The State of North Carolina

AT A GLANCE

Name: North Carolina was named after King Charles I of England. (The Latin word for the name Charles is Carolana.)
Nicknames: Tar Heel State, Old North State
Capital: Raleigh
Size: 52,672 sq. mi. (136,421 sq km)
Population: 10,042,802 (2015 est)
Statehood: North Carolina became the 12th state on November 21, 1789.
Electoral votes: 15 (2016)
U.S. representatives: 13 (2016)
State tree: longleaf pine
State flower: flowering dogwood
State reptile: box turtle
Highest point: Mount Mitchell, 6,684 ft. (2,037 m)

North Carolina map

THE PLACE

North Carolina is one of the southern states along the Atlantic Ocean. Its land along the coast is low and marshy. One of the largest marshes in this part of North Carolina is the Dismal Swamp in the northeastern part of the state.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina jut out into the Atlantic Ocean and form Cape Fear, Cape Lookout, and Cape Hatteras.

The Outer Banks are shifting sandbars and have caused many shipwrecks. Hurricanes and tropical storms are common along the Outer Banks.

The Piedmont, the rocky middle section of North Carolina, slopes upward from the east until it meets the mountainous region of western North Carolina. The largest mountains in this part of the state are in the Blue Ridge range; there are also smaller ranges that are part of the Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina. Southwestern North Carolina has many beautiful waterfalls, including Whitewater Falls, which is one of the tallest in the eastern United States.

North Carolina’s climate varies greatly throughout its regions. Summers are hot and humid and winters are mild in southeastern North Carolina, but winters are considerably colder in the western mountains. The mountains also receive more rain and snow.

North Carolina’s greatest resources are its soil, which is most fertile in the central and western coastal plain, and its minerals. North Carolina has deposits of more than 300 different minerals and rocks, including feldspar, gneiss, sand, gravel, clay, limestone, granite, phosphate rock, and lithium.

Facts and Firsts

  • Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina, was the site of the first English colony in the United States. It was established in 1585. The colony was unsuccessful, and a second colony established in 1587 vanished without a trace.
  • In 1898, pharmacist Caleb Bradham of New Bern invented the soft drink Pepsi, which was trademarked in 1903.
  • Near Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful airplane flight.
  • In 1916, Pinehurst became the site of the first miniature golf course.
  • The Venus flytrap plant grows in select boggy areas in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina grows more tobacco and sweet potatoes and raises more turkeys than any other state. It also leads the country in furniture, brick, and textile manufacturing.

THE PAST

North Carolina was once home to Cherokee, Hatteras, Catawba, Chowanoc, and Tuscarora tribes, but it is most famous as the site of the first English colony.

Although the French and Spanish explored various parts of North Carolina, it was the British who began a colony at Roanoke Island in 1585. This first colony experienced problems, and settlers were forced to return to England the next year.

Another settlement was tried again in 1587, but when Governor John White arrived from England in 1590, he found that the whole colony (more than 100 people) had disappeared. The fate of the “Lost Colony” is still a mystery.

Colonists from Virginia started the first permanent settlement in North Carolina in 1650. By 1710, settlements had spread south along the coast. In 1711, Native Americans who resented the theft of their lands attacked several settlements, where they burned homes and crops and killed settlers. In 1713, the colonists defeated the native tribes.

In April 1776, North Carolina became the first colony to vote for independence at the Continental Congress. During the Revolutionary War, North Carolina sent soldiers to fight the British in South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.

During the 1830s, the western region of the state was settled, and manufacturing and mining expanded. The agriculture industry also grew as many plantations were established that produced tobacco and other crops.

When the Civil War began in 1861, North Carolina was reluctant to fight. Although the state remained part of the Union at first, North Carolina eventually seceded with the other Southern states. During the Civil War, about one-fourth of all Confederate soldiers killed were from North Carolina.

Before the Civil War, North Carolina’s plantations had relied heavily on slave labor. After the war ended, plantations were quickly divided into smaller farms, and soon North Carolina was growing tobacco and cotton at rates equal to before the war. Industry also grew, as manufacturers turned out textiles and furniture.

The Great Depression brought hard times, and many workers in North Carolina lost their jobs as farms and businesses failed. World War II, however, brought economic recovery as North Carolina’s textile mills supplied the military forces with more textiles than any other state.

During the 1950s, North Carolina began to attract other industries and continued its shift from a rural, agricultural society to a more urban economy. In 1956, three of North Carolina’s largest universities combined their research resources to form the Research Triangle Park, a renowned industrial research center.

In the 1960s, the practice of segregation (separation of whites and blacks) caused racial tension in North Carolina and throughout the rest of the South.

Demonstrations and protests eventually led to the passage of civil rights laws that prohibited the segregation of public facilities. During the 1970s, North Carolina school districts began to use busing to achieve racial integration.

THE PRESENT

North Carolina is the largest producer of tobacco and tobacco products, textiles, and furniture in the United States. Textile factories in North Carolina make about half of the nation’s hosiery. North Carolina’s newer products include chemicals and pharmaceuticals, computers, construction equipment, and electrical equipment. Charlotte has become a leading financial center and home to some of the nation’s largest banks.

North Carolina also produces various agricultural products. Although tobacco continues to be its primary crop, North Carolina also grows soybeans, corn, and many other fruits and vegetables. North Carolina is also one of the leading producers of peanuts and sweet potatoes.

Fishing off the Atlantic coast is another important industry and brings in millions of dollars every year. North Carolina’s aquaculture industry raises catfish, crayfish, and trout in artificial ponds and streams.

Born in North Carolina

  • David Brinkley, newscaster
  • John Coltrane, jazz musician
  • Virginia Dare, first person born in America to English parents
  • Elizabeth “Liddy” Dole, politician
  • Ava Gardner, actress
  • Richard Gatling, inventor
  • Andy Griffith, actor
  • O. Henry (William Sidney Porter), author
  • Andrew Johnson, U.S. president
  • Charles Kuralt, television journalist and author
  • Ray Charles “Sugar Ray” Leonard, boxer
  • Dolley Madison, first lady
  • Thelonious Monk, pianist
  • Edward R. Murrow, commentator and government official
  • James K. Polk, U.S. president
  • Thomas Wolfe, author