Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
The eastern half of the US is the most heavily populated part of the country, with many Americans living in the large cities along the east coast. The national capital, Washington, D.C., is located here, as are the thirteen original states that founded the country in 1776. To the north, the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes separate the region from Canada.
Washington, D.C. (“D.C.” stands for “District of Columbia”) is named after George Washington, commander-in-chief of the American army in the Revolutionary War against Great Britain, and first president of the US. Washington is the political capital of the US, and the home of the American president.
This huge expanse of marsh and swampland in southern Florida is a haven for many rare creatures, such as the Florida panther and the manatee. Drainage programs to create more land for building and farming threaten to reduce the size of the Everglades and destroy the habitat of these creatures forever.
The US calls itself a melting pot of different peoples because, over the centuries, people from all over the world have come to the US, settling alongside the original American Indian population. Some came as slaves from Africa, others fled religious or political persecution in Europe, and many more escaped poverty to start again. The US is proud of its rich mix of peoples, although racial tension and segregation continue to be major problems.
The first Thanksgiving feast was held in 1621 as a gesture of friendship between the Pilgrim Fathers (immigrants from England) and American Indians, after their first successful joint harvest. Ever since, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving in November with a traditional meal of turkey and pumpkin pie.
The economic strength and wealth of the US have made it the most powerful nation on Earth. It uses its huge wealth to maintain vast armed services and employ the latest military technology, making it the world’s only superpower. US companies dominate the international economy, while American popular music and movies have a major impact on global culture.
NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) blasts its rockets, shuttles, and satellites into space from Cape Canaveral on the east coast of Florida. The site was chosen because it enjoys year-round good weather, and its remoteness means that few people are disturbed by the noise of a launch.
The Mississippi River causes huge destruction every time it floods, inundating towns and farmland, killing livestock, ruining crops, and causing billions of dollars worth in damage. The floods occur naturally through heavy rain and snowfall, but deforestation and intensive cultivation have made the problem worse.
Capital city: Washington, D.C.
Area: 3,717,792 sq miles (9,629,091 sq km)
Population: 289 million
Dominant language: English
Major religion: Protestant
Currency: US dollar