The State of Ohio

AT A GLANCE

Name: Ohio is an Iroquois word for “fine or great river.”
Nickname: Buckeye State
Capital: Columbus
Size: 41,330 sq. mi. (107,040 sq km)
Population: 11,613,423 (2015 est)
Statehood: Ohio became the 17th state on March 1, 1803.
Electoral votes: 20 (2016)
U.S. representatives: 19 (until 2016)
State tree: buckeye
State flower: scarlet carnation
State insect: ladybug
Highest point: Campbell Hill, 1,549 ft. (472 m)

11,613,423 (2015 est)

THE PLACE

Ohio is one of the Great Lakes states. More than 11,500 years ago, glaciers and ice moved over the land and covered all of the area except for the southeastern corner. These glaciers helped form Ohio’s present terrain by smoothing down mountains, digging valleys, and depositing a rich top layer of soil. Some of this fertile land is found along the shore of Lake Erie, in a narrow region of low, level plains broken only by a few hills.

Lake Erie forms Ohio’s northern border. Plains cover western Ohio. This prairie is the easternmost section of the Great Plains region that covers most of the Midwest. The land has good soil and is level with a few rolling hills.

The eastern half of Ohio is part of a plateau in the Appalachian Mountains. The southern part of the state is a rugged, steep region that is mostly forested. The very south of Ohio, known as the Bluegrass Region, is a triangular section of gently rolling, grassy hills that begin in Kentucky. The Ohio River forms most of the Kentucky–Ohio border.

Ohio’s primary natural resources are fertile soil, powerful rivers, and rich mineral deposits. The Appalachian Plateau has trees, clay, coal, natural gas, oil, and salt.

Winter in Ohio is cold, but summer is hot and humid. Southwestern Ohio receives more rain than other parts of the state, while the shore of Lake Erie is the driest area. During the winter, northeastern Ohio receives the greatest snowfall amounts in the state.

Facts and Firsts

  • Half of the U.S. population lives within a 500-mile radius of Columbus, the capital of Ohio.
  • Oberlin College, established in 1833, was the first interracial and coeducational college in the United States.
  • In 1914, the first electric traffic signal lights in the United States were installed in Cleveland.
  • In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the nation’s first professional baseball team. The name has since been shortened to the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Seven U.S. presidents were born in Ohio: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding.
  • Ohio produces more garden and greenhouse plants than any other state.

THE PAST

More than 6,000 earth mounds, forts, and other formations made by prehistoric Native Americans called Mound Builders are located throughout Ohio. When the first French explorers arrived from Canada, these people had long since disappeared and been replaced by a number of smaller tribes, including the Delaware and Shawnee.

The French engaged the help of these Native Americans in fighting the British, who claimed all the territory extending inland from their eastern colonies in North America. In 1763, the French gave up the fight and gave all their colonies east of the Mississippi River to Britain. Britain lost these colonies to the Americans during the Revolutionary War. In 1788, colonists from New England built the first permanent white settlement in the territory of Ohio, at the town of Marietta. Ohio became a state in 1803.

The Louisiana Purchase, which included the Mississippi River, quickly made Ohio an important center of trade. The construction of railroads and the Erie Canal increased prosperity in the state. Factories and mills were built along Ohio’s rivers. Trade exploded during the Civil War, as Ohio provided coal, iron, and other supplies for the Union army.

Ohio’s industrial strength grew during World Wars I and II, when the state manufactured aircraft, ships, tires, and weapons for the U.S. military. By the end of World War II in 1945, manufacturing had become Ohio’s most important industry.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Ohio suffered from low funding for public education, and several districts had to close schools. In 1971, a new income tax was imposed to fund Ohio’s state government services.

Years of prosperous industry brought pollution from industrial waste. During the last two decades of the 20th century, Ohio cleaned up many of its rivers and lakes, which were badly polluted from this waste.

THE PRESENT

Ohio is one of the country’s leading manufacturing states. Manufacturing is the state’s single most important economic activity, and transportation equipment such as automobiles, aircraft, and their parts are Ohio’s most valuable products. Ohio also produces machinery such as heating and cooling equipment.

Ohio’s two largest cities, Columbus and Cleveland, are more than just manufacturing centers: Columbus is the home of Battelle Memorial Institute, one of the largest research and development centers in the world. Cleveland is one of the country’s leading health care and financial centers.

About half of Ohio is farmland. Field crops, including corn and soybeans, account for most of the state’s agricultural income, but milk and other dairy items are also valuable products. The state is a leading producer of hogs, and Ohio farmers produce more wool than any other state east of the Mississippi River.

Ohio suffers from a number of economic problems, including declining crop and livestock prices and increased foreign competition in the steel industry. In recent years, some businesses have left the state. Pollution of Lake Erie and the state’s rivers is an ongoing concern.

Born in Ohio

  • Neil Armstrong, astronaut
  • Kathleen Battle, opera singer
  • George Bellows, painter and lithographer
  • Ambrose Bierce, journalist
  • Erma Bombeck, columnist
  • Hart Crane, poet
  • George Armstrong Custer, general, U.S. army
  • Dorothy Dandridge, actress
  • Doris Day, singer and actress
  • Clarence Darrow, lawyer
  • Ruby Dee, actress
  • Rita Dove, U.S. poet laureate
  • Hugh Downs, television broadcaster
  • Thomas A. Edison, inventor
  • Clark Gable, actor
  • James A. Garfield, U.S. president
  • John Glenn, astronaut and senator
  • Ulysses S. Grant, general and U.S. president
  • Zane Grey, author
  • Warren G. Harding, U.S. president
  • Benjamin Harrison, U.S. president
  • Rutherford Hayes, U.S. president
  • Robert Henri, artist and teacher
  • William Dean Howells, author and critic
  • William McKinley, U.S. president
  • Chloe Anthony “Toni” Morrison, author
  • Paul Newman, actor
  • Jack Nicklaus, golfer
  • Annie Oakley, markswoman
  • Norman Vincent Peale, author
  • Edward “Eddie” Rickenbacker, aviator and war hero
  • Roy Rogers (Leonard Frank Sly), actor and singer
  • Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., historian
  • William Tecumseh Sherman, general
  • Steven Spielberg, director
  • Gloria Steinem, feminist and writer
  • William H. Taft, U.S. president
  • Tecumseh, Shawnee chief
  • James Thurber, author and cartoonist
  • Orville Wright, aviator
  • Cy Young, baseball player