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Paul Sparks - Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for "Culture of English Speaking Countries Lessons" for Xiangtan Normal University...




Introduction to American Culture and Society


Source of information: and 


  • Number of states: 50

  • Area (1990): total: 3,717,796 sq mi (9,629,091 sq km)

  • Population density (2000): 79.6 people per sq mi

  • Northernmost point: Point Barrow, Alaska

  • Easternmost point: West Quoddy Head, Maine

  • Southernmost point: Ka Lae (South Cape), Hawaii

  • Westernmost point: Cape Wrangell, Alaska

  • Highest point: Mt. McKinley, Alaska (20,320 ft)

  • Lowest point: Death Valley, Calif. (282 ft below sea level)

Population (Based on Census 2000 data):

  • Total Resident Population 281,421,906

  • Males: 138,053,563 (49.1% of pop.)

  • Females: 143,368,343 (50.9% of pop.)

  • White: 211,460,626 (75.1% of pop.)

  • Black: 34,658,190 (12.3% of pop.) 

  • Asian: 10,242,998 (3.6% of pop.)

  • American Indian and Alaska Native: 2,475,956 (0.9% of pop.)

  • Hispanic/Latino2: 35,305,818 (12.5% of pop.)

  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 398,835 (0.1% of pop.)

American people are a very mixed culture. The people originate from many places, including Europe and Asia. Many Americans have links to the UK.

There are 50 states in America. Each state is similar to the Provinces in China, except that each state is more like a separate country, with its own laws and cultures.

The 50 states are as follows:

Alabama, AL - (The Cotton State), Capital: Montgomery, Other Cities: Anchorage

Alaska, AK - (Land of the Midnight Sun), Capital: Junea

Arizona, AZ - (The Grand Canyon), State Capital: Phoenix

Arkansas, AR - (The Natural State), Capital: Little Rock

California, CA - (The Golden State), Capital: Sacramento, Major Cities: Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco

Colorado, CO - (The Centennial State), Capital: Denver

Connecticut, CT - (The Constitution State), Capital: Hartford

Delaware, DE - (The Diamond State), Capital: Dover

Florida, FL - (The Sunshine State), Capital: Tallahassee Other Cities: Miami, Orlando

Georgia, GA - (The Peach State), Capital: Atlanta

Hawaii, HI - (The Aloha State), Capital: Honolulu

Idaho, ID - (The Gem State), Capital: Boise

Illinois, IL - (The Prairie State), Capital: Springfield, Major City: Chicago

Indiana, IN - (The Hoosier State), Capital: Indianapolis

Iowa, IA - (The Hawkeye State), Capital: Des Moines

Kansas, KS - (The Sunflower State), Capital: Topeka, Major City: Wichita

Kentucky, KY - (The Bluegrass State), Capital: Frankfort

Louisiana, LA - (The Pelican State), Capital: Baton Rouge

Maine, ME - (The Pine Tree State), Capital: Augusta

Maryland, MD - (The Old Line State), Capital: Annapolis, Major City: Baltimore

Massachusetts, MA - (The Bay State), Capital: Boston

Michigan, MI - (The Wolverine State), Capital: Lansing, Major City: Detroit

Minnesota, MN - (The North Star State), Capital: St. Paul

Mississippi, MS - (The Magnolia State), Capital: Jackson

Missouri, MO - (The Show Me State), Capital: Jefferson City, Major Cities: Kansas City, St. Louis

Montana, MT - (The Treasure State), Capital: Helena

Nebraska, NE - (The Cornhusker State), Capital: Lincoln

Nevada, NV - (The Sagebrush State), Capital: Carson City, Major Cities: Las Vegas, Reno

New Hampshire, NH - (The Granite State), Capital: Concord

New Jersey, NJ - (The Garden State), Capital: Trenton, Major City: Atlantic City

New Mexico, NM - (The Land of Enchantment), Capital: Sante Fe

New York, NY - (The Empire State), Capital: Albany, Major City: New York City

North Carolina, NC - (The Tar Heel State), Capital: Raleigh

North Dakota, ND - (The Peace Garden State), Capital: Bismarck 

Ohio, OH - (The Buckeye State), Capital: Columbus, Major Cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland

Oklahoma, OK - (The Sooner State), Capital: Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Oregon, OR - (The Beaver State), Capital: Salem

Pennsylvania, PA - (The Keystone State), Capital: Harrisburg, Major Cities: Philadlephia, Pittsburgh

Rhode Island, RI - (The Ocean State) Capital: Providence

South Carolina, SC - (The Palmetto State), Capital: Columbia

South Dakota, SD - (The Coyote State), Capital: Pierre

Tennessee, TN - (The Volunteer State), Capital: Nashville, Other Cities: Memphis

Texas, TX - (The Lone Star State), Capital: Austin, Major Cities: Dallas, Houston

Utah, UT - (The Beehive State), Capital: Salt Lake City

Vermont, VT - (The Green Mountain State), Capital: Montpelier

Virginia, VA - (The Old Dominion State), Capital: Richmond

Washington, WA - (The Evergreen State), Capital: Olympia, Major City: Seattle

West Virginia, WV - (The Mountain State), Capital: Charleston

Wisconsin, WI - (The Badger State), Capital: Madison, Major City: Milwaukee

Wyoming, WY - (The Cowboy State), Capital: Cheyenne

The states all joined the United States of America at different times, the list below shows the dates each state joined:

 1. Delaware Dec. 7, 1787

 2. Pennsylvania Dec. 12, 1787 

 3. New Jersey Dec. 18, 1787

 4. Georgia Jan. 2, 1788

 5. Connecticut Jan. 9, 1788 

 6. Massachusetts Feb. 6, 1788 

 7. Maryland Apr. 28, 1788 

 8. South Carolina May 23, 1788 

 9. New Hampshire June 21, 1788 

10. Virginia June 25, 1788 

11. New York July 26, 1788

12. North Carolina Nov. 21, 1789 

13. Rhode Island May 29, 1790 

14. Vermont Mar. 4, 1791 

15. Kentucky June 1, 1792 

16. Tennessee June 1, 1796 

17. Ohio Mar. 1, 1803 

18. Louisiana Apr. 30, 1812 

19. Indiana Dec. 11, 1816 

20. Mississippi Dec. 10, 1817 

21. Illinois Dec. 3, 1818 

22. Alabama Dec. 14, 1819 

23. Maine Mar. 15, 1820 

24. Missouri Aug. 10, 1821

25. Arkansas June 15, 1836 

26. Michigan Jan. 26, 1837 

27. Florida Mar. 3, 1845 

28. Texas Dec. 29, 1845 

29. Iowa Dec. 28, 1846 

30. Wisconsin May 29, 1848 

31. California Sept. 9, 1850 

32. Minnesota May 11, 1858 

33. Oregon Feb. 14, 1859 

34. Kansas Jan. 29, 1861 

35. West Virginia June 20, 1863

36. Nevada Oct. 31, 1864 

37. Nebraska Mar. 1, 1867 

38. Colorado Aug. 1, 1876 

39. North Dakota Nov. 2, 1889 

40. South Dakota Nov. 2, 1889 

41. Montana Nov. 8, 1889 

42. Washington Nov. 11, 1889 

43. Idaho July 3, 1890 

44. Wyoming July 10, 1890 

45. Utah Jan. 4, 1896 

46. Oklahoma Nov. 16, 1907 

47. New Mexico Jan. 6, 1912 

48. Arizona Feb. 14, 1912

49. Alaska Jan. 3, 1959 

50. Hawaii Aug. 21, 1959

Other territory:

  Philippines2 1898

  Puerto Rico  1899

  Guam  1899

  American Samoa  1900 

  Canal Zone3  1904 

  Virgin Islands of U.S. 1917 

  Trust Territory of Pacific Islands4  1947 

  Northern Mariana Islands 1986

The first official national flag, also known as the Stars and Stripes, or Old Glory, was approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The blue canton contained 13 stars, representing the original 13 colonies, but the layout varied. Although nobody knows for sure who designed the flag, it may have been Continental Congress member Francis Hopkinson.

After Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the Union in 1791 and 1792, respectively, two more stars and two more stripes were added in 1795. This 15-star, 15-stripe flag was the “star-spangled banner” that inspired lawyer Francis Scott Key to write the poem that later became the U.S. national anthem.

In 1818, after five more states had gained admittance, Congress passed legislation fixing the number of stripes at 13 and requiring that the number of stars equal the number of states. The last new star, bringing the total to 50, was added on July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became a state.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Christopher Columbus travelled to America in 1492 there was a population of about 10-20 million, mainly from Asia, Europe and Africa, these people were given the name American Indians. With the expansion of Europe in the 16th century, more people migrated to the USA from European countries. When Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to America he actually landed on one of the Bahama Islands in the Caribbean Sea. Because of the discovery Spain laid claim to the land and established a large empire in America.

In 1497 an Italian sailor, John Cabot, who was at the service of the English King, sailed to the are now called Canada, the English King then claimed the North Americas, were British settlements were established in the 17th century. There were 13 English colonies in what is now North America.

Over the next few centuries many English settlements were established in America. After a war between France and England in 1756 the land from Canada and North America was given to Britain. In 1775 the American War of Independence began which divided up the colonies into independent states. The War of Independence ended in 1781 when Britain recognised the independence of the United States and the Peace Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

The beginning of the 20th century saw many people becoming wealthy, they spent their money on many things including cars. The most famous early 20th century car makers were Henry Ford, David Buick and Walter Chrysler. In Chicago and New York large skyscrapers were constructed. The Chrysler corporation built its new headquarters, the now famous Chrysler building, soon after in 1929 work began on the Empire State Building, the worlds tallest building for many years. The next few decades were difficult with the Great Depression, as the depression ended the US was taken into the Second World War. After the war black Americans fought for equal rights.

Later in the 20th Century America was opposing the USSR in the Cold War. US soldiers were involved in restricting soviet influences in Korea and in 1962 the US had soviet weapons removed from Cuba. America was also becoming involved in Vietnam. In the 1960's laws were enforced to allow equal rights for people of all ethnic minorities.

American trade with China increased in the 1890s. The United States had long demanded an Open Door Policy for trading in China, which was weak, in order to prevent other powers from carving up China among them. As its rivals made gains, the United States feared it would be excluded from all trade in China. In 1899 Secretary of State John Hay sent the European powers and Japan a series of "Open Door Notes," requesting agreement on three points. First, each power would respect the trading rights of the others within each nation’s sphere of influence; second, Chinese officials would collect import duties; and third, no nation would discriminate against the others in matters of harbor duties or railroad rates within each sphere of influence. Hay declared the principles accepted, inaccurately, since Russia and later Japan disagreed.

Not all the Chinese welcomed western penetration of their culture. In 1900 the Boxer Uprising broke out in China. The Boxers—a sect of Chinese nationalists who opposed foreign influence in China—rose up against foreign traders, officials, and missionaries, and massacred many of them. The United States and the European powers intervened with troops and put down the insurrection. The European powers seemed eager to carve up China, but Hay persuaded them to accept compensation to cover their losses. The United States returned part of its compensation to China. The McKinley administration had stopped Europe from carving up China.

The quest for an overseas empire in the late 1890s thus led to substantial American gains. The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, conquered the Philippines and Guam from Spain in 1899, turned Cuba in effect into an American protectorate in 1901, and kept China opened to American traders and missionaries.

Meanwhile, in September 1901, an anarchist shot President McKinley, and Vice President  assumed the presidency. The United States now entered the 20th century and an era of reform.

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