June 26, 2012

North Carolina – “The Tar Heel State”

North Carolina map



Just the Facts…

bird – cardinal
flower – dogwood
tree – long leaf pine
capital – Raleigh
union – 12th state on November 21, 1789
population – about 9 1/2 million



The Basics 

North Carolina is in the South Atlantic part of the country and was named after King Charles of England (remember – during South Carolina we learned that “Charles” is “Carolus” in Latin?).  It is in between Virginia and South Carolina.  North Carolina has a diverse landscape, with the Appalachian mountains in the western portion of the state and the Atlantic coastal plain in the east.

There are actually four specific mountain ranges within the Appalachians in North Carolina – Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, and the Black Mountains.  North Carolina is home to the highest mountain east of the Mississippi – Mount Mitchell.  The mountains get quite a bit of snowfall and cold temperatures.  Part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the wettest places east of the Mississippi – it receives more rain each year than anywhere else on the East Coast.

The weather in the eastern part of North Carolina is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean.  The ocean makes the coastal region more temperate – the summer is cooler and the winter is warmer than inland.


Its Claim to Fame

Even though North Carolina was the last state to secede from the Union during the Civil War, it provided more troops to the Confederate Army than any other confederate state.  The coastal region had a long history of plantation life that included slavery – tobacco was a big crop and the primary source of income for many people.  Most of the battles in North Carolina took place along the coast and the port of Wilmington was key for providing the Confederacy with supplies.

Have you heard of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina?  This is where the first airplane took flight!   The Wright Brothers accomplished their life dream in December 1903.  Orville Wright took off from a hill overlooking the beach and flew for 12 seconds.  The Wright Brothers actually took three more flights that day – each time they flew longer and longer until the last flight was almost a minute!  The Wright Brothers had been working on the idea of flight for a number of years, and they just didn’t give up.  They started with kites and studied how they worked – how they moved with the wind   Then, they built a glider to study and perfect wing control.  They used fabric for the wings, much like a kite.  Finally, they researched how an airplane could be powered and came up with the idea of a propeller that was attached to a motor.  The modern airplane was born!

North Carolina is known for its Outer Banks – a string of sandy islands just off the coast.  These islands form a barrier between the North Carolina shore and the Atlantic Ocean.  There are two large waterways are between the Outer Banks and the mainland.  Cape Hatteras is located at the very tip of the Outer Banks and has the tallest lighthouse in the United States.  It has earned the nickname the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” because so many ships have sunk off its shore (over a thousand since the 1500s).  There are two main reasons for all the shipwrecks over the years – (1) the water is very turbulent because two major ocean currents meet each other here, and (2) the water is very shallow with a lot of sandbars.


What Makes it Tick

The vast pine forests of North Carolina provided the colonists with their first export – tar.   Tar was used to coat the bottom of wooden ships to make them waterproof.  North Carolina supplied the British Navy with most of the tar needed for its ships – barrels and barrels of tar were sent to England during the Colonial period.  At one point, North Carolina made over 70% of the tar that was exported from the Colonies.  It is possible that the English ships used in the Revolutionary War were made with North Carolina tar!

The forests of North Carolina also provided carpenters with a variety of wood to use in making furniture.  The furniture industry really took off in North Carolina after the Civil War and remains an important part of its economy today.  All furniture was made by hand before to the invention of automated machinery.  After the Industrial Revolution, however, large factories sprung up in North Carolina to meet America’s demand for furniture and cabinets.  From 1940-1980, North Carolina produced more furniture than any other state.

Now, North Carolina is a leader in manufacturing fabric and bricks.  Do you have bricks on the outside of your house? Or around your fireplace? Maybe they were made in North Carolina!  Agriculture is also important to North Carolina – especially sweet potatoes and turkeys.  So the next time you have a turkey sandwich or order sweet potato fries, think about North Carolina!


If You Lived There

If you visited North Carolina, you might tour the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  It is the largest private house (mansion!) in the world and was built by George Vanderbilt during America’s Gilded Age.  It looks like a French castle – it has 250 rooms and sits on 800 acres of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

You might go to the Lexington Barbecue Festival in October.  Lexington calls itself the barbecue capital of the world!  No matter how you like it, there is a barbecue dish for everyone in Lexington – served with hush puppies, cole slaw and sweet tea.  Barbecue doesn’t get any better than this!

Or you might visit historic Halifax, North Carolina.  North Carolina was the first colony to officially suggest the idea of independence from England.  On April 12, 1776, its government passed the Halifax Resolves – a few months earlier than the famous Declaration of Independence.  Halifax Day is celebrated every April 12.   Another county in North Carolina claims to have declared independence from England over a year before that – Mecklenburg county issued a declaration stating that English laws were no longer in effect in its borders!


Want to Know More? 

Did you know that we have more information the the state scrapbook?  It contains an industry map, symbols of the state, and a sample of the information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism of each state.  Check it out!

Do you live in North Carolina? Or, maybe you have visited North Carolina?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about North Carolina?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of North Carolinato share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about North Carolina.  Visit these websites to learn more: