The 10 Stages of Statehood in the United States
Mapping the United States is a complex process that has evolved over time. Drawing the American states has been an exciting challenge for cartographers, geographers and historians alike. In this article, we’ll explore in detail the process of drawing the states of the United States, from land exploration to the creation of official state boundaries.
1. The first territorial maps
The first maps of the territories that were to become the United States were drawn by European explorers who landed in America in the 16th century. Cartographers such as John Smith and Samuel de Champlain documented their geographical discoveries with rudimentary drawings of coasts, rivers and mountains.
2. Delimitation of the Colonies
In the 17th and 18th centuries, colonies sprang up along the east coast of North America. Cartographers were tasked with delimiting the boundaries between the colonies, a task that proved delicate and controversial. Territorial disputes often broke out, leading to frequent adjustments to the boundaries.
3. The Proclamation of 1763
In 1763, after the end of the Seven Years’ War, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited settlers from settling west of the Appalachian ridgeline. This temporary line demarcated the western lands reserved for native peoples.
4. Exploration of the American West
In the early 19th century, exploration of the American West intensified with the expeditions of Lewis and Clark and Zebulon Pike. These expeditions helped map previously unknown regions and provided valuable information for defining future territories and states.
5. The Territorial Organization Act of 1787
The Territorial Organization Act of 1787, also known as the “Northwest Ordinance”, laid the foundations for the westward expansion of the United States. It established a process for dividing territories into states once they had reached a certain population.
6. The Missouri and California Compromises
In the 19th century, the westward expansion of the United States led to tensions between slave states and free states. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the California Compromise of 1850 were adopted to strike a balance between slave and free states by drawing the boundaries of the new states.
7. Geodesy and coordinate systems
Geodesy is the science of measuring the shape and size of the Earth. Advances in this field led to the development of precise geographic coordinate systems, which facilitated the accurate drawing of state boundaries.
8. The Census Bureau
In the 19th century, the Census Bureau played an important role in drawing state boundaries. It collected demographic data to determine population distribution and establish new boundaries for territories becoming states.
9. The Union Admission Process
The process of admission to the Union was the final step in the design of the States of the United States. Once a territory met the criteria established by Congress, it could apply to become a state and have its constitution adopted.
10. Border changes over time
Over the course of U.S. history, some state boundaries have changed as a result of territorial cessions, conflicts and legislative decisions. This led to the creation of Alaska and Hawaii as the newest states in 1959.
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The drawing of the states of the United States is a complex and dynamic process that has been shaped by exploration, colonization, westward expansion and political compromise. Cartographers and geographers have played a crucial role in delineating boundaries, resulting in the current configuration of the 50 states that make up the American union.
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