The United States is a fascinating place. With landscapes as varied as its people and a vibrant history full of the very best and some of the very worst, the country is far from boring. What do you know about the land of liberty? Here are 15 interesting facts about the US you can now add to your list.
1. Old Glory was designed by a high school student.
Strange but true, the official flag of the United States was designed by Robert G. Heft in 1958 while Heft was a junior in high school. Surprisingly, he only got a B- as a grade. Heft’s teacher, Stanley Pratt, promised his student he would raise his grade if the US Congress accepted his design. Guess what happened! Bring on the top marks.
2. It has no official language.
Many might say English and even Spanish are the official languages of the US, but the country actually has none. Records indicate the Founding Fathers did not see a need for one. English was dominant at the time of Confederation, and so it needed no special protection. In addition to this, other languages were also spoken widely, and there was no need to risk offending anyone.
3. It is the home of the internet
There were many inventions and discoveries leading up to what today we call “the internet." Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s J.C.R. Licklider made popular the idea of having an “intergalactic network” of computers in the 1960s. After this came the ARPANET, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, the first usable prototype for the internet. Finally, in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee of MIT invented the World Wide Web, which is not actually the internet itself but rather the most common way to access the internet. And the rest is history (or rather, the future), and it all started in the US.
4. The US has the world’s biggest GDP
The US does not always rank as number one in the world when mentioning the globe’s richest countries. This is because countries may be ranked according to their GDP per capita, so the wealth of a country divided by its population. When it comes to pure production power, however, and specifically in reference to gross domestic product, the US comes in first.
5. Almost all of Nevada is owned by the government.
Who knew? Somebody, surely, but not us, at least prior to researching this article. The State of Nevada is rife with protected wildlife areas, forests, national parks, and monuments, all of which are owned and run by the US federal government. Notably, Area 51, a classified stretch of land owned by the US government, is in Nevada. There is so much the government owns that it adds up to about 80% of the entire state, if you can believe it.
6. 100 acres of pizza are served there every day.
Americans sure love their pizza! According to the Washington Post, those in the US love it so much that about 100 acres of this beloved cheesiness are eaten every day within its borders. In fact, surveys show Americans tend to prefer pizza over hamburgers, considered a staple of American cooking.
7. The capital was originally New York.
In 1790, Washington D.C. was not where all the political action was. New York City was actually the nation’s capital when George Washington became the country’s famous first president. Washington, D.C., nestled between Virginia and Maryland, was created as the capital in 1790 following a meeting between Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton conceded to Jefferson, a Virginian, for the location of the capital, and in turn, Jefferson agreed with Hamilton's proposal for the federal government to take the states' debt following the Revolutionary War—a quid pro quo.
8. The US uses about 17% of the Earth’s energy.
In addition to pizza, Americans also love their electricity. According to the U.S Energy Information Administration in 2017, the country used about 98 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy, which is, quite frankly, a lot.
9. More than 10% of Americans have worked or will work at McDonald’s.
Good ole’ Mickey D’s. Love it or hate it, the famous fast food restaurant is a major employer in the US. It is estimated that about 1 in 8 Americans has worked for the mega-restaurant at some point in history. Reports indicate this includes everyone from your neighbor’s kids, to Jeff Bezos, and even Pink.
10. Alaska has the longest coastline.
Alaska has an astoundingly long coastline stretching about 6,640 miles (10,686 km). This is said to be longer than the coastlines of all the other 49 states combined. The country's total coastline is 12,383 miles (19,928 km).
11. Slaves helped build the White House.
When the call went out for workers in Europe to come build Washington D.C. as the US national capital in 1792, not enough people came forward to do it. And so, officials turned to enslaved and free African Americans (although likely mostly enslaved people, given the cost) to get their work done. These men built the White House and various other early US government buildings. The Land of the Free was only free for some, after all. Many across all groups, however, were brave.
12. More people now live in New York City than in 40 of 50 US States.
No wonder NYC seems busy! About 1 in 38 people living in the US call New York City their home, making it the most highly populated city in the nation. Its population density is a jaw dropping 27,000 people per square mile, and there is a birth in New York City every 4.5 minutes.
13. The water in Lake Superior could cover all of the Americas.
Lake Superior straddles the border between Canada and the US, and if you spread all its water out, this lake would actually cover the entire North and South American continents in a massive puddle about 1 foot deep. Hopefully life will never come to that of course, for our sake, and that of the fish. Lake Superior also houses 10% of the world's fresh water.
14. Hunting Unicorns? You can get a license at a university in Michigan.
Well, who is going to stop you from chasing your dream if you really want to pursue it? If hunting unicorns is something you have always wanted to do, well go get em’ tiger. Lake Superior State University in Michigan allows interested parties to obtain a license to hunt these one-horned wonders, should they wish. The official permission is issued by the Department of Natural Unicorns of the Unicorn Hunters of Lake Superior State University. “Questers,” as they are called, may hunt on Earth, on the moon (but in unexplored areas only), and in the Milky Way, although its southeast rim is closed during odd years. Limit one unicorn per month.
15. A store in Alabama sells only unclaimed baggage from airlines
Lost your luggage? Buy a ticket to Alabama. The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama is the only place in the US that buys lost, unclaimed luggage from airlines and sells it back to the general public. That duffel bag might just be in there, somewhere.
The US is home to the fascinating, and also sometimes the truly unbelievable. While you may have already known some of the facts in this list, hopefully it brought some new insight to your life, or a least a laugh or two, and something to share at dinner.