories. Presented as a U.S. map, simply click on your home state or any of the others to find pictures, documents, audio samples and more. This presentation is suggested for teachers and students of all ages.

If you enjoy delving into your state’s cultural history, you want to make sure to check out the Library’s Local Legacies Project. The project provides a "snapshot" of American culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000, in communities from every state in the nation. From Alaska’s Iditarod to Florida’s Manatee Festival, the project documented community life, signature events and historical observations to create a “century’s-end time capsule.”

The Explore the States presentation from America’s Library offers up even more tidbits of state history. Did you know that Colorado is called the "Centennial State" because it became the 38th state when the U.S. turned 100 in 1876? Or that "Mississippi" comes from an Indian word meaning "great waters" or "father of waters." Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Muddy Waters, the father of Chicago blues, was born and raised in the southern state.

And, for even further research (are you exhausted yet?), the Library’s Digital Reference Team has put together a guide referencing state digital resources – including memory projects, online encyclopedias, and historical and cultural materials collections – from across the Web.

Author Mark Stein put the Library’s state resources to work for his book “How the States Got Their Shapes,” which he discussed during a book talk in 2008. A summary of his lecture was featured in the September issue of the Library of Congress Information Bulletin.


A. United States map. Washington, D.C. : Central Intelligence Agency, 2002. Geography and Maps Division. Reproduction Information: Call No.: G3700 2002 .U5

B. Washington Nationals (Senators). 1913. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Call No.: LOT 13163-33, no. 13