Archive | July, 2012
July 31, 2012

Kansas – “The Sunflower State”


Kansas map


Just the Facts….


bird – Western Meadowlark
flower – Sunflower
tree – Cottonwood
capital – Topeka
union – 34th on January 29, 1861
population – about 2  1/2 million




The Basics 

Kansas was named after a Native American tribe that lived in the region – the “Kansa.”  It was part of the Louisiana Purchase, then part of the Missouri Territory, and finally part of the Kansas Territory before becoming a state.

Kansas is part of America’s Great Central Plain.  As a result, it is relatively flat and mostly prairie.  Kansas can have some severe weather – it is part of tornado alley and experiences more tornadoes than most states.


Its Claim to Fame

Kansas was a hotbed during the fight over slavery – there was a lot of controversy about whether Kansas should be admitted as a free state or slavery state.  Before the Civil War, the only way peace could be maintained was to keep an equal number of free states and slavery states in the Union.   Kansas eventually entered the Union as a free state, but the conflict surrounding its entry brought our country closer to war.

The Sante Fe Trail went through Kansas.  It was a wagon trail that went from Missouri to Sante Fe, New Mexico.  It was so well traveled some people called it one of America’s first highways.  Silver and furs were brought north from Sante Fe to trade for manufactured goods in Missouri.  A number of forts and towns in Kansas were built along the Sante Fe Trail.

The schools within the City of Topeka were the topic of the famous Supreme Court case – Brown v. Board of Education.  The case was a major victory for the Civil Rights Movement – in it the Supreme Court said that it was unconstitutional to separate black and white children into different schools.  Because of this important decision, all students have the right to go to their community school – meaning the school that is closest to their home.


What Makes it Tick

Kansas has many, many farms and is one of the most productive agricultural states in our country.  Its farms grow mostly wheat, hay, sunflowers, and corn.  In fact, about 90% of the land in Kansas is owned by farms or ranches.  There are also quite a few cattle ranches in Kansas, especially in the south and western part of the state.  Historically, many cattle drives went through Kansas, with cattle from ranches in Texas brought up to St. Louis to be sold and shipped to stockyards in Chicago.

Kansas also manufactures quite a few airplanes and aviation equipment.  Some people call Wichita “The Air Capital of the World.”    In the early 1900s, Wichita became home to a number of small airplane companies.  Airplane production in Wichita really took off during the World Wars – four military bombers were made in Wichita each day in 1945!


If You Visited 

If you visited Kansas, you might visit Dodge City and Fort Dodge, to get a feel for the Old West.  Fort Dodge was along the Sante Fe Trail and a popular stopping place for settlers and traders.  Once the Sante Fe Railroad built tracks to Dodge City, it became a booming city.  Ranchers brought their cattle to Dodge City to be put on the railroad, instead of traveling farther north.

Or, you might visit the Pawnee Indian Museum.  The museum tells the story of the powerful Pawnee tribe, which dominated the central great plains in the early 1800s (until native americans were “relocated” by the American government).  The museum is on the site of an actual village that has been partially excavated.


Want to Know More? 

Check our Kansas state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Kansas?
  • 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 Kansas to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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

July 30, 2012

Oregon – “The Beaver State”


Oregon Map

Just the Facts…

bird – Western Meadowlark
flower – Oregon Grape
tree – Douglas Fir
capital – Salem
union – 33rd on February 14, 1859
population – a little over 3 1/2 million




The Basics 

Oregon is in the Pacific Northwest.  America bought the land as part of the Louisiana Purchase (remember – President Thomas Jefferson bought land from France in 1803?).  Oregon had been discovered before then – explorers on the Pacific Ocean noted a river that went inland from the coast and named it “Oregon.”  But, no one knew how much land was really in between the Mississippi River and that river, which is now known as the Columbia River and forms the border between Oregon and Washington.

Oregon is very diverse, with lush forests along the coast, mountains in the west/center, desert in the southeast, and plains in the northeast.  The southwestern part of Oregon is a continuation of California’s redwood forests.

The western part of the state is home to two mountain ranges, with the fertile Wilmette Valley in between.  The larger of these is the Cascade Mountains, which run the length of Oregon and is home to impressive peaks like Mount Hood.   The Cascades are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire – the rim all around the Pacific Ocean that has a lot of earthquakes and volcanoes due to the movement of teutonic plates deep within in the earth.


Its Claim to Fame

The Lewis and Clark Expedition reached the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.  After President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory, he sent two men to explore what he just bought – Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.  It took the men over two years to explore and map the new land.  They left Missouri in May, 1804 and reached the Pacific Ocean in November, 1805.  They stayed in Oregon almost six months before making the journey home.  The Expedition was an important event in the history of the Pacific Northwest because it connected the area to the rest of America for the first time.

Many people traveled west by following the Oregon Trail.  It was a wagon trail that went from Missouri all the way to Oregon – over 2,000 miles!  People would pack all their possessions into a covered wagon and make the journeys in caravans.  Some people estimate that over 400,000 people traveled the Oregon Trail in search of a new life out west.   People didn’t use the Oregon Trail as much once railroad tracks were built farther and farther west, eventually connecting the east and west coasts by the transcontinental railroad.


What Makes it Tick

Oregon has a rich logging history and is still a major producer of timber.  About half the state is covered in forests.  Like many other places, logging first took place near rivers (the Columbia River in particular).  Logs were cut down and floated down the Columbia River to sawmills, where they were cut into lumber boards.  Once the trees near the rivers had been cut, people had to develop other ways of getting the logs to the sawmills.

The Columbia River is one of the best rivers for salmon fishing in the America, especially where it meets the Pacific Ocean.  Oregon has a strong fishing industry, catching everything from salmon and halibut to scallops and shrimp to crab and mussels.

Oregon is home to quite a few farms and ranches.  The Wilmette Valley produces cranberries, raspberries, other fruits, vegetables and dairy products.  The eastern part of Oregon has cattle ranches and farms that grow grain such as wheat and oats.  And, don’t forget the Christmas trees. Oregon grows more Christmas trees than any other state!  Do you get a live Christmas tree? If so, it was probably grown in Oregon!

Nike is headquartered in Oregon.  Nike was started in the 1960s by the track and field coach for University of Oregon and one of his star runners.   The two started selling tennis shoes out of the trunk of heir cars!  And, the company took off from there.  Now it makes almost everything that has to do with sports, and it owns a lot of companies that do the same.  Do you have Nike tennis shoes? If you don’t, chances are you have something made or owned by Nike – a Nike golf shirt, Umbro soccer shorts, Jordan basketball shoes or Converse shoes.


If You Visited

If you visited Oregon, you might drive by the world’s smallest park in Portland, Mills End Park.  It is two feet wide!  It is part of the median of a street – and was originally dedicated as a Leprechaun colony!

If you visited, you might go to Crater Lake National Park.  Crater Lake is what is left of an ancient volcano.  The volcano eruption was so large and powerful that the whole peak of the mountain disappeared, leaving a huge crater that filled with water.  Crater Lake is over 1,000 feet deep – the deepest lake in America!  Or, you may go skiing on Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest mountain.  Mount Hood is a dormant volcano that is home to over 10 glaciers!  It is a  popular place for skiing, hiking, and mountain climbing.


Want to Know More? 

Check our Oregon state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Oregon?
  • 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 Oregon to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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

July 27, 2012

Minnesota – “The North Star State”

Minnesota map


Just the Facts….

bird – Common Loon 
flower – Ladyslipper
tree – Red Pine
capital – St. Paul
union – 32nd state on May 11, 1858
population – almost 5 1/2 million





The Basics 

Minnesota is part of America’s border with Canada, where the Great Lakes region meets the Great Plains.  It is rocky and heavily forested in the north, especially by the north shore of Lake Superior.  Three habitats meet in Minnesota – the coniferous forests (i.e. pine trees) in the north, the deciduous forests (i.e. maples and oaks) in the southeast, and the Great Plains in the west and southwest.

The name “Minnesota” comes from a Native American word that means “sky tinted water.”  Its nickname is “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.”  Actually, has between 12,000 and 15,000 lakes (depending upon who is counting!).  Many of these lakes are in the northern part of the state, which is still primarily forest.  In addition to lakes, Minnesota has countless streams and rivers.  And, then there is Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes!  The northwestern coast of Lake Superior is part of Minnesota – we call it “The North Shore.”


Its Claim to Fame

The mighty Mississippi River has its humble beginnings in Minnesota.  The Mississippi starts from Lake Itasca in the north central part of Minnesota.  At first, the Mississippi is only a few feet wide and quite shallow – you can actually walk across it!  It grows quickly as streams and creeks flow into it.   In St. Paul, the Mississippi River joins with the Minnesota River.  A little farther south, it joins with the St. Croix River.  Once the Mississippi River becomes the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, it is the large river we think of when someone refers to the Mississippi.

Minnesota’s landscape was created by the movement of glaciers, which carved holes that were filled by water from the melting glaciers.  But, a long time ago there was a different explanation for how Minnesota’s lakes were created – Paul Bunyan and his pal, Babe and Blue Ox!  Paul Bunyan is an American folklore character – a giant lumberjack who was very strong.  The northern woods were his home (from Minnesota to Canada to Michigan to Maine).  As Paul Bunyan walked through the forest, his huge footprints made the thousands of lakes in northern Minnesota.  At times he would drag his huge axe behind him, which created the Mississippi River and many other rivers.  Three towns in northern Minnesota have statues of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox – there is even Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Minnesota.

Mayo Clinic – Minnesota is home to one of the premier medical institutions in the country.  It was started by two brothers – William and Charles Mayo – in Rochester, Minnesota.  They were pioneers in how medical care was organized and provided to patients.  Mayo Clinic was the first to create a multi-specialty system, where doctors that specialized in different areas of medicine came together to treat patients.  Many people travel thousands of miles to be treated at Mayo – including royalty!


What Makes it Tick

Logging was one of Minnesota’s first industries – lumberjacks traveled from the eastern states because they heard about Minnesota’s forests – miles and miles of huge trees covered much of the northern and eastern part of the territory.  The first logging towns were located along the St. Croix River, which is the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Lumberjacks cut down white pine trees and floated them down the river to sawmills.  They actually tied the logs together and made huge rafts out of the lumber.  Logging towns sprang up along Minnesota’s many rivers.   The logging companies kept moving north as forests were cut down until they reached Canada in some places.

Minnesota grows and processes a lot of America’s food.  It is a big agricultural state, with more than 80,000 farms that grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and other grains like oats.  In fact, Minneapolis was the “Flour Capital of the World” around 1900.  It’s mills produced most of the flour consumed by America for nearly 30 years.  As the food industry grew in the 1940-50s, a lot of the food grown in Minnesota was then processed in Minnesota – Betty Crocker cake mixes and Jolly Green Giant vegetables.  Many food companies are still based in Minnesota, General Mills being the biggest.  If you look in your pantry I bet you will find at least one thing made by General Mills (hint – look at the cereals first!).

Iron Ore – the discovery of iron ore in the northeastern part of Minnesota helped to fuel America’s industrial growth in the early 1900s.  It led to the development of Duluth as a major shipping port – the iron ore mined in Minnesota was put on ships in Duluth and carried through the Great Lakes to Pittsburgh, where it was made into steel.  It was also transported to other cities along the Great Lakes like Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland for many purposes.

Minnesota has been home to many inventions that make our life just a little bit easier:

For example, you can sleep through the night comfortably because of the thermostat, which was invented by the Honeywell company in Minnesota.  Before the thermostat, people would have to get up in the middle of the night to adjust their furnaces.  Or, they would just wake up to a cold house.  Finally, the thermostat was invented – you could set it at a specific temperature and it would adjust the furnace automatically.  As a result, we can all sleep a little easier!

3M invented scotch tape, masking tape, post-it notes, sandpaper and many more products you probably have in your house right now.  Could you imagine your life without scotch tape? Or masking tape? How would you make all those fun art projects?


If You Visited

You might go to camping in the BWCA.  The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country.  It is also the largest protected wilderness area east of the Mississippi – it has over a million acres of land and more than 1,000 lakes!  Very few motor boats are allowed .  But, you can canoe or kayak all throughout the BWCA.  And, most of the campsites are only accessible by water.  While you are in the BWCA, you may have to cross a portage if you want to get from lake to lake.  Imagine – pulling your canoe out of the lake, carrying it on your shoulders down a path and over rocks, then putting it back into the water once you reach the next lake!

Or, you may go waterskiing on one of its many lakes.  Waterskiing was invented in Minnesota.  In 1922, an 18 year old boy wondered – if people could ski on snow maybe they can ski on water as well?  He and his brother experimented for a few days on Lake Pepin until they figured out the key to making it work – you lean back while you are skiing on water (as opposed to leaning forward while you are skiing on snow).  Water sports were born!  Have you tried water skiing? Or, maybe some of the newer inventions like inner tubing or wakeboarding?

If you are there in the winter, you might go to the St. Paul Winter Carnival.  The cold does not stop Minnesotans – there is ice carving, snow sculptures, and an ice castle!  But, you would not be cold for long.  Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have skyway systems – which are above-ground tunnels that connect the buildings to each other.  The skyways allow you go to most places in the city without getting cold or snowy!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Minnesota state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Minnesota?
  • 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 Minnesota to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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


July 26, 2012

California – “The Golden State”


California Map


Just the Facts…


bird – California Valley Quail
flower – California Poppy
tree – Redwood
capital – Sacramento
union – 31st state on September 9, 1850
population – almost 38 million




The Basics 

A lot of people live in California!  In fact, more people live in California than any other state.   Not only that – LA County alone has more people than most other states (42 in fact)!  And, it has the largest minority population of any state (a third of its residents are of Mexican descent).

California has a little bit of everything – mountains, deserts, forests, and beaches!  Northern California is lush and wooded, while southern California is dry desert.  California has two mountain ranges – one by the Pacific Ocean and one by the eastern border with Nevada – in between lies a fertile valley (it is the heart of California’s agriculture).  Death Valley is in the southeast corner of California and has the lowest point in America.  Not even the Grand Canyon is lower!

Some people think the name “California” came from a Spanish fictional story.  California was settled by the Spanish first – they established missionaries all over southern California, to try to convert the Native Americans to Catholicism.  California then passed to Mexican hands and all those missions became “ranchos” – cattle farms.  After the Mexican-American War was over, much of northern California passed to America and became a territory.  But, southern California remained in Mexican hands until it became a state in 1850.

California has so many people, but so little water.  It has very few natural springs, rivers and lakes, especially in southern California.  Over the years, California has had to be creative about how it gets water.  Some of its water comes from places as far away as the Colorado River.  In addition, the California Aqueduct is about 700 miles of pipeline that brings water from the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern California to communities farther south.


Its Claim to Fame

Gold was found in northern California right after it became a state!   The California Gold Rush brought people from all over America and other countries who tried to get rich by finding gold.  Towns popped up overnight.  The population grew so fast that no one could keep up – people couldn’t build houses and towns fast enough.  At first, traveling to California was hard and dangerous.  Families would spend months traveling by wagon across the great plains, through the Rocky Mountains, over the desert, and across another set of mountains into California.  Eventually, railroads connected California with the rest of America and then there was no stopping the population boom!

Hollywood is the home of American movies and television.  It was settled around 1900 – the first film companies came soon after and have never left!   Animation was invented in Hollywood by Walt Disney – Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and so forth.  If it weren’t for Hollywood, you wouldn’t have cartoons to watch in the mornings!

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is considered to be one of the modern Wonders of the World!  The bridge is about 1 1/2 miles long and crosses the San Francisco Bay.  It is the tallest suspension bridge in America.  Suspension bridges are unique because the road “hangs” from large cables, or steel wires.  The support comes from above the road, rather than below the road like many other bridge designs.  The Golden Gate bridge was built in the 1930’s and allows for both car and pedestrian traffic.


What Makes it Tick

Many people don’t think of California as a major agricultural state.  In fact, California grows at least 50% of all fruit sold in America.  Much of the fruits and vegetables are grown in California’s central valley, which has fertile soil.  Add a little water and the growing conditions are perfect!  I bet you eat at least one thing each week that is grown in California – grapes, strawberries, melons, oranges, lettuce, tomatoes and almonds.  Not to mention its cows and all the milk and dairy products.  Take a look in your refrigerator, or check out the produce next time you go to the grocery store – I bet you can find quite a few things that are made in California!

Silicon Valley is home to many technology companies – like Apple, Google, eBay, and HP.  In fact, personal computers were started in the Silicon Valley area of California.  You probably have a lot of items in your house that were designed in Silicon Valley – especially computers and printers.  And, don’t forget those iPads, iPhones, and iTouches!

Since California is on the Pacific Ocean, it has quite a few ports.  And, some of America’s biggest ports are in California – such as Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.  A lot of goods pass through those ports – almost everything imported from Asia goes through a California port.  Do you have a Sony television? Or a Toshiba DVD player?  Or a Nintendo Wii?  Chances are those electronics came to America on a ship that unloaded its cargo in California.


If You Visited

If you visited California, you may visit the Giant Sequioa Trees.  The giant sequoia’s are the oldest and largest living thing in the world – they are larger than any other plant or anima!   They grow naturally in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and you can find them inYosemite National Park, Sequoia National Forest, Kings Canyon National Park, or Sierra National Forest.  Many of the oldest and biggest Sequoia’s have names, like “Grizzly Giant,” “Wawona Tree,” “General Grant,” or “Agassiz Tree.”

Or, you may go to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.  Tar Pits? In Los Angeles? Yes, the La Brea tar pits are actually open pools of tar.  And, they have lots of fossils in them!  Even today, scientists are finding fossils of animals that walked this earth long, long ago.

You might spend a day at one of California’s many amusement parks.  Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Legoland, Sea World, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – the list goes on and on!

Or, you might play on one of southern California’s many beaches.  You could even learn to surf in Santa Monica!  Or boogie board in Malibu!  Or brave the colder water in Half Moon Bay.  With over 2,500 miles of beaches, there is something for everyone.  After you get your fill of water sports, you may stay on Coronado Island.  Or take a ferry out to Catalina Island.  Or, travel up to Monterey Bay to watch the sea otters!


Want to Know More? 

Check our California state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about California?
  • 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 California to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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

July 25, 2012

Wisconsin – “The Badger State”


Wisconsin map


Just the Facts…

bird – Robin
flower – Wood Violet
tree – Sugar Maple
capital – Madison
union – 30th state on May 29, 1848
population – almost 6 million



The Basics 

Wisconsin was originally explored by the French, and then transferred to America as part of the Northwest Territory (remember – that part of the country that was won by the British in the French & Indian War?).  It took a while for settlers to reach Wisconsin – for quite some time the only people who called Wisconsin home were hunters and fur traders.

Metal brought the first settlers to Wisconsin.  Lead and zinc were found in the southern part of Wisconsin and people came “West” to earn their fortune!  As a result, Mineral Point was the first town in Wisconsin and it grew as the lead mines grew.  Some people even think these miners are where the nickname “Badger” came from – many of them did not have the money to build a house when they first came to Wisconsin, so they made their homes in caves or holes they dug in the hillsides.


Its Claim to Fame

Cheese!  Wisconsin produces more cheese than any other state.  There are over 1 million cows in Wisconsin’s dairy farms, and most of the milk produced by those cows is made into cheese.  The Wisconsin cheesemaking industry began around 1850 – the very first cheese factory was started by a woman who used milk from her neighbor’s cows.  The idea took off and more cheese factories were built, giving Wisconsin a brand new industry.  The word spread and many cheesemakers and dairy farmers who immigrated to America made their way to Wisconsin.  They brought their secret recipes and techniques from their homeland.  Before long, the state of Wisconsin was producing cheeses from the “Old Country” – today more than 600 kinds of cheese are made in Wisconsin.   Now, Wisconsin is the only state to have a Master Cheesemaker program.  Many of the best chesemakers are second or third generation – they learned the family recipes from their parents, who learned from their grandparents!  Do you like cheese?  Try a new cheese that is made in Wisconsin – check the labels next time you are at the grocery store!

Frank Lloyd Wright.  He lived in the early 1900’s and some people think he is one of the greatest American architects.  He believed that buildings should fit naturally into their environment and there are some fine examples of his architectural style in Wisconsin.  In fact, he spent his summers in Wisconsin at his home named “Taliesin.”  Now, Taliesin is a National Historical Landmark and a studio and school for architects.


What Makes it Tick

Dairy farming is a big part of Wisconsin’s economy. But, it did not start out that way.  When Wisconsin was first settled, there was logging in northern Wisconsin and farming and mining in southern Wisconsin.  At first, farmers grew traditional crops like wheat and oats.  Eventually, the extensive farming depleted the soil’s nutrients and many farmers moved to dairy farming.  The cheese industry grew because of the high quality milk, and the dairy farms stayed in business because the cheese industry purchased most of its milk – the rest, as they say, is history.

For many years, logging was big business in northern Wisconsin.  From 1850-1900, Wisconsin timber provided lumber and paper for growing American businesses.  The first areas to be logged in Wisconsin were pine forests along the rivers.  Since pine wood floats, the loggers would send the logs down the river to the sawmills and paper mills in town.  Even now, paper making is a big part of Wisconsin’s economy.  More paper is made in Wisconsin than any other state – over 5 million pounds per year!   Maybe your workbooks from school are printed on Wisconsin paper.  Or your favorite book.  Or the programs you get at a hockey game.

If You Visited

Door County, Wisconsin is a popular tourist destination.  It is a peninsula in Lake Michigan and has a lot of natural harbors and bays – making it perfect for boating!  In fact, it has so much shoreline that some people call it the “Cape Cod” of the Midwest.  It technically is the largest county in Wisconsin, although about three-fourths of its territory is water!  If you visited Door County, you might pick your own cherries.  Door County has a long history of cherry orchards.  Or, you might visit one of its 5 state parks or 12 lighthouses.  Why so many lighthouses?  Well, some of the waters around Door County are hazardous and hard to navigate.  In fact, there are quite a few shipwrecks in the area.  Back when the French were exploring the area, they named it “Death’s Door,” which eventually evolved into its current name, Door County.

Or, you may visit the Wisconsin Dells.  The Dells are home to the “Ducks,” a special kind of vehicle that was developed for the army and can go both on land and on water.  The Ducks were first brought to the Wisconsin Dells in 1946 and have been giving rides to tourists ever since.  Shortly after their arrival, a traveling waterski show came through town.  It was so popular that The Tommy Bartlett Water Ski show made the Dells its permanent home in 1952.  It is still going strong – the Tommy Bartlett show is on many people’s list of things to do in the Dells.


Want to Know More? 

Check our Wisconsin state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Wisconsin?
  • 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 Wisconsin to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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

July 24, 2012

Iowa – “The Hawkeye State”

Iowa Map


Just the Facts…


bird – Eastern Goldfinch
flower – Wild Prairie Rose
tree – Northern Red Oak
capital – Des Moines
union – 29th state in 1846
population –  about 3 million




The Basics 

Iowa is part of the breadbasket of America.  With over 90,000 farms, it is sometimes referred to as the “Food Capital of the World!”

Iowa is in the midwest, or the middle of the country sometimes referred to as the “American Heartland.”   It has a wide range of weather, with cold and snowy winters and hot and humid summers.  Iowa is the only state to have rivers provide both its eastern and western borders – the Mississippi River in the east and the Missouri River and the Big Sioux River in the west.  Most of Iowa is covered with gently rolling hills.

America bought the land that is now Iowa nearly 200 years ago, as part of the Louisiana Purchase (remember that President Jefferson bought a lot of land from France in 1803?).


Its Claim to Fame

Iowa has some of the best soil in all of America, thanks to the movement of glaciers a long time ago.  As the glaciers moved over the land, they left sediment behind that formed the rich soil throughout Iowa.  That rich soil allows Iowa to produce a lot of the food that we eat.  Over half of the land in Iowa is farmed with crops.

Iowa’s population grew quickly in the 1800’s, as people from all over Europe sailed to America in search of a new life.  Many of these people were farmers in Germany, Norway, and Denmark, and heard about the promise of “free land” in America.

After our federal government purchased land all the way to the Pacific Ocean, it needed to figure out how to settle it.  Enter the Homestead Act – which provided that the US Government would grant land to farmers that met certain requirements.  He had to build a house, dig a well, and farm the land for 5 years.  If a man can prove that he worked the land for 5 years and he became a citizen of the United States, he would then become the proud owner of that land.  This is how much of Iowa (and the whole Midwest, for that matter, was settled).


What makes it Tick

Iowa is called the “Food Capital of the World” for a reason – it is a leader in the production of hogs, corn, and milk.  But, it does not stop there – many different crops are grown in Iowa – corn, soybeans, and a variety of grains such as oats and wheat.  And a variety of animals are raised in Iowa – pigs, cattle, and chickens, to name a few.

Iowa does not just grow a lot of our food – it also makes that food into many other items in our grocery stores.  Some examples of large food plants in Iowa are Barilla pasta and Quaker oatmeal and cereal.  In addition, the largest popcorn plant is located in Iowa.  Did you have oatmeal this morning for breakfast? Or bacon? Or popcorn last time you went to the movies? Or macaroni and cheese for lunch? Maybe you were eating food that was grown or made in Iowa!


If You Visited

If you visited Iowa, you might attend one of its many state and county fairs (which is a long tradition in Iowa).   The first state fair was held in 1854, and Iowa has had a state fair almost every year since (some years were skipped during wartime). Over 3 million people attend Iowa’s various fairs each year – that is about the same as Iowa’s population!

If you visited Iowa, you might tour the John Deere factory!  Tractors are made in its Waterloo factory, and you can watch them get assembled!  There is also a John Deere Pavilion, which has a lot of fun things for kids to explore – riding in tractor simulators, learning how cotton is made into blue jeans, and much more!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Iowa state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Iowa?   We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Iowa?
  • 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 Iowa to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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

July 23, 2012

Texas – “The Lone Star State”


Texas Map

Just the Facts…


bird – Mockingbird
flower – Bluebonnet
tree – Pecan Tree
capital – Austin
union – 28th state on December 29, 1845
population – about 20 million




The Basics 

The name “Texas” comes from the Native American word “Tejas,” which means “friends.”  Texas is big!  Even though it isn’t the biggest state in America (its second only to Alaska), it is bigger than many countries around the world – including France!

Texas is where America’s deep south meets the southwest.  As a result, it has a diverse landscape, with swamp and coastal lowlands to the east and desert and mountains in the west.  Grassy plains and rolling hills are in between.   This diversity in landscape also causes big variations in weather throughout the state.   For example, the northwest corner may get snow in the winter while the coastal area is subject to hurricanes.  And to top it off, the northeastern part of Texas is in “tornado alley” and experiences more tornados each year than most places in America.

The Texas state government is unique because the public elects most of the leadership positions within the executive branch.  More than 10 positions within the executive branch of the Teas state government are elected by the public.  Usually, just the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected by the public, and the Governor appoints people to fill the other leadership roles in the executive branch like the Secretary of State or the Attorney General.


Its Claim to Fame

Texas was an independent republic for a brief period of time!  Texas was initially settled by the Spanish, primarily in response to the French settlements in Louisiana.  France and Spain were in competition with each other for control over the New World – the Spanish claimed Texas to prevent the French from moving into its territory.  America tried to include Texas as part of the Louisiana Purchase but was not successful.   After Mexico won its independence, Texas was considered part of Mexico until it won its own independence in 1836.  It governed itself for nine years until it became a state in 1845.

Before the railroads made their way across Texas, cowboys would drive their cattle all the way up to Kansas City, where they would be put on trains to Chicago and other cities to be butchered and sold.  Some cowboys even drove their cattle herds all the way to California, especially during the Gold Rush.  These cattle drives usually started in spring, covered many miles and took months.  There is an art to cattle driving – cowboys had to know when to drive the cattle and when to let them graze and rest, so the cattle did not lose too much weight during the journey.  Many cowboys would participate in a cattle drive, including a cook and the “chuck wagon.”  The cowboys would work in shifts, since the cattle had to be watched 24 hours per day to prevent them from wandering off or being stolen.  The famous cross country cattle drives decreased once the railroads were built across Texas.  Instead, cattle were driven shorter distances to the towns that sprang up along the railroad.


What Makes it Tick

Texas has more farms than any other state – and those farms lead the nation in the production of cattle, sheep, and cotton.  Spanish missionaries brought cotton to the prairies of Texas and it has been grown there ever since.   As the cotton farms spread through the plains of Texas, so did the cotton gin towns.  What is a cotton gin, you might ask?  Cotton gins are machines that separate the cotton fibers from the cotton seeds.  As technology advanced, the machines became bigger and more automated and also more expensive.  Communities would gather together to purchase a cotton gin for many farmers to use (before this each farm had its own cotton gin machine).  A town usually sprang up around the location of a community cotton gin, giving rise to the cotton gin towns.

Oil!  The first big oil well was found in Texas in 1901.  When the Spindletop Well hit oil, it gushed over 100 feet in the air for nine days!  That was a dramatic start to the oil industry in Texas, which has been going strong ever since.  Now, some of the largest oil companies are based in Texas and a big portion of America’s oil is produced in eastern Texas.


If You Lived There

You might visit The Alamo in San Antonio.  It was originally built by the Spanish in the 18th Century as a Roman Catholic mission named the “Mission San Antonio de Valero.”  Eventually, the Spanish abandoned the Alamo and Mexico took control of it until the Texas Revolution, when it changed hands a few times.  It became famous for the battle fought there during the Texas Revolution – Texan soldiers within The Alamo were under siege by the Mexican Army for 13 days.  The Mexicans eventually took the Alamo, but it became a symbol of the bravery and determination of the Texans to gain their independence.

You might go to a rodeo!   A rodeo is a event where cowboys compete to see who has the best cattle herding and horse management skills.  When you think about a rodeo, a cowboy riding a bucking bronco may come to mind.  But, there is more to it – there are many different events to test the cowboys’ skills.

After the rodeo, you may sample some food at a barbecue cook off.   You can find a barbecue cook-off almost every weekend somewhere in Texas – cooks usually fire things up on Friday and stay there all night monitoring their barbecue.  Slow cooking, special wood, and secret spices are the keys to winning a cook-off in Texas!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Texas state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Texas?
  • 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 Texas to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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

July 20, 2012

Florida – “The Sunshine State”

Florida Map


Just the Facts…


bird – Mockingbird
flower – Orange Blossom 
tree – Cabbage Palmetto
capital – Tallahassee
union – 27th on March 3, 1845
population – about 16 million


The Basics 

Florida is a peninsula in the southern region of America – with the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west.  Florida is pretty flat, with miles and miles of beaches.   Florida gets more rain than most places within the US, and is susceptible to severe weather like thunderstorms, lightening strikes, and hurricanes.

Florida was first explored and settled by the Spanish.  Florida was given its name by Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer – “La Florida” is Spanish for “flowery land.”   During the Colonial times, the land that is now Florida changed hands a few times – from Spain to England and back to Spain.  America gained control over parts of Florida through fighting with the Spanish, and finally gained control over the whole area when Spain made a deal with America – America could have Florida if it paid Spain some money and gave up any ownership claims to Texas.


Its Claim to Fame

The Everglades is a huge wetlands area in southern Florida.  For about 50 years (1890-1940) people tried to develop the Everglades into farmland by building canals.  Eventually, the government decided to restore the Everglades to its natural state because of its  environmental importance.  Now, much of it is a protected National Park.   The Everglades are home to many unique trees, plants and wildlife – sawgrass marshes, mangrove forests, cypress swamps, including alligators and manatees.  There is no other place like it in the world!

Visitors!  More people visit Florida each year than any other state.  And, many people come to spend time on the miles and miles of beaches – Florida has the longest ocean coastline of any state in the US.  And, in addition to the amazing beaches, Florida has a LOT of golf courses.


What Makes it Tick

Florida is all about oranges!  Actually, it is citrus in general – oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and clementines.  More oranges are produced in Florida than any other state.  But, interestingly, the orange is not native to Florida.  The orange tree was probably brought to the New World by the Spanish.  Most of Florida’s oranges are made into orange juice.  Did you drink your Florida orange juice this morning?

Shipping is big business in Florida and many American goods are exported to other counties from Florida.  There are 15 deep water ports all together in Florida, and its not just cargo ship that dock in these ports – its also cruise ships!  Have you ever been on a cruise to the Caribbean?  Chances are, you boarded your cruise ship somewhere along the Florida coast.


If You Visited

Disney World!  The Walt Disney World Resort is the most visited amusement park in the whole world!  It is located in Orlando, Florida and is open every single day of the year.  Walt Disney personally selected the site for Disney World and secretly bought all the land.  He also negotiated with the state of Florida so that Disney World could have its own government and not be subject to the rules of any surrounding county or city.   Did you know that most of Disney World is actually sitting on top of an “underground” city with a series of tunnels – that is how staff and supplies move throughout the park.  And, the tunnel system really isn’t underground – it was built as the first floor, then lots of dirt was put on top of it and finally Disney World was built on top of that!

The Kennedy Space Center is home to NASA – it is where most of America’s rockets and space shuttles have been launched into space.  It is located on Merritt Island, just off the east coast of Florida and was named in honor of John F Kennedy, the American President who dreamed of America landing on the moon.  The Kennedy Space Center was the primary launch site for all the space shuttle missions – over 120 launches between 1981 and 2011.   Sometime next year, the space shuttle “Atlantis” will be on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.   Who knows – maybe visitors will get to walk inside Atlantis!

Or, you may visit the Florida Keys – their name comes from the Spanish term “cayo,” which means “little island.”  The Keys are part of a very old and very large coral reef, the tip of the coal reef rises above the water and makes up the islands.  For some time, Key West was the biggest town in Florida and the closest port to Cuba, Bahamas, Louisiana and the Panama Canal.   The Keys were only accessible by water until the Overseas Railway connected the islands to each other and the mainland by a series of railway bridges (these bridges were constructed between 1905-1912).  After a hurricane destroyed some of them in 1935, the railway was converted to a road for cars.   One of the bridges along the Overseas Highway is almost 7 miles long!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Florida state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Florida?
  • 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 Florida to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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

July 19, 2012

Michigan – “The Great Lake State”


Michigan Map

Just the Facts…


bird – Robin
flower – Apple Blossom 
tree – Eastern White Pine
capital – Lansing
union – 26th on January 26, 1837
population – about 10 million




The Basics 

Michigan is in the Great Lakes region of America.  In fact, the name “Michigan” came from the French interpretation of a Native American word that means “large water.”

Michigan consists of two peninsulas – the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula.   The two parts of Michigan are connected by a 5 mile bridge – the Mackinac Bridge.  The Upper Peninsula is full of forests and rugged terrain – it is home to the Porcupine Mountains, which are thought to be the oldest mountains in America.  The Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten – try holding your hand up (with your fingers together and your thumb out a little bit) and see how its shape compares to the Lower Peninsula.

Michigan was first explored and settled by French voyageurs who came down from Canada (they were French Canadian as opposed to French Creole in the south).  They established trading posts and forts in Michigan, which supported their activities of hunting and trapping wildlife and trading goods with the Native Americans.  The area was lost to England in the French and Indian War and became part of the Northwest Territory.

Michigan approved a state constitution in 1835, but was not admitted into the Union as a state for two years because of a dispute over the boundary with Ohio.  The “Toledo Strip” was an area claimed by both Ohio and Michigan and was the source of years of controversy.  Finally, as a condition to statehood, Michigan had to give up the Toledo Strip and was given the Upper Peninsula in return.


Its Claim to Fame

Michigan has the most freshwater shoreline of any state.  The Upper Peninsula has Lake Superior on the north and Lake Michigan on the south.  The Lower Peninsula has Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the northeast.  And believe it or not, the very southeaster tip of Michigan touches Lake Erie.  That is four Great Lakes!  Also, quite a few islands make up part of Michigan’s shoreline.  Those islands are primarily in Lakes Michigan and Huron, although Michigan also owns Isle Royale in Lake Superior.


What Makes it Tick

Michigan was largely unsettled land until the opening of the Erie Canal.  The Erie Canal allowed people from New England to travel through Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and finally to Michigan’s shores.  As a result, Michigan grew tremendously in the 1820s and 1830s.  Most of this population boom took place in the Lower Peninsula.  Even now, a majority of Michigan’s population remains in the Lower Peninsula, specifically around Detroit.  Much of the Upper Peninsula is still wilderness, with relatively few people calling it home. And, many of those people who do call it home came from Canada (rather than through the Erie Canal).

Michigan is famous as the birthplace of the American car industry.  Ford, General Motors, Dodge, Buick, Oldsmobile were all started in Michigan.  Henry Ford built his “Model T” in Michigan – the first car to be built on an assembly line.  The rest, as they say, is history.  During both World Wars, the car factories in Michigan made most of the vehicles needed by the military – trucks, tanks, airplanes, etc.  Today, Michigan is still the leading producer of cars in America.

In the 19th Century, the lumber industry and dairy farming is what made Michigan tick.  Now, two of the biggest pizza companies are in Michigan – Domino’s and Little Caesars.  When was the last time you had a Domino’s Pizza?  The dough and sauce for that pizza was probably made in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


If You Visited

If you visited Michigan, you might stay on Mackinac Island, which is right off the shore of both peninsulas, in the straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron.   Some people say that time stands still on Mackinac Island – it is known for its carriage rides, grand historic hotels, and the famous Mackinac Island Fudge.  But don’t bring your car – very few motor vehicles are allowed on the island!  In fact, there is not even a bridge that connects Mackinac to the mainland.  You get there by ferry!

Or, you might visit the Henry Ford – which is a museum, village and factory in Dearborn, Michigan.  You can ride a restored Model T or see how trucks are made today.  The Museum is a tribute to American ingenuity – from airplanes to steam engines to cars.  The Village has seven different historic districts that highlight various aspects of America’s past.  There is even a replica of Thomas Edison’s workshop, where he invented something we use everyday – the lightbulb.   The Village also has a baseball diamond -  you could watch a baseball game, 19th Century style!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Michigan state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Michigan?
  • 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 Michigan to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Michigan.  Visit these websites to learn more:
July 18, 2012

Arkansas – “The Natural State”


Arkansas Map

Just the Facts…

bird – Mockingbird
flower – Apple Blossom
tree – Shortleaf Pine
capital – Little Rock
union – 25th state on December 14, 1819
population – about 3 million




The Basics 

The name “Arkansas” came from the French pronunciation of a Native American term “akakaze,” which generally meant “people who were down river.”  Arkansas is in between Missouri and Louisiana along the Mississippi River.  Like the rest of that part of America, it was first settled by the French.

The northwestern part of Arkansas is part of the Ozark Mountain Range; the Ouachita Mountains are in southern Arkansas, with a lush valley in between.   The Arkansas River runs through that valley.  Much of Arkansas is still wilderness and forests.


Its Claim to Fame

The “Trail of Tears” runs through Arkansas.  It is a national historical trail that follows the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern part of America to their designated territory (which was the area that is now Oklahoma).   The official trail goes through nine states and covers more than 2,000 miles.    Some Native American tribes “voluntarily” gave up their land and headed west to Oklahoma, but some tribes had to be forced to leave their homeland.  They all took the Trail of Tears west.

Arkansas played a big role in the Mexican War of 1846.  Texas wanted to become an American state, but there was a problem.  Mexico never recognized the Republic of Texas as being independent, despite the fact that the war for independence was fought 10 years before.  As a result, both America and Mexico claimed to own Texas – so they went to war over it.  Arkansas troops fought in many os the important battles, which led to an American victory and the great state of Texas as we know it today.


What Makes it Tick

Arkansas is home to one of America’s largest companies – Walmart.  Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, opened his first store in Arkansas.  Now, Walmart has a store in almost every state – your family may even shop at one!  But, Walmart also has many stores that operate under different names, like Sam’s Club and stores around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

After the Civil War, Arkansas developed a very strong timber industry – making everything from lumber to paper to newspaper to charcoal.  Many parts of Arkansas are heavily wooded, with a wide variety of trees that allowed for many different wood products.  The market for all these products really took off once the railroads were developed enough to transport them to the eastern part of America.  Even now, Arkansas provides America with a wide variety of timber products.


If You Visited

You might visit Crater of Diamonds State Park!  It is one of the only locations in North America where diamonds have been found.  And, the state park is a place where the general public can search for diamonds – and keep what they find!!   The state park is located on an ancient volcano crater – the heat of the volcanic eruptions formed the gems a long time ago.

You might explore some of Arkansas’ famous caves!  The Ozarks are filled with limestone caves.  These caves are a world unto themselves – with underwater rivers and creatures, mazes, crystals, fossils, and colorful stalactite and stalagmite (do you remember which comes down from the ceiling and which comes up from the ground?).  There are also a lot of Native American artifacts and sites in the caves.

Or, you may visit nature’s own spa near Hot Springs, Arkansas.   There are 47 natural springs just north of town, which are filled with water from below the earth.  When the spring water comes out of the earth it is about 140 degrees – that’s hot!   Hot Springs National Park is one of our oldest federally preserved parks – as a result it got its own quarter in 2010 as part of the US Mint’s new “America the Beautiful” series of quarters – keep a look out for it!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Arkansas state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

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

  • What is your very favorite thing about Arkansas?
  • 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 Arkansas to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

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