How the States Got Their Shapes
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How the States Got Their Shapes

2010, History  -   25 Comments
Ratings: 6.92/10 from 24 users.

How the States Got Their ShapesEvery line on the U.S. map tells a story. Every border reflects their history - their struggles for independence, their internal conflicts over states rights and slavery, their westward expansion, and the mastery of their natural resources.

They are so familiar with the map of United States, but do they know why their states look the way they do? Every shape on the map tells a great story about their past.

Why is California bent? To cling on to gold. Why does Oklahoma have a panhandle? Because of shifting borders for slavery.

Why does Missouri have a boot? Because of a massive earthquake. Examines how every state is a puzzle piece ultimately revealing the unique geography, political and social history of America.

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25 Comments / User Reviews

  1. OKSC

    Probably the best viewing on TV.

  2. robertallen1


    I am not responsible for the irresponsible of actions of the incompetent government of this country. I have no social obligations except for personal ones.

  3. robertallen1

    The documentary would have been much better without the garbage in the background.

  4. Vandermoore

    Enjoyable, though at points slightly annoyingly presented. I particularly like that it shows how Americans enjoy their history, for though they have so little of it compared to us in the Old World, they seem to have way more of it as they value every tiny bit of it, which is admirable at least. A scientific approach to it seems sadly lacking, but perhaps that's what keeps it alive in the general populace and imagination.
    Still, this documentary is entertaining for the few fun facts it presents as well as the insight into the American attitude towards history.

  5. adilrye

    Very interesting and entertaining documentary. I find American history (all aspects of it) quite interesting.

  6. Abjective

    A typical American documentary. They forget to explain one major factor the expulsion and genocide of the natives of every part of their lands to create this great America.

    1. adilrye

      Well, it is History channel. I mean, it's supposed to be generally informative, mass market and entertaining. It's akin to the European history shows that talk about the glory of the the colonial empire without mentioning the very dark side of it.

      It is regrettable, I agree with you though, but not necessarily indicative of all American documentaries.

    2. Abjective

      Hi, i dont know who you are but respect your opinions hopefully you respect mines even if we disagree, Thats all it is. "opinions" just some are more influential than others.

    3. Lisa Strickland

      I think this is a great piece. As far as the slurs against the red man....let me say, I have some native American in my gene line. My great, great, great grand parents were indians, therefore it is in my blood, as well. With that, no you may not owe them anything, but they did lay a foundation of this great land FOR YOU. I AM AMERICAN AND PROUD OF IT, ALSO PROUD THAT THERE IS RED IN MY BLOOD LINE TOO!!!

    4. robertallen1


      This is merely a documentary on how certain state boundaries were formed, not an expose of the mistreatment of the red men to whom at the present time we owe nothing.

      I despise people like you.

    5. Hugo Salazar

      red men to whom at the present time we owe nothing?

      are you stupid or something?

      this genocide (which by the way is STILL going on) is by no means lost to history , shows how truly ignorant you are for saying such a thing .


      do yourself a favor a watch the canary effect , its conveniently here on TDF , after you have opened your eyes don't thank me , thank vlatko .

    6. robertallen1

      Obviously you have some problems in perception.  This documentary was and did
      not claim to be anything other than a history of the formation of certain state
      boundaries.  It was not nor was intended to be a polemic anent the inequitable
      treatment of the American indian tribes. 

      I don't know which genocide you are referring to because you obviously lack the
      education to be specific, but if it's historical, my statement still stands. 
      Modern society owes nothing to the red man, the black man or the Hispanic.

      You are still despiccable.



      oh hello,

      just wondering if you took a look around...ummm not much to be proud of in this "modern society" you speak of.

      i think it goes something is no measure of mental health to be well adjusted in a sick society.

      also consider that it is the victors whom write history...and your statement is called "Eurocentric."

      that is all.

      in regards to this doc- the title sounded interesting enough, but this is only the preview , oh well. tonight's search continues :)

    8. robertallen1

      What are you talking about or do you know?

    9. who_me_yeah_you

      And the next generations of Americans will owe nothing to the Iraqis or the Afghans. Not even an apology.

      America is about taking, and only very recently has owing or debt come into the picture. But If the f***ers think they'll get their money perhaps they might consult the negro or the redman, save themselves the hassle of getting worked up about it.

      40 Acres and all that.

      Go team America!

    10. Dawn

      I guess you need to tell that to the Italians and Norwegians then since that is what they did to the Britts. Oh and also make sure you need to tell that to the Russians for sure since they did that to the Polish and Belarus. Oh not to mention the way the Muslims have done that to the Indians...
      LOL you need to do some history and stop being so Naïve!! For over 4000 years people have been taking over other nations of people. Even 50 years ago they where doing it...and STILL are. This practice of conquering other nations and moving your people into it has been around since the beginning. It's not something that is seclusive to the Native Americans.

  7. Keri-Anne Nichols

    Very interesting! I really enjoyed it. I am from America but live in another country. I often forget how Amercia is so rich in history and how the states were shaped is so facinating because there reasons are all so diverse like - water, gold, slavery ect. extremely historical stuff and always interesting on the amazing power of's true they did not touch upon many states but I think it was because they chose the sates that had the most significance in such a claim to it's land or maybe that's all they could fit in an hour twenty.....It would be nice to have a part 2!

  8. Tony

    Great Doc!

  9. charlie

    i wish he explained more about that little piece of land in north MN

  10. Plilip

    This Documentary should be renamed to, "How some of the states got their shapes". They didn't mention Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi.

  11. TheBalkan

    He forgot Maine!

  12. Jorge Nunes

    Even though I'm not an american, i really liked this documentary. I always find fascinating to know how a state or country came to existence and i'ts borders become about.

  13. raul123

    Wow !!! a really Wonderful Documentary...

    Loved it

  14. DomCar

    I like the intro, they give a brief overview of what to expect from the documentary and it makes it really exciting. I couldn't wait for the doc to start. Awesome stuff

  15. bornin62honest

    wow! I didn't know most of that. How cool!

    thanks v.