Oldest States in the U.S.

8 Oldest Formed States in the U.S.

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The United States of America is a relatively young country compared to the likes of other nations. Officially born in 1776 and less than 250 years old, it’s a country with a growing yet rich history that extends past its birthday.

America is comprised of 50 states, some of which were originally colonies when the first settlers arrived from England. States were admitted one by one over a period of 183 years, with Hawaii being the last state to become a part of the country in 1959.

Today, we’ll be focusing particularly on the oldest American states as they were ratified, or admitted to the Union. Let’s dive in!

8. South Carolina

Date ratified: May 23, 1788
State motto: “Dum Spiro Spero” (“While I Breathe, I Hope”)
Formed from: Crown Colony of South Carolina
Region: Deep South

South Carolinaphoto source: Unsplash

With Spanish moss, sandy beaches, and many historic hubs such as Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina is among the oldest states in the country.

Ranking 40th in size and 23rd in population, South Carolina was founded by the Lord Proprietors in 1663, and was originally part of the Province of Carolina. At the time, the province consisted of both North and South Carolina. It would remain one of the original 13 U.S. colonies until its ratification in 1788.

Did You Know?

During the time of the Civil War, South Carolina was the first state to vote in favor of secession from the Union. It was readmitted as a state during Reconstruction on June 25, 1868.


7. Maryland

Date ratified: April 28, 1788
State motto: “Fatti maschii, parole femine” (“Manly deeds, womanly words”)
Formed from: Proprietary Province of Maryland
Region: Mid-Atlantic

Marylandphoto source: Unsplash

Maryland is one of the oldest states in the U.S., and was the seventh colony to become a ratified state. Today, it is the 19th most populous of the 50 United States.

Before Maryland was founded by the early settlers, it was home to the Paleo-Indians for about 13,000 years. Following these tribes were the Lenape, Shawnee, and Susquehannock Indians.

After its formal establishment in 1632 as one of the 13 original colonies, Maryland would go on to play an influential role in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the U.S. Civil War. It became one of the formal United States in 1788.

Did You Know?

Many of the early United States had established state religions, and Maryland’s was Catholicism. Because of this, one common myth is that Maryland is named after the Virgin Mary; in fact, it is named after Queen Henrietta Maria of England, whose husband created the colony.


6. Massachusetts

Date ratified: February 6, 1788
State motto: “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem” (“By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty”)
Formed from: Crown Colony of Massachusetts Bay
Region: Northeast

photo source: Unsplash

Home of the famed city of Boston, Massachusetts has been one of the United States since 1788, but was instrumental in the country’s establishment long before its status as a ratified state.

In fact, the very first English settlers aboard the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620. This was actually the result of being lost at sea, because originally, the voyage was set to end at Jamestown, Virginia.

Massachusetts is also renowned for its involvement in the Revolutionary War. Historical events such as the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and the “shot heard round the world” during the famous Battle of Concord all occurred in what is now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Did You Know?

John Winthrop founded the colony of Massachusetts, naming it after an Algonquin Indian tribe. The name “Massachusetts” translates to “at the great hill,” or “large hill place.”


5. Connecticut

Date ratified: January 9, 1788
State motto: “Qui transtulit sustinet” (“He who transplants still sustains”)
Formed from: Crown colony of Connecticut
Region: Northeast

Connecticutphoto source: Unsplash

Connecticut was the fifth U.S. colony to gain state status. Today, it is known for its 250-mile shoreline with frequently-photographed lighthouses, New Haven pizza, and Yale University, among other things!

The state of Connecticut has 169 towns, 21 cities, and 9 boroughs. It is the 29th most populous state, and is one of the six states to make up the region of New England, along with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire).

Historically, Connecticut was known as “the Provision State,” thanks to its role in sending supplies and weaponry to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

Did You Know?

Fans of the TV show Gilmore Girls may hear “Connecticut” and think of the fictional town of Stars Hollow, which is actually just a Warner Bros. set! The beautiful town’s gazebo and changing leaves, however, are highly reminiscent of many real-life Connecticut towns – particularly the Litchfield Hills region.


4. Georgia

Date ratified: January 2, 1788
State motto: “Wisdom, justice, moderation.”
Formed from: Crown Colony of Georgia
Region: Deep South

photo source: Unsplash

Georgia was the last and southernmost of the U.S. colonies to be established, but the fourth state to be ratified.

Despite its long and brutal history of oppression and discrimination – first against Native Americans with the infamous Trail of Tears, then its heavy involvement in the slave trade – the original Georgian colony had a settlement charter that prohibited slavery.

As a state, Georgia was part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and fought for the right to own slaves. It seceded from the Union in 1861, and was among the last of the Confederate states to be restored in 1870.

Did You Know?

Georgia has more different types of soil than any other state, making its land rich and fertile for farming. Among them are clay, silt, and sand, to name a few.


3. New Jersey

Date ratified: December 18, 1787
State motto: “Liberty and prosperity.”
Formed from: Crown Colony of New Jersey
Region: Mid-Atlantic

New Jerseyphoto source: Unsplash

Known as “the Garden State,” New Jersey is one of the most popular areas to vacation for those who are native to the Mid-Atlantic region. Its shoreline is home to favorites such as Ocean City, Wildwood, and Cape May, among many others.

New Jersey was historically the Crown Colony of New Jersey before becoming a U.S. state in 1787. It is also known as “The Crossroads of the American Revolution,” due to the fact that many battles of the Revolutionary War were fought within Jersey’s borders.

New Jersey’s state capital is Trenton, which is home to 83,412 people. Its bird is the eastern goldfinch, and its flower is the common violet.

Did You Know?

New Jersey is one of the leading American states in seafood production, primarily for clams harvested off the state coast.


2. Pennsylvania

Date ratified: December 12, 1787
State motto: “Virtue, liberty, and independence.”
Formed from: Proprietary Province of Pennsylvania
Region: Mid-Atlantic

photo source: Unsplash

Pennsylvania is home to the original capital of the United States: Philadelphia, or the “City of Brotherly Love.”

The second U.S. colony to become a ratified state, Pennsylvania has a history replete with innovation, conflict, and culture. Founded by Englishman and Quaker William Penn in 1681, the name “Pennsylvania” literally translates to “Penn’s Woods,” and began as a haven for Penn’s fellow Quakers. In the following years, Pennsylvania would play a major role as battleground during the Revolutionary War, and would ultimately be the birthplace of the American nation.

Did You Know?

The modern-day chocolate capital of the United States is Hershey, Pennsylvania, where Hershey’s chocolate has been produced since 1894.


1. Delaware

Date ratified: December 7, 1787
State motto: “Liberty and independence.”
Formed from: Colony of Delaware
Region: Mid-Atlantic

Delawarephoto source: Unsplash

Delaware is the oldest U.S. state.

Deemed “The First State,” Delaware was the first ever ratified state, officially joining the Union in December, 1787. Its geography is one of the most historical regions of the United States, as the state has seen many famous American battles and wars in its day, as well as many different types of people (including numerous Native American tribes).

Delaware is home to three state forests, sandy beaches, and swampland alike. Its soil is ideal for farming, making agriculture one of its leading industries.

Did You Know?

Delaware’s official bragging rights as “the first state” carried over into an official nickname for the state on May 23, 2002, after being requested by Mrs. Anabelle O’Malley’s first grade class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.


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