12 States That Considered Splitting Apart

There are 50 states today, but that number was never set in stone. A lot of state governments have had frosty relations with large parts of their own communities. While West Virginia is the only state to successfully break free from another state, plenty of other regions have tried.

1. South Nebraska

Chloe Effron

The organization of Nebraska Territory was shaped by one political operative, Thomas B. Cuming, who had powerful friends in the growing town of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Despite a census which showed most of the territory’s settlers lived in its southern half, Cuming used his position as acting governor to declare Omaha the territory’s capital in 1854. Outraged southern Nebraskans appealed to Congress, but Congress was wary of further complicating the guerrilla fighting in neighboring Kansas and sparking a civil war. After a brief flirtation with joining Kansas, south Nebraska’s feelings were so inflamed that a debate in the territorial legislature devolved into a fistfight broken up at gunpoint. Nebraska’s homegrown North vs. South contest was put aside during the Civil War, and one of the first acts of Nebraska’s government upon attaining statehood in 1867 was the creation of a new capital, Lincoln, south of the Platte River.

2. North Maine

Chloe Effron

Aroostook County in northern Maine is rugged terrain, and the land (and its valuable shipbuilding timber) was contested between the United States and Great Britain after the American Revolution. Clashes between American and Canadian militias in the 1830s almost sparked a war, and the small crisis spurred both governments to sign the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842. While Aroostook has been undeniably American territory since then, many of its residents have never felt a strong sense of attachment to the rest of Maine. In 1998, the region’s U.S. Representative, Henry Joy, sponsored a bill to study splitting Maine in two. Joy has periodically resurrected the idea since then. Without an official organization, let alone a map or even a name, Joy’s movement doesn’t look likely to succeed anytime soon.

3. South Alaska

Chloe Effron

In 1880 there were less than 500 white Americans in the Alaska Territory. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 ended the region’s isolation, and in 1900 there were 30,000. Most of the new immigrants settled in the less harsh Alaska Panhandle, giving the young city of Juneau a stranglehold on territorial politics. Juneau, for its part, was eager to separate from the rest of Alaska, which seemed to be an uninhabitable wasteland. In July 1923, President Warren G. Harding visited Alaska and declared that southern Alaska might soon become a state. Electrified, the Panhandle’s political leaders held a convention and approached Congress—which refused to consider the expense of two separate governments in Alaska. The idea was resurrected in the late 1950s as statehood became a real possibility, but by then most inhabitants endorsed the idea of a single Alaska—so much so that a small but vocal group of Alaskans endorses independence from the United States.

4. South Florida

Chloe Effron

Florida is a large state with wide regional and ethnic divisions, and the relatively richer south also resents the loss of tax dollars to capital Tallahassee, which they see as indifferent and remote. In 2008, city commissioners in North Lauderdale called for the creation of the new state of South Florida. As with most of these movements, the resolution was meant to express frustration, not ignite a real secession movement—but rumblings of secessionism continue.

5. East Maryland

Chloe Effron

The Eastern Shore region of Maryland, located on the Delmarva Peninsula, is physically separated from the rest of the state and its society was separate as well; for much of Maryland’s early history, the Eastern Shore maintained a separate treasury and administrative staff. The growing power of Baltimore’s urban population stripped the Eastern Shore of many perks, and before the Civil War, the region’s aristocracy openly discussed secession from the rest of Maryland. Eastern Shore secessionism flared up again in the late 1990s when fishermen based there protested restrictions on crab fishing. A bill calling for a secession referendum understandably died in committee in the Maryland House of Representatives, but the Eastern Shore’s separate identity is far from dead.

6. South Jersey

Chloe Effron

Until 1702, the southern half of the state was actually part of the separate Quaker colony of West Jersey, and Philadelphia remains a cultural magnet for the south in the way New York City is for the northern part of the state. The idea of separate statehood started with a tongue-in-cheek newspaper editorial, which local officials in the eight counties of southern New Jersey seized on to express their annoyance with a state government that was directing development funds to the north. On Election Day 1980, five southern counties voted to secede in a non-binding referendum. This was the high-water mark of the statehood movement; their point made, southern politicians returned to more traditional forms of politics.

7. North Colorado

Chloe Effron

Colorado has a long tradition of rugged independence, which conflicts with the views of many new left-leaning residents. As the state’s political balance has shifted, many of the state’s rural inhabitants no longer feel comfortable in the new Colorado. In 2013, county commissioners in northeast Colorado called for the creation of the new state of North Colorado. Referenda were placed on several county ballots in the 2013 election, and passed in about half. The statehood movement there is young, but the continuing tensions between Colorado’s rural counties and its growing cities ensure secessionism will continue.

8. Superior

Chloe Effron

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has had complaints about the rest of Michigan pretty much since Michigan snagged it as a consolation prize in 1836 for losing Toledo to Ohio. There were occasional rumblings of secessionism during the 19th century, as new mines opened and created wealth the Upper Peninsula didn’t want to see flowing to distant Lansing. The proud isolation of the Upper Peninsula suffered another blow in 1957, when a five-mile suspension bridge physically connected the region to the rest of Michigan for the first time. Within a few years, a full-fledged movement to create a new “State of Superior” had re-emerged. The half-serious campaign briefly picked up steam in the early 1980s; a secession bill was submitted to the Michigan legislature, and a petition for a statehood referendum gathered 20,000 signatures. Today, the statehood movement is dormant but the Upper Peninsula proudly maintains a distinct identity.

9. West Kansas

Chloe Effron

When Topeka became the capital of Kansas, it was at the center of the territory’s settlements—but it’s over 200 miles from the state’s western border, a region flush with money from fertile fields and the oil and gas industry. The region’s sense of isolation from Topeka crystallized in 1992, when the state proposed changes to public education which would raise property taxes in west Kansas while cutting their per-pupil spending. Protestors launched boycotts and lawsuits, and three counties held non-binding secession referenda. Before long, people from Oklahoma and Colorado joined the West Kansas movement. The protests went unheeded; the reforms were signed into law, and the state’s attorney general declared any secession illegal. Delegates from seven counties went ahead and held a constitutional convention on September 11, 1992, but the secession movement never had a broad base and ran out of steam. Today, the movement is moribund, and the state legislature and courts have heavily modified the 1992 education law.

10. Baja Arizona

Southern Arizona joined the rest of the territory a little late, after the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, and it sees itself a little differently. Arizona politics have become increasingly conservative in recent years, to the point where leaders in Democratic-leaning Tucson formed a statehood movement to leave Arizona and form the new state of Baja Arizona. The statehood movement failed in a 2011 drive to create secession resolutions in the south, and while frustration with the rest of the state remains, it seems unlikely a split is in the offing.

11. Chicago

Chloe Effron

Chicago is famous for a lot of things that happened during the 1920s, but secessionism isn’t one of them. Tensions between the state government of Illinois and the state’s most powerful city came to a head during the Roaring '20s, as the city’s prosperity, resentment, and reputation for lawlessness all reached new peaks. In 1925, the City Council of Chicago approved a resolution calling for secession. After reaching out to neighboring counties to join the movement, Chicago gave the state government two years to meet demands for reapportionment based on population—which would give the city a majority in the state legislature. Another resolution calling for secession passed in 1931, and secessionism rose again when a 1947 reapportionment gave Chicago less than 40 percent of the state legislature. It was not until 1981 that population-based districts ended the long fight between Chicago and Springfield, which ironically led state representatives in 2011 to introduce a bill calling for Chicago to be kicked out of Illinois.

12. Colorado

Chloe Effron

When the new state of California was created in 1850, it threatened to break the nation’s fragile political balance and plunge the United States into civil war. Many state and national leaders wanted to balance the new free state with a new slave state, and to that end a number of proposals were raised to create the new state of “Colorado” from southern California. The state government actually approved a secession law in 1859, but Congress refused to act and the coming of the Civil War stopped talk of splitting California. California’s periodic secessionist movements continue to the present day.

15 Convenient Products That Are Perfect for Summer

First Colonial/Lunatec/Safe Touch
First Colonial/Lunatec/Safe Touch

The Fourth of July is the epitome of summer—and after several months spent indoors, you need some outdoor fun more than anything. Check out these 15 summer must-haves while they’re on sale and save an extra 15 percent when you spend $50 or more with the code JULYFOURTH15.

1. CARSULE Pop-Up Cabin for Your Car; $300 (20 percent off)

Carsule tent from Mogics.
Mogics

This tent connects to your hatchback car like a tailgate mobile living room. The installation takes just a few minutes and the entire thing stands 6.5 feet tall so you can enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your car.

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Mosquito-killing lamp.
Kinkoo

If you just so happen to be one of those unlucky souls who attracts a suspicious amount of mosquitos the second you step outside, you need this repellent lamp to help keep your arms and legs bite-free. It uses a non-toxic combination of LED lights, air turbulence, and other methods to keep the pests at bay.

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Mosquito repeller watch.
Safe Touch

While a lamp is a great non-toxic solution for keeping bugs at bay, active individuals need a bug repellent that can keep up with their lifestyle. This wrist wearable keeps you safe from mosquitoes anywhere by using ultrasonic sounds to drive them away.

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Aduro flashlight set.
Audro

If you want your summer to be lit, this set will do the trick. All puns aside, this trio of LED brightness is perfect for camping fun and backyard parties, or it can be stored in the car for emergencies.

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5. Outdoor Collapsible Cooler and Camp Table Set; $64 (27 percent off)

First Colonial cooler.
First Colonial

Cookouts are easy with this cooler and table set that chills your drink until you're ready to pop it into one of the four convenient cupholders. Bring this set camping or out by the pool for convenience anywhere.

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Trident underwater scooter.
Geneinno

If you’ve ever dreamed of better mobility while exploring the water, you’re not alone. The Trident underwater scooter, which raised over $82,000 on Indiegogo, can propel you through the water at up to nearly 6 feet per second, which isn't that far off from how fast Michael Phelps swam in his prime. The battery on it will last 45 minutes, allowing you to traverse with ease.

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GoSun solar grill.
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3P Experts bug zapper.
3P Experts

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Urban Rover E-Skateboard
Urban Rover

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Headlamp from One80Light
One80Light

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Bladeless fan
Whirlwind

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Bladeless fan
3P Tech

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Mogics portable lamp.
Mogics

This portable light is designed to adapt to your lighting preference. It self-inflates in a few seconds and can bounce, get wet, and set the mood.

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Hydration backpack.
It's All Goods

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13 Facts About Robert E. Peary, North Pole Explorer

Christie's, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Christie's, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Robert Edwin Peary, called "one of the greatest of all explorers," claimed to have been the first person to reach the North Pole on April 6, 1909. But from the moment his achievement was announced to the world, Peary was mired in a controversy that overshadowed his other accomplishments as a skilled civil engineer, natural historian, and expedition leader. Here are a few things you should know about this daring Arctic adventurer.

1. Robert Peary was extremely close to his mother.

Robert Edwin Peary was born May 6, 1856, in Cresson, Pennsylvania, an industrial town in the Allegheny Mountains. His father died when he was 3, and his mother, Mary Wiley Peary, returned with her son to her home state of Maine. As an only child, Peary formed a close bond with his mother, and when he attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, they lived together in rooms off campus. When Peary married Josephine Diebitsch, Mary accompanied the couple on their honeymoon on the Jersey Shore and then moved in with the newlyweds, to Josephine's utter surprise. The explorer confided all of his aspirations to his mother throughout his life. In one prophetic letter to her following his first expedition to Greenland in 1886, he wrote:

"I will next winter be one of the foremost in the highest circles in the capital, and make powerful friends with whom I can shape my future instead of letting it come as it will ... remember, mother, I must have fame, and I cannot reconcile myself to years of commonplace drudgery and a name late in life when I see an opportunity to gain it now."

2. Robert Peary had a side hustle as a taxidermist.

Peary enjoyed a childhood spent outdoors playing sports and studying natural history. After graduating from college with a degree in civil engineering, Peary moved to his mother's hometown of Fryeburg, Maine, to work as a county surveyor. But the county had little need for a surveyor, and to supplement his income, he taxidermied birds. He charged $1.50 for a robin and $1.75 to $2.25 for ducks and hawks.

3. Before he went to the North Pole, Robert Peary went to Nicaragua.

Portrait of Robert Peary
Robert Peary in his naval uniform
The American Museum Journal, Wikimedia Commons // No Known Copyright Restrictions

In 1881, Peary was commissioned by the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, which made him a naval officer with a rank equivalent to lieutenant. Three years later, renowned civil engineer Aniceto Menocal picked Peary to lead a field party to survey an area in Nicaragua for a canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Peary's ability to hack through thick jungle and scale mountains impressed Menocal enough that he hired Peary for a second survey of Nicaragua in 1887, this time with a well-funded, 200-person operation.

4. Robert Peary met Matthew Henson in a Washington, D.C. hat shop.

Though some details of the encounter differ, Peary met his eventual polar partner Matthew Henson at B.H. Stinemetz & Son, a hatter and furrier at 1237 Pennsylvania Avenue. Peary needed a sun helmet for his second trip to Nicaragua. He also needed to hire a valet. The shop's owner recommended his clerk, Henson, who surely impressed Peary with his years of experience on ships. Henson accompanied Peary to Nicaragua and on every Arctic expedition thereafter, including the successful North Pole excursion in 1908-1909.

5. Robert Peary made seven trips to the Arctic.

Peary's first trip to Greenland occurred in 1886 between his two trips to Central America. With a Danish companion, he trekked 100 miles across the Greenland ice cap but had to turn back when food ran low.

During his second and third expeditions (1891-1892 and 1893-1895), Peary, Henson, and company traversed the northern end of the ice cap and established that Greenland's land did not extend to the North Pole. On his fourth trip (1896-1897) [PDF], he brought back meteorites for the American Museum of Natural History. Peary's fifth and sixth expeditions (1898-1902 and 1905-1906) tested a feasible route to the North Pole and established relationships with Inughuit communities on which Peary would rely for assistance and supplies. Peary and Henson finally reached the North Pole on the seventh expedition in 1908-1909.

6. Robert Peary's successes in Greenland contrasted with two previous polar disasters.

Robert Peary in furs
Robert Peary, in fur clothing, stands on the deck of the Roosevelt.
Library of Congress // No Known Restrictions on Publication

In 1879, newspaper mogul James Gordon Bennett and Navy commander George Washington DeLong organized an expedition to reach the North Pole via the Bering Strait in a reinforced ship, the Jeannette. After months of besetment, ice crushed the ship and the crew made a desperate escape to Siberia, where all but two members died. Then, Army lieutenant Adolphus Greely led a 25-member magnetic survey expedition to the Canadian high Arctic in 1881. Relief ships failed to reach them for three years. By the time rescue arrived and they returned home, only Greely and five other men had survived starvation. The public's appetite for polar adventure waned until, a few years later, Peary's triumphs in Greenland earned him a heroic reputation and revived interest the quest for the North Pole. 

7. Robert Peary lost eight toes to frostbite.

On the grueling march to establish his camp at Greely's abandoned Fort Conger on the 1898-1902 expedition, Peary suffered a severe case of frostbitten feet. When they reached the hut, Henson took off Peary's footwear and revealed marble-like flesh up to his knees. As Henson removed the commander's socks, eight of Peary's toes popped off with them. As Bradley Robinson writes in the Henson biography Dark Companion, Peary reportedly said, "a few toes aren't much to give to achieve the Pole."

8. Robert Peary's wife Josephine accompanied him to the Arctic when she was eight months pregnant.

Josephine Diebitsch Peary was a formidable adventurer as well [PDF]. Her father Hermann Diebitsch, a Prussian military leader who had immigrated to Washington, D.C., directed the Smithsonian Institution's exchange system. Josephine worked at the Smithsonian as a clerk before marrying Peary in 1888. Bucking social convention, she insisted on accompanying his second expedition in 1891-1892, and in Greenland she managed the day-to-day operation of the base camp, including rationing provisions, bartering goods, hunting, and sewing furs. She even helped defend the men from a walrus attack by reloading their rifles as fast as they shot them.

She also went on Peary's third Greenland trip when she was eight months pregnant, and gave birth to their daughter Marie Anighito—dubbed the Snow Baby by newspapers—at their camp. In total, Josephine went to Greenland multiple times, wrote three bestselling books, gave lecture tours, was an honorary member of the American Alpine Club and other organizations, and decorated the family's apartment with narwhal tusks, polar bear skins, fur rugs, and other polar trophies.

9. Matthew Henson saved Robert Peary from a charging musk ox.

Cigarette card featuring explorer Matthew A. Henson
A cigarette card for the American Tobacco Company's Hassan Cork Tip cigarettes shows a portrait of Matthew Henson in a fur parka. The card belongs to the "World's Greatest Explorers" series.
American Tobacco Company, Library of Congress // No Known Restrictions on Publication

In 1895, Peary and Henson scouted a route toward the Pole over the northern edge of Greenland’s ice cap, just as they had done on their previous trip in 1891-1892. They reached a promontory called Navy Cliff, in extreme northeastern Greenland, but could go no farther. On the way back to their camp on the northwestern coast, they suffered from exhaustion, exposure, and hunger. Their only chance to make it back to camp was to find game.

As described in Dark Companion, Peary and Henson stumbled upon a herd of musk oxen. Henson and Peary killed several, but in his weakened state, Peary shot and missed one. The animal turned around and charged Peary. Henson picked up his gun and pulled the trigger. "Behind [Peary] came the muffled thud of a heavy, fallen thing, like a speeding rock landing in a thick cushion of snow," Bradley Robinson writes in Dark Companion. "Ten feet away lay a heap of brown, shaggy hair half sunken in a snowdrift."

10. Robert Peary absconded with a 30-ton meteorite.

In 1818, explorer John Ross wrote about several meteorites near Greenland's Cape York that served as the Inughuit's only source of metal for tools. In 1896, Peary appropriated the three huge meteorites from their territory. (By the late 19th century, Inughuit had obtained tools via trade and no longer needed the stones for that purpose.) The largest of the three weighed 30 tons and required heavy-duty equipment to load it onto Peary's ship without capsizing the vessel. 

Josephine Peary sold the meteorites to the American Museum of Natural History for $40,000 (nearly $1.2 million in today's money). They remain on display in the museum's Hall of Meteorites, where custom-built supports for the heaviest one extend into the bedrock of Manhattan island.

11. Theodore Roosevelt was one of Robert Peary's biggest supporters.

Robert Peary and Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt (left) greets Robert Peary on the deck of the S.S. Roosevelt on July 7, 1908. Peary stopped at TR's home in Oyster Bay, New York, before departing on his North Pole quest.
George Borup, American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries // Public Domain

Peary and President Theodore Roosevelt shared a dedication to the strenuous life, and TR—who had served as the assistant secretary of the Navy—helped Peary obtain his multi-year leaves of absence from civil engineering work. "It seems to me that Peary has done valuable work as an Arctic explorer and can do additional work which entitles him to be given every chance by this Government to do such work," Roosevelt wrote to Secretary of the Navy William H. Moody in 1903. Peary repaid the favors by naming his custom-built steamship the S.S. Roosevelt.

In 1906, TR presented the explorer with the National Geographic Society's highest honor, the Hubbard Medal, for Peary's attainment of farthest north. Roosevelt also contributed the introduction to Peary's book about his successful quest for the North Pole.

12. Robert Peary met his nemesis, Frederick Cook, more than a decade before their feud.

Frederick Cook, a New York City physician, signed up as the surgeon for Peary's second trip to Greenland in 1891-1892. Neither Peary nor Matthew Henson was very impressed with his wilderness skills. Afterwards, Cook joined an expedition to Antarctica and claimed he summited Denali in Alaska, though his climbing partners disputed that feat.

So when Peary and Henson arrived back in Greenland in September 1909 after attaining the North Pole on April 6, they were shocked to hear that Cook had supposedly reached the Pole in spring 1908 and had announced it to the world just five days before Peary had returned to civilization. "[Cook] has not been at the Pole on April 21st, 1908, or at any other time," Peary told newspapers. "He has simply handed the public a gold brick."

From then on, Peary and his family strenuously defended his claim to the Pole. Cook had left his journals and instruments in Greenland in his dash to announce his discovery to the world, and Peary refused to transport them aboard his ship to New York, so it became Cook's word against Peary's. Peary also had the backing of wealthy funders, The New York Times, and the National Geographic Society, who eventually decided the matter in Peary's favor. But the controversy never went away; as late as 2009, the centennial of Peary's claim, historians and explorers were reexamining Peary's records and finding discrepancies in the distances he traveled each day on his way to the Pole. Cook's journals were lost in Greenland, and he spent time in jail for mail fraud. The jury is still out.

13. Robert Peary advocated for a Department of Aeronautics.

Peary was an early proponent of aviation for exploration as well as military defense. As World War I engulfed Europe, he argued for the creation of an air service, the Department of Aeronautics, that would operate alongside the Army and Navy and could then be used for lifesaving coastal patrol. Peary embarked on a 20-city tour to drum up public support for the Aerial Coastal Patrol Fund and raised $250,000 to build stations along the U.S. coast.

The Navy later implemented many of Peary's suggestions, but the tour left the explorer in frail health. He was diagnosed with incurable pernicious anemia and died on February 20, 1920. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and his gravesite is adorned with a large granite globe inscribed with a motto in Latin, Inveniam viam aut faciam—"I shall find a way or make one."

Additional sources: Dark Companion, The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole