New York, New York. There is a lot to thank the state for, from toilet paper to potato chips. People first arrived to the region in 10,000BC, and by the 12th century AD, the Iroquoian and Algonquian tribes dominated the culture that the Europeans would find after Giovanni da Verrazzano made his way through the Narrows Strait. With an incredibly rich history, there is no doubt that this state has influenced the world we live in, from the culture it supports to the history it has birthed. Here are 42 facts about New York State.
1. No Sale
Though the myth persists that Dutch settlers purchased Manhattan for about $24 from the island’s natives, it would be wise to think of this “sale” a bit differently. While the Native Americans did indeed have their own conceptions of economy and property, their deal with the Dutch was more of a renting of the land, as they believed they were allowing the Dutch to simply occupy the land with them.
2. Mysterious Deal
Again, the myth of the sale of Manhattan for $24 is not accurate. The Dutch reported having traded 60 guilders, which was $24 in the 19th century. Now, that is closer to about $1,000 USD. Also, much of the documentation has not survived, meaning that who exactly the deal was made with is unknown, and that any additional items included in the sale are forever a mystery.
3. License to Drive
New York was the first state to require license plates, but they didn’t take responsibility for issuing them. Instead, car owners had to make their own and make sure that they printed their initials onto them.
4. Niagara’s Short Falls
Niagara Falls is incredible. As the most visited waterfall in the entire world, this beautiful site owes much of its success to the efforts of state tourist promotion, as it is the oldest promoted attraction in the United States. Yet, Niagara Falls isn’t even the tallest waterfall in the state of New York. That title belongs to the marvelous Taughannock Falls.
5. New York Hearts
“I Love New York” is one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history. Developed in 1977 in an attempt to revive the failing tourism of the state of New York, the iconic logo was first designed by the young graphic designer Milton Glaser with a red crayon while in the back of a taxi in 1976.
6. Beef and Beer
Two staples of American culture are beer and beef, which both have a piece of their legacies in New York. The first brewery was started in Manhattan in 1632 by the Dutch West India Company. The Deep Hollow Ranch was the first cattle ranch, and it began in 1658 in Montauk, New York.
7. Uncle Sam and His Meat
Uncle Sam was a real man who made his name in Troy, New York. As a meat packer in the early 19th century, Samuel Wilson secured the contract to supply meat to American forces fighting in the War of 1812. When he would ship his meats to the soldiers, he would stamp the packages with the initials “E.A-U.S.” which, although the “U.S” stood for “United States,” the military men grew to associate it with Wilson, who was known by the nickname Uncle Sam. From there the legend only grew and his image would later be used as the personification of the United States.
8. Power of Steam
Built in New York, the North River Steamboat Clermont was the first steamboat vessel to navigate waterways in the world. The Clermont displayed the potential of steamboats by journeying from New York City to Albany through the Hudson River—which was then known as the North River—in 1807.
9. “The Peaceable Kingdom”
As the oldest operating pet cemetery in the world, New York is home to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, which is also the largest animal burial ground in the United States. While it has set a standard for cemeteries around the world, we don’t recommend reading the Stephen King novel on the premises.
10. Economic Size
Though it is only the 3rd largest economy in the United States—looking at you California and Texas—New York’s economy is still is on par with the entire nations of Canada and Spain.
11. It’s in the Water
As one of the largest man made environmental disasters in the history of the world, the Love Canal was declared a federal emergency in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. Despite the fact that 33% of the residents were adversely affected by 248 different chemicals that leaked into their water supply, the Hooker Chemical Company, who created the waste site, denied involvement for years.
12. Based in Pizza
Pizza in New York City is serious business. Not only is New York home to the first pizzeria in the United States, but pizza also has a way of dictating the price of a subway ride. Known as the Pizza Principle, the cost of a slice of pizza has mirrored the price of a single ride on the New York subway since the 1960s and has been a predictive indicator on fare increases ever since. That means that whenever the price of a slice rises in New York City, the price of a subway ride is on the verge of also increasing.
13. Casa de Gold
Most of the gold in the world is stored in New York. 80 feet underneath the Federal Reserve Bank, there is a vault that holds $90 billion worth of gold. Let’s see you try to break into there, Nicolas Cage.
14. American Baseball
After moving from Baltimore to Manhattan, the New York baseball team moved into Hilltop Park, which was located on one of the highest points in the entire city, in 1903. Because of this, the team was nicknamed the Highlanders. During this time, most baseball teams were also called the Americans, as they played in the American League, but newspapers would start referring to this team as the “Yankees” or “Yanks” as the term was a nickname for Americans. It wasn’t until 1913 that the owners would officially name the team the Yankees.
15. Football Lies
Football is about as American as it gets, and the New York Football teams—the Jets and Giants—are about as famous as they come. However, there is only one football team in the National Football League which actually plays in the state of New York: the Buffalo Bills. This is because both the New York Giants and Jets play in New Jersey, while the Bills play in Orchard Park, New York. To make it even more complicated, Orchard Park is located in Erie County, not Buffalo.
16. Don’t Stop the Press
The freedom of the press has its origins in New York. After his newspaper The New York Weekly Journal criticized the colonial governor of New York in multiple articles in 1734, John Peter Zenger was arrested and taken to court for sedition and libel. This case would establish the right of the press in the colonies to be free, as Zenger’s lawyer argued that the paper was not printing libel, because the claims were actually based in truth.
17. Library Lions
Functioning as a repository for every single book which is published in the entire United States, the New York Public Library is the world’s largest municipal library system. So great is the NYPL that the incredible Beaux-Arts building library in Manhattan is fitted with two majestic marble lions who watch over the city. As one of the most iconic public sculptures in New York, they even have names: Patience and Fortitude. They were named by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the 1930s to remind the people of the virtues necessary to survive the Great Depression.
18. Changing Hands
One-third of the Revolutionary War battles took place on New York soil, and it wasn’t until the war ended that New York City was back in the hands of General George Washington’s forces.
19. Picking Sides
The Iroquois tribe was the main native New York “headache” for the European settlers. During the Revolutionary War, they sided with the British, but after they lost, they were forced from their land and many fled to Canada. This allowed for the nascent state of New York to economically expand.
20. Look At That Mound
Some of the earliest remains of ancient peoples who lived in the New York region were found buried in large piles of dead bodies. This led to them being called “Mound Builders,” as not only did they build mounds for burial sites, but everything they did was a mound, from elite residences to religious ceremonial structures.
21. Wonderful Wizard of Chittenango
The town of Chittenango, New York is a town that’s proud of its residents. Their most famous one was L. Frank Baum, the author responsible for creating the Oz series, so they have honored him by making some of their sidewalks yellow brick roads, which lead up to an Auntie Em’s Pantry. They also hold an annual Oz-Stravaganza and even a Munchkin parade, which is surely something not to miss.
22. No Farting
It is illegal to fart in a church in New York City. Letting one go is considered a misdemeanor offense in the city. However, if you want to go topless, that is completely fine, as both male and female breasts are allowed to enjoy the air on the streets of the city.
23. First Hollywood
Before filmmakers moved out West, they had a home in New York. Paramount Pictures, which is the second oldest film studio still operating in the world, was first started in New York, and the Kaufman Astoria Studios was the home of it all. Though Paramount would eventually move to Hollywood, the Kaufman Astoria Studio still remains in operation today and has been home to many classics, including both Goodfellas and Sesame Street. Central Park also holds the title of being the most featured location in movie history.
24. Religion and Cutlery
The largest dinner and silverware supplier in North America is located in Oneida, New York. Dating back to 1880, Oneida Limited is an American tableware manufacturer with interesting roots. The company was founded by members of the Oneida Community, which was a perfectionist religious society that settled in the town in 1848. They believed Jesus had returned in the year 70 AD. In order to live in the perfect world, they practiced communalism, complex marriage, and male sexual continence. Sounds fun. It didn’t last, however, and when the community dissolved, some members founded the silverware company.
25. Democratic Natives
The oldest active democracy in the world is located in the United States, but it is not the United States. It is the Iroquois League in New York State, which was formed in the 16th century by five different Native American nations (they would later expand to six) in response to the European settlers. Though the settlers didn’t really want to keep the natives around, they liked their ideas on government. When the United States began drafting their own democracy, they took many ideas—including elected representatives, federalism, and caucuses—from the Iroquois League.
26. Gift Giving
Not only did King Charles II name his new jewel of a territory after his brother, the Duke of York, but he gave it to him as a gift. Albany is also named after James, as it was his Scottish title. New Netherlands was muscled away from the Dutch during the Second Dutch War, but the Brits would end up losing this second in a series of seven naval wars fought over the control of commercial trade routes and overseas colonies.
27. Do Roaches Count?
As the third most populated state in the union that is the United States, there are over 19 million people living in New York. While that sure is a lot, close to half of those people live in the confines of New York City, which has about 9 million residents. That means that NYC alone accounts for 1 out of every 38 people who reside in the United States. Yet, the capital of the state, Albany, has one-eighth of the population of New York City.
28. Diversity Matters
With over 800 different languages being spoken there, 4 out of every 10 homes in New York City speak another language besides English. This makes it the most diverse city in terms of linguistics in the world, and probably a major reason as to why the food there is so damn good.
29. The First Farm Festival
Though it was named after the town of Woodstock, the iconic Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 was actually held in Bethel, New York, on a dairy farm. While it was “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,” we doubt the cows were fully at peace with hosting 400,000 people on their farm.
30. Immigration by Potato
The Great Irish Potato Famine had such a devastating impact on Ireland that much of the population was forced to flee in search of greener pastures (and harvests). By 1850, there were more Irish people living in New York City than in Dublin, Ireland’s capital, and to this day there are still more Irish-Americans in NYC than in Dublin.
31. Get Your Bite On
In the state of New York, there are over 10x more reported biting incidents than shark attacks in the world. That’s right, New Yorkers bite more people than sharks do, and they ain’t even sorry about it.
32. First and Largest Parks
With all the famous parks in the United States, from Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon to the Everglades, it would seem obvious if one of them was the largest in the country. But we aren’t here for the obvious, are we? Adirondack Park is actually the largest national park in the country, coming in at six million acres, which is larger than those three other parks combined. But wait, there’s more! New York is also home to the first state park in the country: Niagara Falls State Park.
33. Sometimes You Gotta Pray
In the town of Oneida, New York there lies a unique little church. And by little, we do mean little. Known as Cross Island Chapel, this is the smallest church in the entire world, with enough room for only 2 people to sit in it.
34. Immigration Island
A whopping 40% of the entire population of the United States can trace at least one of their ancestors back to Ellis Island in New York. This is because from the years 1886 to 1924, over 14 million immigrants from overseas came through the island in search of a better life in the growing country.
35. Entering the New World
Upon entering the complex at Ellis Island, a person had to answer a 29 question survey in order to officially enter the United States. If you didn’t die on your way there, you had a pretty good shot of getting in, as only 2% of people failed the test. But, still, if you were one of that 2%, that sure had to suck.
36. The Empire State
Sure you know this nickname, but do you know why New York is known as the “Empire State?” No, not because of the Empire State building—that came later. The origins are rooted in the words of George Washington, who thought of the prosperous state to be “the seat of the empire.”
37. Capital City
George Washington really liked New York. He had his inauguration ceremony in New York City’s Federal Hall on Wall St., and named the city the first capital of the United States. Though the capital would move around before settling in Washington DC, word is that DC still harbors some jealousy toward New York City.
38. Newspaper Raps
The New York Post is the oldest running newspaper in the entire country of the United States, dating back to 1803. It was established by Alexander Hamilton—you know, that guy from the musical.
39. Famous Logo
The New York Yankees are one of the most famous sports teams in the entire world, and they are the second highest valued sporting franchise in the world, at a ridiculous $3.7 billion. While winning helps, a good part of that value is from their elegant design. Their famous NY logo was originally designed by Tiffany & Co., though not for the baseball team. Rather, it was designed for a Medal of Valor, awarded to a New York police officer who was shot in the line of duty in 1877, before being appropriated by the owners of the then New York Highlanders.
40. Hanging Island
Gibbets are posts which are used for the hanging of people in cases of execution. Great to know, but why am I telling you this? Because Ellis Island was originally known as Gibbet Island. This was because it was the location where pirates were hung in pre-revolutionary New York.
41. Keeping Men in Cages
For many years, the Bronx Zoo of New York felt that it was no issue to exhibit human beings in a cage. They did so with Ota Benga, a Mbuti (Congolese pygmy) man in 1906. He would eventually be released and molded into more of an “American” subject in order to be more accepted in the country. After working on tobacco plantations, he had planned to travel back home, but was unable to do so after World War I started. In 1916, he sadly died by suicide at only 32 years old.
42. Love Canal Tragedy
The Love Canal was a project that began as a dream but ended in tragedy. Originally developed as a beautiful community at the foot the Niagara Falls in New York, the site of Love Canal was eventually turned into an industrial dumpsite before being covered and built into a new model community. Just because the dumpsite was covered doesn’t mean that it was gone, and soon after moving in, over 800 families had to evacuate their homes as toxic waste began to poison the community.