Tuesday, October 24, 2006

38 State Union

The strange maps blog has an interesting proposal for reshaping the United States: a 38 state union. Originally proposed by a retired professor of geography, George Etzel Pearcy (1905-1980) , in the 1970s. According to a contemporary article in the People's Almanac:
Why the need for a new map? Pearcy states that many of the early surveys that drew up our boundaries were done while the areas were scarcely populated. Thus, it was convenient to determine boundaries by using the land's physical features, such as rivers and mountain ranges, or by using a simple system of latitude and longitude. Proof of this lies in the fact that the Mississippi River borders 10 States. The practicality of old established State lines is questionable in light of America's ever-growing cities and the increasing mobility of its citizens. Metropolitan New York, for example, stretches into 2 adjacent States. Other city populations which cross State lines are Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Chicago, and Kansas City.
What was his solution?38 State map
When Pearcy realigned the U.S., he gave high priority to population density, location of cities, lines of transportation, land relief, and size and shape of individual States. Whenever possible lines are located in less populated areas. In the West, the desert, semidesert, or mountainous areas provided an easy method for division. In the East, however, where areas of scarce population are harder to determine, Pearcy drew lines "trying to avoid the thicker clusters of settlement." Each major city which fell into the "straddling" category is neatly tucked within the boundaries of a new State. Pearcy tried to place a major metropolitan area in the center of each State. St. Louis is in the center of the State of Osage, Chicago is centered in the State of Dearborn. When this method proved impossible, as with coastal Los Angeles, the city is still located so as to be easily accessible from all parts of the State.
At least based on what I've observed, the new states would have more cultural similarity than the originals: I think Los Angeles has more in common with Las Vegas than San Francisco and Boston has more in common with Providence than Pittsfield.

It looks to me like his idea made a lot of sense, and, of course, will never ever happen.

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Anonymous Nick Rowley said...

Just learnt about this via mental floss, what a fantastic idea. If only as a setting for stories set in an alternate reality US if nothing else (and it's a shame there's nothing else).

9:37 AM  

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