The 38 States of America?

Maps are often viewed as dry tools that incite little interest among people as they age. With the exception of navigational or political enthusiasts, few people open up an atlas to look at maps of the world on a regular basis. This means that sometimes you need to find some of the weirder maps that never made it into the history books in order to ignite renewed interest and entertaining conversation.


There’s been a lot of conversation in recent years about splitting up the state of California into six smaller, more manageable states. More than half the nation’s population today wasn’t alive the last time a new state was added to the US map, so it’s difficult to image redrawing lines within the state of California to carve out six new states.


If George Etzel Pearcy had gotten his wish, the United States would have been radically altered in 1973 and broken up into 38 states. His map is visible here, but you’ll learn all about his plan in the following paragraphs.


Redrawing Antiquated Boundaries

Across most of the United States, the boundaries between different states have existed in their current form for more than 150 years. Pearcy, a California State University professor of geography, proposed redrawing all of the boundaries in the United States to create 38 states. At the heart of Pearcy’s new vision for the US was the need to isolate large cities in any given state, reducing the number of major population centers in each one, and making it easier for state tax dollars to be dispersed more evenly.


Major Renaming

As part of Pearcy’s plan, none of the states would maintain their current names, though a handful would keep some portion of their name. For example, the state of El Dorado would encompass all of central and northern California, as well as the vast majority of Nevada. Texas would be split off into four different states, with much of the state remaining in the newly named state of Alamo.


Portions of eastern Texas would join all of Louisiana and parts of Arkansas and Mississippi in the state of Bayou. The Texas Panhandle would join Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico in the state of Shawnee, and the area around El Paso would join much of New Mexico and Arizona in Cochise.


As you can tell from the names, Pearcy believed in renaming the states based upon natural geographic formations or local cultural history. For example, Alamo as the name for Texas in honor of the Battle of the Alamo. Louisiana’s famous bayous were the perfect inspiration for that state’s new name.


Flawed Plan

Though Pearcy had supporters, his plan ultimately failed for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he proposed isolating major cities, yet his newly drawn lines did little to achieve that goal. Both Los Angeles and San Diego remain in the state of San Gabriel. San Francisco and Las Vegas are part of El Dorado. Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso, TX join the state of Cochise. The list goes on.


His plan to redraw the US map failed in large part because it would require starting over from scratch. Congressional districts, voter registration, and taxation infrastructures would have to be completely redrawn, not to mention brand new surveys of the land conducted to accurately identify boundaries. Nevertheless, Pearcy’s plan offers an interesting glimpse into an alternate view of the United States.

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