What Do You Know About the U.S. State Capitals?
How well do you know the history of the United States? No, we're not talking about all the things they cram into your schoolbooks. We're talking about trivial and surprising history.
In honor of America's 244th birthday, we found some little-known facts about events that took place in the United States, all within the borders of the capital cities that represent the states.
Read on to learn more — you may find these fascinating facts about every U.S. state capital particularly useful for trivia night (or just to impress your friends with random knowledge).
The Great Molasses Flood occurred in Boston in 1919. A 50-foot tank located in the North End was used to take molasses from ships that used the sticky substance to make alcohol. Unfortunately, the tank wasn't properly built and, although workers reported the structure was beginning to leak and people in the neighborhood could hear the tank creak and rumble, nothing was done to fix it.
When the tank burst, 2.3-million gallons of molasses spilled onto Commercial Street — at 35 miles per hour with a wave that was 50-feet high! The disaster injured 150 people and killed 21. Buildings and structures were destroyed, including Engine 31 firehouse.
The Holiday Spirit
The first Christmas celebration took place in what is now Tallahassee. Known as DeSoto for conquistador Hernando de Soto, the first Christmas was celebrated with de Soto's men, camped during the winter from 1539 to 1540.
A re-enactment of the encampment takes place in January each year.
A Sense of Humor
You may think of Florida when you think of pink flamingos, but the plastic yard pink flamingo was created by a Madison, Wisconsin, native.
In 2009, the city voted 15 to 4 in favor of making it the city's official bird.
Keep on Driving
Long before McDonald's popularized the concept of drive-thru dining, the very first drive-thru opened in 1920.
The Springfield, Illinois, Maid-Rite sandwich shop opened with its drive-thru and then franchised in 1926 before anyone had even heard of the Golden Arches.
There are more than 72 breweries in the Denver Beer Triangle (which includes Boulder and Fort Collins) and 48 in Denver proper.
Not only does Denver lead in breweries, it hosts the Great American Beer Festival every year. This fall gathering offers more than 3,000 beers to visitors, making it the world's largest beer event, according to Guinness World Records.
It Wasn't Yellow
Charleston, West Virginia
Fed up with dirt roads turning into mud when it rained, Mordicai Levi decided to pave America's first road in 1870.
Using bricks along Summers Street, Levi patented his paving method, and other cities followed suit.
Bring Your Own Bib
The world's largest crab festival can be found in Annapolis, where 320 bushels of crabs, 100 gallons of crab soup, 3,400 ears of corn, 150 pounds of barbecue and 1,800 hot dogs are served.
Held at the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the charity event has been offering this feast for nearly 75 years.
Amelia Earhart may get all the fame, but the first woman to fly solo around the world was actually a housewife from Ohio.
Departing from Columbus in 1964, Jerrie Mock departed for her adventure, which had 21 stops and 22,860 miles. She completed the roundtrip flight in 29 days.
Have a Heart
The very first open-heart surgery didn't take place in a hospital. Rather, it was on a kitchen table in Montgomery in 1902.
When a boy was stabbed in the heart, Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill opened his chest to stitch it, making history.
The University of Alabama's cardiovascular surgical unit is named for the pioneering doctor.
The largest capital of the United States, Juneau spreads across 2,716.70 square miles.
While that sounds impressive, only about 607 square miles of the land is used by the city. The remaining land is the area's rugged terrain of mountainous peaks and deep fjords, and because of this, there are actually no roads leading into Juneau. (You have to arrive by boat or air.)
So Is This One
Little Rock, Arkansas
Although there are bridges that are longer, the Big Dam Bridge was built over Murray Lock and Dam specifically for pedestrians.
Elevated 90 feet above the water, the bridge is 4,226 feet in length and connects users to 14 miles of trails.
It's Not Where You Think
Trenton, New Jersey
While the Declaration of Independence was signed in nearby Philadelphia, the first time it was read to the public was in Trenton.
We all know the Declaration was signed on July 4, but the public readings began on July 8, first in Trenton, followed by readings in Easton, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia. It was then distributed to the other states.
A mural at 23 South Warren Street in Trenton commemorates the event.
Riding in Style
The first time a president was able to wave to citizens from the comfort of an automobile took place in 1902.
William McKinley was the first president to ride in a car, but Teddy Roosevelt, who had family in Connecticut, was the first to use an automobile to parade down the streets.
At Least They Weren't Jack O'Lanterns
Would you believe there were enough wild pumpkins growing in the Arizona valley that a town was named Pumpkinville?
Just 4 miles from Pumpkinville, a new town was being created, and the people were determined to give the land a new name. Suggestions included Stonewall for Stonewall Jackson and Salina for the Salt River. Instead, it was given the name Phoenix, as the town was rising from the ruins of the Hohokam ancestral land.
Phoenix eventually spread to take up Pumpkinville, roughly where 28th and Van Buren streets are now located.
With more than 100,000 shady trees planted through "Trees Atlanta," the Georgian capital was given the name "City in a Forest."
Nearly half of the city is covered in forest, leading the National Forest Service to recognize it as "the most heavily forested urban area in the country."
Head in the Clouds
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Bet you thought mile-high Denver is the capital with the highest altitude? You'd lose that bet.
Santa Fe can be found at 7,000 feet above sea level. (Cheyenne, Wyoming, stands at 6,097 feet and beats out Denver, too.)
Ride 'Em Cowboy!
The first eastbound Pony Express ride carrying messages took 12 days. It departed from Sacramento, California, on April 3, 1860.
Promising to deliver mail faster than ever, the mail was heading to St. Joseph, Missouri, where, on the same date, the first westbound ride commenced. It arrived in Sacramento in 10 days.
One Cultural City
Nicknamed the "Athens of the South" for its number of universities and colleges, Nashville is also home to the only replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.
Enter through the doors of this building and find a golden statue of the Greek goddess Athena, which stands 42 feet tall—the tallest indoor sculpture in the country.
That's So Weird
Austin proudly displays its slogan all across town: "Keep Austin Weird."
Coined by a radio DJ in 2000, the phrase supports the "shop local" mentality, but the capital of Texas definitely has its share of weird. That includes its sunset ritual of watching 1.5 million bats depart into the evening from their home under Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.
In Need of Pest Control
Providence, Rhode Island
The Big Blue Bug visible from I-95 as a marketing tool for Big Blue Bugs Solutions is the largest termite you'll ever find.
The steel and fiberglass statue is 928 times the size of a real termite at 58 feet in length. It has watched over drivers on the highway since its installation in 1980.
Concord, New Hampshire
The first alarm clock developed in America was created in 1787 in New Hampshire's capital. Its inventor, Levi Hutchins, couldn't wake up at 4 a.m. to start working his fields due to the late sunrise in New England, especially during winters.
He created a cabinet with a brass clock that would ring a bell when the minute hand reached 4 a.m.
They Got Their Wings
Bismarck, North Dakota
Yes, 8,962 people in Bismarck laid in the snow of the capitol building to create snow angels on Feb. 17, 2007.
And Guinness World Records confirmed it was the largest simultaneous snow angel–making event in the world.
Filled With Love
If you're in Montpelier for Valentine's Day, you'll see the work of the mysterious Valentine Phantom. As the people of the city sleep, the phantom covers the town with red hearts.
It's a copycat though. Portland, Maine, has had its own Valentine Phantom for more than 40 years!
Whole Lotta Shaking Going on
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Tiger Stadium, home to Louisiana State University's Tigers, is so big it is considered the fifth-largest city in the state when it's filled.
When the Tigers met their rivals, Auburn, in 1988, the unexpected win by one point sent the stadium's 79,431-capacity into such a roar that seismic waves were recorded at the school's Howe-Russell Geoscience Complex. It's been dubbed the "Earthquake Game" ever since.
Des Moines, Iowa
The French explorers through Iowa are said to have named the river that flows through it for the Trappist missionaries who lived beside it. In French, "moines" means monks. Both the river and the city mean "River of the Monks."
Still, there are linguists who claim the name dates back to 1673 when Native Americans gave it the name, Moinguena, which translates into "excrement face."
Best to stick with the monk river version.
Bow to the Majesty
Before Hawaii became a state in the U.S., it was ruled by a monarchy. Honolulu's Iolani Palace, built in 1882, is the only royal palace in the country.
The last monarch was overthrown in 1893, but you can tour the palace that was built by King Kalakaua.
Kentucky may be located south of the Mason-Dixon line, but it was on the side of the North during the Civil War. In 1862, Confederate soldiers took the state capital, making it the only Union capital to fall.
John Hunt Morgan not only led the attack, but he also led additional battles around the state.
They Do Have a Lot of Trees
Built in 1754 by Kennebec Proprietors who settled in the land given to them by the Pilgrims, Fort Western was originally a storehouse for supplies shipped to Maine from Boston.
During the French-Indian War, it housed prisoners but never saw battle. It remains standing to this day and is the oldest wooden fort in all of North America.
They Probably Don't Know This Song Is About Them
Salt Lake City, Utah
Surprise! The most plastic surgeons per resident can be found in Salt Lake City! They have nearly five docs per 100,000 people, according to RealSelf.
Salt Lake even beat out cities like Miami and Los Angeles.
A Pretty Site
For more than a century, the Rockville Bridge, made of rocks, has served as a rail bridge that crosses the Susquehanna River. The bridge has 48 arches that each span 70 feet!
With 220,000 tons of stone, the bridge is 3,820 feet in length and is the world's longest bridge made of stone. It wasn't an easy task to build. Eight-hundred stone masons worked for two years to create this masterpiece that opened in 1902.
Free at Last
The Supreme Court's decision that segregation was unconstitutional in public schools is based on a case that began in Topeka.
Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, making schools open for all.
The Mississippi Delta is known for the Blues, a style of music that was created by Africans who brought it to the country as slaves. The music is filled with stories of oppression, combined with tales from the motherland. Without instruments, slaves would create percussion using whatever they had.
The Mississippi Blues Trail was created in 2006 and offers 189 historic markers across the state. Jackson is home to 13 markers, meant to educate those who visit.
Music to Our Ears
If Eldridge Reeves Johnson would never have been born in Dover, Delaware, would we have music as we know it?
Johnson invented the phonograph for recorded music to be played in homes throughout the world. As founder of Victor Talking Machine Company, which is now RCA, Johnson's invention helped launch the entertainment industry.
Taking a Jog
Albany, New York
While Theodore Roosevelt was governor of New York, he would run up the stairs of the capitol building as exercise.
And get this: Reporters who wanted to speak to him had to beat him to the top.
He Earned His Wings
Charles Lindbergh learned to fly at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation found in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1922.
He even became a "barnstormer," walking on wings and parachuting out of planes, to earn the money for flying lessons.
Lingbergh went on to become the first man to fly a solo flight nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.
Cycle Through It
Not only has Bike Magazine named Boise the nation's top mountain biking city, but it's also received acclaim from National Geographic, Best MTB Gear and Bicycling.
Boise has more than 150 different mountain bike trails to enjoy.
On Your Mark!
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
On April 22, 1889, the government gave homesteaders a chance to grab land in order to promote westward expansion. On that day, with the sound of a gun, people rushed to stake a claim in free land.
By the end of the day, 10,000 tents had been set up on what became Oklahoma City.
The Duke Slept Here
Carson City, Nevada
The king of Western films, John Wayne's last movie, "The Shootist," was filmed at Carson City, Nevada's, Krebbs-Peterson House.
The movie debuted in 1976 and also starred James Stewart, John Carradine and a young Ron Howard.
Just Kidding Around
You'll find five exhibit halls within the 472,000-square-foot Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the largest of its kind in the world. It has also been featured on many media "best of" lists as being the Best Museum for Families.
There are more than 130,000 artifacts within the museum, but outside is even more fun and games with the Sports Legends Experience that promotes getting outdoors while celebrating the city's rich history as a sports capital.
A Mighty Distinction
Raleigh, North Carolina
The first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to open in the south, Shaw University was founded in 1865.
It was the first college to open its doors to women and the first to feature a four-year medical degree as well.
The Sioux people who called this land home had a name for a gypsy tribe that sometimes passed through. Although they were the Shyenne, the Sioux called them "Dzitsistes." In the Sioux language, it means "aliens" or "people of foreign language."
So, in essence, Cheyenne was named for the aliens.
A Novel City
St. Paul, Minnesota
Named one of the country's "most literate cities" by a Central Connecticut State University survey (alongside neighboring Minneapolis), the St. Paul-Minneapolis area has also seen its fair share of authors.
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis called this area home, along with folk musician and writer Bob Dylan, who attended the University of Minnesota under his real name, Robert Zimmerman.
He's Got Credentials
A National Historic Landmark, Virginia's state capitol is a Roman-style building modeled after its ancient temples. Built in 1785, it was the very first capitol building erected after the American Revolution.
And it was designed by future president and Virginian Thomas Jefferson.
But Not Coonskin Caps
Jefferson City, Missouri
Named for Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson City was designed to be the state capital of Missouri. As such, the city was laid out by Daniel Morgan Boone, the son of the famous pioneer Daniel Boone.
Boone had arrived in Missouri to visit the Spanish lieutenant governor at the request of his father. He was told that, if he brought his father and other settlers to the area, they would receive land grants. His father brought settlers within two years.
Serve It Up
The very first ice cream machine to serve up soft service ice cream was introduced at a Dairy Queen in Olympia, Washington.
Dairy Queen claims it invented soft serve in 1938, but the founder of Carvel claims he did it (by accident) in 1936. But we can also thank Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of Britain, who some claim helped in its creation when she worked for a company that served it from Mr. Whippy trucks.
Hey, Big Spenders
More millionaires in the world were found in Helena, Montana, at the end of the 19th century — and you can see evidence of this on Mansion Rowe, where the mansions that once housed them all still stand.
We're All Friends Here
Pierre, South Dakota
If you pronounced South Dakota's state capital like the French name, you'll be quickly corrected by the locals who pronounce it as "peer."
The land was settled by Germans and Scandinavians and not the French. To those languages, the spelling of Pierre means it is said as "peer," even if the city's name comes from Fort Pierre, which was named by a Frenchman.
At Great Heights
Atop the capitol building of Oregon is a 22-foot statue awash in gold leaf. This Golden Pioneer, whom the residents call "Sal," has stood sentinel over the city of Salem since 1938.
The city doesn't permit any buildings to be taller than Sal — so he gets the best views!
L.A. Laker and star basketballer Magic Johnson grew up in Michigan's capital, Lansing. Not only did he attend high school in the city, but he also played ball at the city's Michigan State University (MSU).
Of course, MSU won its first National Championship with Magic on its courts.
It's Not Pop
Columbia, South Carolina
When locals of Columbia abbreviated the city's name as "Cola," it eventually transformed into a loving nickname for the South Carolina city: "Soda City."
But, no, cola wasn't invented here.