How The States Got Their Shapes

I go on vacation for one week and the place turns into a hormone laced junior high school boys locker room.  Really, 2 reviews on Buckwild (here and here)?  I’m amazed there wasn’t a Girls Gone Wild review.

So as an apology to our educated readers and as attempt to bring our average story level up to a 12th grade level, I bring you a show that I just stumbled upon on the History Channel.  It’s called How The States Got Their Shapes.

It is hosted by Brian Unger (a former Daily Show correspondent). The show deals with how the various states of the United States established their borders, but also delves into other aspects of U.S. history, including failed states, proposed new states, and the local culture and character of various U.S. states. It thus deals with the “shapes” of the states in a metaphorical sense as well as a literal sense.

Each episode has a particular theme, such as how the landscape, or language, or natural resources contributed to the borders and character of various U.S. states. The show format follows Unger as he travels to various locations, and interviews local people, visits important historical and cultural sites, and provides commentary from behind the wheel of his car as he drives from location to location. Interspersed with these segments are brief historical synopses by notable U.S. historians.

The problem with most of these show’s is that I generally want to research where the host lives so that i can get in my car and strangle them (I’m talking about you Samatha Brown).

Not so with Brian Unger. He does a good job of keeping the show moving with pretty interesting facts.  Like for example, the states in the east have crooked borders because most of them were based on the flow of various rivers, which when they were formed were the state’s lifeblood.  By contrast, the states in the west have a lot of straight lined borders.  This is because when they were formed, railroads were the primary mode of transportation and it made rivers less important.

Here’s an interesting clip about how air conditioning has changed the shape and size of our cities.

So far 30 episodes have aired on The History Channel, with Season 2 just wrapping up on December 22, 2012.  Give it a watch.