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Beyond 50: American States That Might Have Been

Apr 2, 2010 (All Things Considered)

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It's been over half a century since Hawaii joined the United States and the 50th star was added to the flag. And — except for the occasional discussion of Puerto Rican statehood — there hasn't been much serious talk about expanding beyond 50. As for unserious talk, that has never been in short supply. And Michael J. Trinklein has assembled the mostly unserious, but sometimes plausible ideas of expansionists, secessionists, and various other -ists in his book Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It.

Thomas Jefferson had many ideas for Midwest state names that never materialized. One of those was "Sylvania," which would comprise what today is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sylvania was a popular suffix back in the day and means a "pleasant woodsy area." William Penn wanted to use it, too, but settled on Pennsylvania in the end — a name more representative of his family legacy.

American pioneer Daniel Boone also had a thing for the "sylvania" suffix. If he'd had his way, Kentucky would have been called Transylvania and we'd be placing bets on horses at the Transylvania Derby. Boone hoped to call the colony's capital Boonesborough, but much to the explorer's chagrin, North Carolina and Virginia voted against Transylvania's existence.

Almost smack in the middle of the country could have been a state called Forgottonia. Comprising 14 counties in western Illinois, Forgottonia was an idea created by a group of disgruntled citizens who felt, well, forgotten. In the early 1970s, the would-be state's residents proposed an interstate that would run from Chicago to Kansas City, but they were rebuffed and so decided to try to split off.

Other citizens who have felt neglected by their state governments have followed the urge to create their own. In the early 20th century, residents of northern Texas wanted more roads to drive their new Ford Model T's, so the story goes, so they teamed up with western Oklahomans to suggest a state called Texlahoma, another "failed state."

At this point, if the addition of a 51st state to the United States of America seems far-fetched, consider that Barack Obama is the first American president not to have seen a new state added in his lifetime.

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