1. Governance
November 15, 2016updated 02 Aug 2021 11:46am

Here are 13 really aggravating things about the map of the United States

By Jonn Elledge

I’ve just returned from two weeks on the road in the United States. Mostly I was thinking about the election (and in the unlikely event you want to know what I made of that whole trauma, you can find out over on the New Statesman website), but obviously I also spent a lot of time thinking about maps.

Specifically, I was thinking about quite how ludicrous the map of those United States actually is. To whit:


Why is it even a state? I mean, really? Ether it should get to have the whole of that peninsula it sits on, or it should stop mucking around and become part of Maryland. The current situation is just ridiculous.


You know how long it takes to cross Delaware by car?


Fourteen minutes, that’s how long it takes.

The only reason they let Delaware be a state is because it was the first one to ratify the US constitution and now everyone’s too embarrassed to tell them.

While we’re at it:

That ridiculous peninsula that Delaware sits on

The Delmarva peninsula includes bits of three different states. Why? Just why?

I’ll tell you why: because they named it Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) and now it’s too awkward to change it. Think before you name, guys.

What’s more:


What the fuck is this?

Just look at it:


You know what this reminds me of?

Turns out, the US came pre-gerrymandered.

West Virginia

Okay, this one’s not really a geographical point, but there are places in West Virginia, as there are all over the south, where you can find the Confederate flag.

Which is odd, in its way, because: West Virginia was never part of the Confederacy. More than that, the state only exists because it split from Virginia because it wanted to stay with the Union.

So today in West Virginia there are those who profess loyalty to the ideas of a rebellion that their forefathers explicitly repudiated. Which is nice.

The Florida panhandle

Fun fact! If that sticky-out-bit was part of Alabama and Georgia, as it very obviously should be, then Florida would have voted Democrat, and Hillary Clinton would, well, she’d still be nine electoral votes short of being president elect right now, but she’d be a damn sight closer. (Yes, I had to correct this bit after a reader pointed out it was wrong. Don’t judge me.)

Upper Michigan

Look at this:

Dividing those two peninsulas are the Straits of Mackinac, which divide lakes Michigan and Huron. The straits are five miles across at their narrowest point – indeed, on some definitions, Michigan and Huron are actually a single lake.

Which begs the question: why is the northern of those two landmasses a part of Michigan at all? It should obviously be part of Wisconsin. This is a very poor show.

(Upper Michigan, incidentally, contains nearly a third of the state’s land, but just 3 per cent of its population. Don’t say we never teach you anything.)


The southernmost tip of Alaska is approximately 510 miles from the nearest point of the continental United States. Alaska is “in” the US in the same way that Essex is “in” Switzerland. Give it up, guys, you’re part of Canada.


Oh, Hawaii gets to be a state, but not Guam? It’s a US territory, and home to 160,000 people. Where’s the love for Guam, guys? Why doesn’t Guam get to be a state? Really at this point I’m just enjoying the excuses to keep saying Guam. “Guam”.





New York

Okay you’re just taking the piss now.

The entire west

Here’s Utah, an apparently average sized western state, placed over New England:

I mean, it’s about the same size, right? Except that New England contains six different states, and Utah contains just one.

It’s like, the further west the US got, the less effort it could be bothered to put into creating new states. An area bigger than Great Britain? Shall we carve it up? Meh, who has the time. Just call it Nevada.

The sheer laziness of it.

The square states

The US has not one, but two, states that are, in effect, perfect rectangles.

The whole West is one big grid system. 

I mean, they’re not really, because they’re big enough that the curvature of the Earth comes into effect. But nonetheless – what kind of ludicrous country is this?

Anyway, I’m home now. It’s fine. Everything is going to be fine.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Maps courtesy of Google.


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