The State of New York
AT A GLANCE
Name: New York was named in honor of England's Duke of York.
Nickname: Empire State
Size: 49,112 sq. mi. (127,200 sq km)
Population: 19,795,791 (2015 est)
Statehood: New York became the 11th state on July 26, 1788.
Electoral votes: 31 (2016)
U.S. representatives: 31 (beginning in 2016)
State tree: sugar maple
State flower: rose
State animal: beaver
Highest point: Mount Marcy, 5,344 ft. (1,629 m)
New York is one of the Northeast states. More than 11,500 years ago, New York was covered by a sheet of ice that was up to two miles (3.2 km) thick. This sheet of ice rounded off New York's mountains, deepened its valleys, and left a layer of rich soil in some parts of the state.
The eastern part of New York is a region of rounded hills and forests. There are some high peaks, which are extensions of the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. The Hudson River cuts through this part of the state from north to south, and in its valley is some of the most fertile land in New York. Northern New York is home to the St. Lawrence River, which forms part of the United States boundary with Canada.
To the northeast is the Adirondack Upland, a rocky, mountainous region with many streams, waterfalls, and lakes, such as Lake Champlain and Lake Placid. In the Appalachian Plateau, Ice Age glaciers deepened the valleys that eventually filled with water and became the Finger Lakes region.
In the south and east of this plateau are the Catskill Mountains. Northwestern New York is the site of the famous Niagara Falls, which is on the New York–Canada border between Lakes Erie and Ontario. In the southern part of the state is Long Island, a long, low island that is part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain.
Temperatures vary among the different parts of New York. The weather is much cooler to the north, in the Adirondack Mountains, than to the south, on Long Island.
The Adirondacks also receive more snow than the south, but the snowiest part of New York is the region around the Great Lakes. In this area, moisture from the water brings heavy winter snowfall to cities like Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo.
Mineral resources are varied throughout the state. New York contains lead, talc, zinc, garnet stone, clay, salt, and petroleum deposits.
Facts and Firsts
- New York City has more than 230 miles (370 km) of subway track.
- Adirondack Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Olympic parks combined.
- Milk is New York's leading agricultural product. There are more than 18,000 cattle farms in the state.
- New York City was the first capital of the United States. President George Washington took his oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall in 1789.
- The New York Post, started by Alexander Hamilton in 1803, is one of the oldest-running newspapers in the country.
- New York had the first railroad in the United States. The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad began running for 11 miles between Albany and Schenectady in 1831.
- Gennaro Lombardi opened the country's first pizzeria in 1905 in New York City.
New York was home to the two largest Native American groups, the Algonquian and Iroquois, when explorer Henry Hudson claimed the region for the Netherlands in 1609. Looking for a water route to Asia, Hudson explored the areas of both New York and New Jersey. Dutch settlers soon arrived and they called their new territory New Netherland. They traded fur, built farms, and established the city of New Amsterdam, which became New York City. Also in 1609, explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed the northern part of New York for France.
In 1664, English king Charles II decided that he wanted New Netherland, so he sent troops to New Amsterdam, where the Dutch surrendered without a fight. England won northern New York from the French at the end of the French and Indian Wars in 1763, and New York became one of 13 British colonies. The English renamed the colony for the Duke of York, the king's brother.
New Yorkers and other colonists began to resent English policies, and the American Revolution began in 1775. New York's central location along the Hudson River made it an important strategic point, and about a third of all the battles fought during the Revolution took place in the area.
From 1785 to 1790, New York City was the capital of the United States. New York, which entered the Union in 1788, was settled rapidly. By 1810, it was the most populous state. (It remained so until the 1960s, when California's population surpassed it.)
During the early 1800s, a need grew for better transportation between the state's coastal region and its interior. Work began on a series of railroads and canals, including the Erie Canal.
During the Civil War, New York provided more troops, supplies, and money to the Northern cause than any other state, despite the pro-Southern views of many residents. After the war, domestic and international trade expanded, and New York quickly became the industrial, financial, and cultural capital of the nation.
By the turn of the 20th century, jobseeking immigrants from all over the world were pouring into New York City, which caused the city's population to explode. The Great Depression of the 1930s brought hardship and unemployment, but New York's industrial cities rallied during World War II to supply the materials needed for the war effort in Europe.
In 1946, the United Nations chose New York City as its home. The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts opened in the 1960s and began to showcase some of the nation's greatest cultural achievements.
During the 1970s, a loss of manufacturing jobs hurt the state's economy, and financial problems were particularly acute in New York City. Recovery was aided by growth in the service industries. Present-day challenges for New York include the need to address environmental problems such as industrial toxic waste, and social problems including drug abuse, crime, and an expanding prison population.
New York City is the financial, banking, publishing, fashion, and communications center of the United States. It is the city with the largest population in the United States, and one of the largest cities in the world. Almost a million tourists visit New York City every day.
Manhattan is home to cultural staples such as Broadway, the New York City Ballet, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The New York Stock Exchange is the largest securities exchange in the world. Property values in Manhattan are some of the highest in the world.
New York is, however, more than just New York City. There are more than 25,000 industrial plants throughout the state. Cities such as Rochester, Buffalo, and Albany are vital manufacturing centers and produce computers, heating and cooling machinery, and scientific and medical equipment.
New York also has nearly 36,000 farms and is one of the leading dairy states. Eggs and poultry, hay, and corn are also important farm products. Apples are the state's leading fruit crop. New York's commercial fishing industry, especially in Long Island Sound, supplies huge amounts of shellfish—mostly clams, lobsters, oysters—as well as flounder, sea trout, and striped bass.
Born in New York
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, athlete
- Woody Allen, director and actor
- Lucille Ball, actress and comedian
- Humphrey Bogart, actor
- James Cagney, actor
- Maria Callas, soprano
- Aaron Copland, composer
- George Eastman, inventor
- Millard Fillmore, U.S. president
- Lou Gehrig, baseball player
- George Gershwin, composer
- Julia Ward Howe, poet and reformer
- Washington Irving, author
- Henry James, author
- Michael Jordan, basketball player
- Julius “Groucho” Marx, comedian
- Herman Melville, author
- Ethel Merman, singer and actress
- J. Pierpont Morgan Jr., industrialist
- Ogden Nash, poet
- Eugene O'Neill, playwright
- Colin Powell, general, U.S. Army
- Anne Frances “Nancy” Reagan, first lady
- John D. Rockefeller, industrialist
- Norman Rockwell, painter and illustrator
- (Anna) Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady, humanitarian
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. president
- Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. president
- Jonas Salk, polio researcher
- Margaret Sanger, women's rights activist
- Jerry Seinfeld, actor and comedian
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women's rights activist
- Barbra Streisand, singer and actress
- Martin Van Buren, U.S. president
- Mae West, actress
- Edith Wharton, author
- Walt Whitman, poet