Delaware became the first State of the United State(?) of America on December 7, 1787. The State Quarter features the State moniker, "The First State" and a man riding a horse. The rider was called Caesar Rodney (it says so on the coin), and having read a little about the history of Delaware, I am a little ashamed to say that I had never heard of him before this exercise. Delaware was home to Native Americans such as the Algonquin tribes before being settled by the Dutch in 1631. It changed hands with the Dutch, Swedes and Finns a few times before Sir Robert Carr won the territory in 1664 for Britain (there were actually more power plays by the Dutch and Swedes, but it gets kind of repetitive). The colony was named after Thomas West, 3rd and 12th Baron De La Warr (get it??), because the tactics he learned while fighting against the Irish also proved effective against the Native Americans. Interestingly, these "tactics" were against the natives in Virginia (not Delaware), and earned old Tommy the role of governor for life of Virginia. No reelection bids needing fund-raising, West appointed a deputy governor and toddled off back to England to write a book about Virginia from the comfort of the Empire. In 1618, it turned out his deputy was a bit of a tyrant, so he set sail for Virginia to investigate but died at sea. And then he got an entirely different State named after him. All was well in Delaware Colony under British rule, with the exception of some arbitrary parliamentary rulings until Thomas McKean and Caeser Rodney denounced the Stamp Act, and called for independence from Britain. In order to cast the essential vote needed to declare independence, Caeser Rodney made the first of the nation's historic overnight horseback rides to Philadelphia on July 1, 1776. Google maps doesn't give the option of "Horse" for mode of commute, but estimates the journey to be a seven hour trek by bicycle. Given US-13 wasn't built until 1926, it was a pretty impressive feat. He made it to the vote with no time to change out of his "boots and spurs", and two days later a nation was born. He was thanked by a less than grateful electorate by being ousted from office, but is immortalized on the Delaware quarter. State Capital: Dover.
The Peach State was the 4th addition to the Union on January 2, 1788. The State Quarter features a Peach, the outline of the State, the words "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation" in a banner, and leaves of the Live Oak from its official State Tree. The last of the original thirteen colonies to be established, Georgia was named after Britain's King George II. Georgia took a leave of absence from the Union starting in 1861 to become the one of the seven original States of the Confederacy. That didn't pan out as a great life choice for Georgia, so it rejoined the Union on July 15, 1870, being the last State to do so. Mailing birthday cards to your relatives in Georgia must have been a nightmare during this period; in addition to all the back and forth as to what actual country Georgia was a part of, the State Capital of Georgia changed twelve times between 1776 and 1868. Today, Georgia's counties have some of the fastest growing populations, second only to Texas. These are presumably the counties with prisons in them. Across the nation, an average of 1 in 31 citizens are under some form of correctional control. But Georgia comes in at number 1 with an impressive(?) 1 in 13 of its denizens in the correctional system. That's probably good news for anyone looking to be gainfully employed by the penal system. However, given men made up 92.3% of the national prison population in 2002, I'd imagine the dating scene might suck in the Peach State, especially for those girls with an eye for the proverbial "bad boy". State Capital:
9. New Hampshire
The Granite State was admitted as the 9th of the Union on June 21, 1788. The State Quarter features the Old Man of the Mountain, a granite formation in the White Mountains, with the words "Live Free or Die". Don't go programming Cannon Mountain into your GPS just yet; the old guy sadly succumbed to gravity in 2003. New Hampshire is famed for its somewhat confrontational motto, "Live Free or Die", which it officially adopted in 1945. In 1971 all the vehicle plates were changed from "Scenic" to "Live Free or Die", marking probably the greatest shift in license plate tone in US history. The phrase itself was taken from an in abstentia toast given by General Stark at the 32nd anniversary of the Battle of Bennington. As the revolutionary war was sparked in part by resentment over British taxation, I assume this means that death should be chosen in lieu of taxation. Evidently the New Hampshirites are among the 19% of Americans who fear death more than anything, as New Hampshire has no sale or income tax, and the 49th lowest State tax burden in the nation (I couldn't find out which State is living freer). It's hard to imagine how they fund roads and schools, but paying the nation's highest property tax may go some of the way to balancing the books. New Hampshire can pat itself on the green shoulder for having the lowest energy consumption by state and per capita, especially surprising given its average January high is a single Celsius degree. However, I suspect this environmental record may have been lost upon the arrival of my AC-loving in-laws to the State. State Capital: Concord.
Kentucky was the 15th State to join the Union on June 1st, 1792. The State Quarter features the Federal Hill mansion, the home built by Judge James Rowan using slave labour (N.B. read up on things before sticking them on your State quarter); a thoroughbred horse; and the words "My Old Kentucky Home", the title of the official State song. The region comprising the Bluegrass state was known to be inhabited by Native Americans up to 13 millennia ago, but these indigenous people were all but wiped upon by the arrival of sneezing Europeans around the mid 1700s. The region was given top ratings on www.lonelyplanet.com by explorers such as Thomas Walker, John Finley and Daniel Boone, and a permanent settlement was established by James Harrod in 1774. Kentucky is famed for tobacco crops, growing corn used in whiskey and the thorough breeding of racehorses (the only state with its name in a triple crown event). However, before you cancel the bachelor/stag party trip to Vegas, favoring a weekend of debauchery in the first State of the Western Frontier, you should know that of the 130 counties in Kentucky, a whopping 75 are dry, and a further 15 are moist (I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'd guess that mooning the staff at Taco Bell is probably not a good idea). State Capital: Frankfort.