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How the States Got Their Shapes


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About the Author

Mark Stein is a playwright and screenwriter. His plays have been performed off-Broadway and at theaters throughout the country. His films include Housesitter, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. He has taught writing and drama at American University and Catholic University and lives in Washington, D.C.


Unlike Seymour I. Schwartz's This Land Is Your Land and Derek Hayes's Historical Atlas of the United States, both collections of period maps with historical commentary, this book focuses on the evolution of the boundaries between the states. Stein, who teaches writing and drama at American University and Catholic University, seems an unlikely author for this subject. He credits his fascination with this topic to a seventh-grade geography teacher who held up cutouts of states for the students to identify. Intended for the general reader, the text is both informative and highly entertaining. The first chapter, "Don't Skip This, You'll Just Have To Come Back Later," outlines transcontinental boundaries that were inherited from major international treaties of the early 19th century, e.g., the 49th parallel, set in 1818 as the border between the United States and Canada. Then, alphabetically, Stein explores the borders of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The official U.S. policy was to create states with equality of longitudinal width and latitudinal height, but some states were able to get special consideration. If you ever wondered why Delaware owns a small portion of the southwest New Jersey coast, the answer is here! Recommended for high school and public libraries, as well as map mavens and U.S. history buffs everywhere.--Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Pierce, FL Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"If you ever wondered why Delaware owns a small portion of the southwest New Jersey coast, the answer is here!"--Library Journal
"A fascinating and wonderfully entertaining account of an often-overlooked oddity of America's history: how the jigsaw-puzzle layout of the United States emerged. I never thought a book on geography could be funny, but Mark Stein has pulled it off."--Vogue
"For anyone who's been confounded by the largest of all jigsaw puzzles, the one that carved out those fifty weirdly formed states, here is the solution. It's history, it's geography, it's comedy, it's indispensable."--ANDRO LINKLATER, author of The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity
"Give me the splendid irregularities any day. God bless the panhandles and notches, the West Virginias and Oklahomas."--Wall Street Journal

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