States by Order of Entry Into the Union

Updated January 4, 2022 | Infoplease Staff

The first (and last) U.S. states

The original 13 colonies were a group of British territories in North America. Among the Thirteen colonies, Virginia was the first to be settled by English people. Depending on how we define "states" in this instance, the first state to create its own constitution was Connecticut. The first state to be settled by Europeans at all would be Florida; St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest continuous European settlement in the U.S.

However, the states of today are legally distinct from the colonies. The first state in the sense of "one of the current 50 states of America" would be the first one to enter into the Union by adopting the U.S. Constitution.

Replacing the Articles of Confederation

Many people mistakenly believe that the United States Constitution was created after the Revolution. But, the country was first governed under the Articles of Confederation, drafted in 1781 (the same year as Yorktown). The Articles proved insufficient to meet the challenges the country faced. Legislators met to discuss revisions to the Articles, but the representatives decided that it would be better to replace them entirely with a new document. That document became the Constitution, the details of which were hammered out at the Constitutional Convention.

To adopt the Constitution as the new law of the land, it had to be ratified by 2/3 of the states in the Confederation (as per its own Article VII). Ratification required that each state elect representatives to a ratification convention within the state

The American states assumed their present forms in 1788, when the ninth and final necessary state ratified the United States Constitution. The date each state joined the Union is shown in the table below (usually coinciding with a territory being granted statehood). Five states were added during the 20th century. Alaska and Hawaii were the last states to join the Union -- both in 1959.

Joining the Union

Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution lays out how a new state can join the Union:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

StateEntered UnionYear Settled
DelawareDec. 7, 17871638
PennsylvaniaDec. 12, 17871682
New JerseyDec. 18, 17871660
GeorgiaJan. 2, 17881733
ConnecticutJan. 9, 17881634
MassachusettsFeb. 6, 17881620
MarylandApr. 28, 17881634
South CarolinaMay 23, 17881670
New HampshireJune 21, 17881623
VirginiaJune 25, 17881607
New YorkJuly 26, 17881614
North CarolinaNov. 21, 17891660
Rhode IslandMay 29, 17901636
VermontMar. 4, 17911724
KentuckyJune 1, 17921774
TennesseeJune 1, 17961769
OhioMar. 1, 18031788
LouisianaApr. 30, 18121699
IndianaDec. 11, 18161733
MississippiDec. 10, 18171699
IllinoisDec. 3, 18181720
AlabamaDec. 14, 18191702
MaineMar. 15, 18201624
MissouriAug. 10, 18211735
ArkansasJune 15, 18361686
MichiganJan. 26, 18371668
FloridaMar. 3, 18451565
TexasDec. 29, 18451682
IowaDec. 28, 18461788
WisconsinMay 29, 18481766
CaliforniaSept. 9, 18501769
MinnesotaMay 11, 18581805
OregonFeb. 14, 18591811
KansasJan. 29, 18611727
West VirginiaJune 20, 18631727
NevadaOct. 31, 18641849
NebraskaMar. 1, 18671823
ColoradoAug. 1, 18761858
North DakotaNov. 2, 18891812
South DakotaNov. 2, 18891859
MontanaNov. 8, 18891809
WashingtonNov. 11, 18891811
IdahoJuly 3, 18901842
WyomingJuly 10, 18901834
UtahJan. 4, 18961847
OklahomaNov. 16, 19071889
New MexicoJan. 6, 19121610
ArizonaFeb. 14, 19121776
AlaskaJan. 3, 19591784
HawaiiAug. 21, 19591820

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