M is for M states

Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts.

In the United States, there are eight states that begin with the letter M, tied with the letter N. But N has the advantage of descriptive adjectives New (Hampshire, Jersey, Mexico, York) and North (Carolina and Dakota); only Nebraska and Nevada are one-word states.

In 1963, ZIP Codes were introduced, although many large cities were divided into zones 20 years earlier. At the same time, the Post Office introduced two-letter abbreviations for the states, to accommodate space for the ZIP Codes.

The ones for the letter M tell stories about the states:

MA – Massachusetts. The mother of the country. Where the Pilgrims landed – on Plymouth Rock, and where the American Revolution was fomented, at the Boston massacre, then the tea party, and finally with the battles of Lexington and Concord. The second and sixth Presidents, both named Adams, were born there.

MD – Maryland. Home of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, plus other facilities with doctors.

ME – Maine. Rugged individuals, who wear clothing from L.L. Bean of Freeport, founded 100 years ago by Leon Leonwood Bean. It was part of Massachusetts until it became a state as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, when it was admitted as a free state, as Missouri joined as a slave state.

MI – Michigan. A state which suffered greatly during the recent recession (oh, mi), but which appears to be coming back strong, with improved auto sales leading the way (oh, mi!)

MN – Minnesota. M and N are adjacent letters, nearly twins in the cursive. Likewise, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are related, yet quite separate cities.

MO – Missouri. The big mo, or momentum towards the Pacific Ocean, Missouri was the starting point of the Pony Express and is considered the Gateway to the west; thus the arch. It’s also the home of the defending World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, who, after their 130th game of the 2011 season on August 24, were 10 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves, with only 32 games remaining. They went 23-9 to finish 90-72, a game ahead of Atlanta’s 89-73, the largest comeback in history after 130 games.

MS – Mississippi. Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts, and there is a strong tradition of Mississippi writers, including John Grisham, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and many more.

MT – Montana. Of course, mt is the abbreviation for a mountain, and the Big Sky State is in the Rocky Mountains.

OBVIOUSLY, the Post Office was thinking about these things when they assigned the two-letter state designations almost a half-century ago.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

30-Day Challenge: Day 13- Favorite Memory

The food was great, the atmosphere casual, the vista beautiful, the price was right.

Do they mean my FAVORITE memory, or ONE favorite memory? If it’s the former, there are too many contenders, including getting lost in the Adironacks with my father when I was 10, taking a free Christmas tree on a bus, being on JEOPARDY!, all of which I’ve written about. I probably wrote about my daughter’s birth too, and if not, I’ll rectify that soon enough.

Here’s a story about going to an inn in Poland Spring, ME. Yes, it’s the town where the water is bottled. The inn isn’t directly related to the bottling plant, though plenty of the beverage was on hand.

We first heard of the Poland Spring Inns when we had gone to a wedding reception in August of 2003. It sounded great, a lovely getaway without a lot of hassle.

The timing probably made it special. Carol was pregnant with Lydia, and we had told no one at that point; it was our conspiratorial little secret.

We got there on Sunday night, barely in time for dinner. The rush was that the room was transformed every evening for some sort of entertainment, whether it be BINGO or a talent show. You could go to it, or not.

During the week, we walked, read, played shuffleboard, did tai chi. The food was great, the atmosphere casual, the vista beautiful, the price was right. And I loved the attitude. From the website:

To become a Great Vacation Value, we have done away with many of the costly services that most people do not miss. Please take the time to read our website and decide if Poland Spring is right for you.

Poland Spring went “green” before it was the chic thing to do…. One way we help the environment is by conserving water…. Please bring your own towels, soap and room glasses. We do provide sheets, blankets, bedspreads, and one pillow per person. If you would like facial tissue or an extra pillow, bring it along.

Don’t pay for things you don’t want …There are no phones in the rooms, but we do have public phones in the lobbies or if you must, bring your cell phone. There is a message board for incoming calls that you are free to ignore. The Maine Inn lobby has wireless internet access and a public computer to check your e-mail. No clanging ice machine in every hall, need ice? Buy it at the gift shop. Bring your own shampoo, we don’t give you little bottles that adds to the room cost. No doormen or bellboys.

Based on our five-day stay seven years ago, highly recommended.

S for Severed States

The part of Missouri Compromise allowing Congress control of slavery in the newly emerging territories was declared unconstitutional.

I saw this article recently in the Wall Street Journal about some people on Long Island wanting to secede from the rest of New York State for a bunch of reasons; it won’t happen, BTW, because the state legislature wouldn’t allow it. But it reminded me that the 50 states in the US were not always the size that they are currently.

Even before there was a United States, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York all insisted that Vermont was a part of their state. That’s why Vermont declared itself a kingdom in 1777, and Vermonters to this day refer to the state as the “Northeast Kingdom”, though it became the first state after the original 13.

In the early days of the Union:
Connecticut laid claim on a piece of what is now northern Ohio
Kentucky would be carved out of what was part of Virginia
*Georgia included the northern portions of what is now both Alabama and Mississippi

Of course, the Louisiana Purchase changed the equation, with the federal government attempting to control all the unincorporated territories of the country, sometimes with resistance at the state level.

Read about the Wisconsin-Michigan kerfluffle.

What is now Maine was once part of Massachusetts, plus some territory claimed by Britain as part of Canada. Maine (free) and Missouri (slave) became states in 1820 and 1821, respectively, I remember from my American history, as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which “stipulated that all the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the southern boundary of Missouri, except Missouri, would be free, and the territory below that line would be slave.”

The Missouri Compromise was repealed by the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which brought those states into the Union but eliminated the provision limiting slavery. Indeed, the part of the Missouri Compromise that allowing Congress to control slavery in the newly emerging territories was declared unconstitutional in the horrific 1857 Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court.

This led to the American Civil War, during which the northwest counties of Virginia seceded from Virginia to become West Virginia. (WV is the answer to the trivia question: “Which state east of the Mississippi River was the last to join the union?”

Read about some of the United States’ international boundary disputes here, and about the curious case of the Republic of Texas here.

ABC Wednesday

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