My, my, there are a lot of M’s

the Missouri Compromise of 1820

Maine.War Of 1812When my daughter was learning the states, she listed them semi-alphabetically: the 4 A states, 3 C states, et al. The M’s were the hardest because there are eight of them. There are eight N states too, but four of them are “New” and two of them are “North”.

And on the abbreviation list, there are even more M’s

MA Massachusetts, US state and commonwealth in New England. Home of the father-and-son second and sixth Presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, respectively. Capital and largest city: Boston. The traditional abbreviation was Mass, which I remember even though the Puritans were hostile to Roman Catholicism. We’ve been to the state a LOT.

MB Manitoba, a Canadian prairie province. The abbreviation is the first letters of the first and fourth (last) syllables. No other combination would work without being confused with a US state. The capital and largest city is Winnipeg.

MD Maryland, US east coast state. The abbreviation is the first and last letter, and it used to be Md. I remember that because of Johns Hopkins is a noted hospital in Baltimore, and Walter Reed is a once-troubled medical facility in Bethesda. The capital is Annapolis, the home of the US Navy. The largest city is Baltimore. We’ve stayed at a hotel in the state, but haven’t spent quality time there.

ME Maine, US state in New England. The abbreviation is the first and last letter, which was what used to be if they bothered to shorten it at all. Maine used to be part of Massachusetts until it became a state in 1819. The capital is Augusta. The largest city is Portland, where my then-fiancee and I were stranded in a snowstorm in March 1999.


MH Marshall Islands, a Freely associated state in the Pacific. What? “The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement establishing and governing the relationships of free association between the US and three Pacific Island nations.” This is a complicated and occasionally contentious relationship beyond what I can address here. Capital and largest city: Majuro.

MI Michigan, US state in the Midwest. It was historically abbreviated Mich before it was altered to the first two letters. One of the five Great Lakes is in Michigan, but I won’t tell you which one. That’s why there’s an Upper Penisula and Lower Peninsula. The capital is Lansing. The largest city is Detroit, the original home of Motown Records, which I have visited, along with the Henry Ford Museum and the now-razed Tigers Stadium.

MM As far as I know, there is no MM. There are M&Ms, a candy introduced in 1941. When I buy a small bag, I usually eat them in rainbow order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and brown.

MN Minnesota, US state in the Midwest. It was formerly abbreviated Minn. Angle, MN is the most northern point in the continental US. The source of the mighty Mississippi is Lake Itasca. The capital is Saint Paul, and the largest city is Minneapolis, which are collectively known as the Twin Cities. I hope to go there in 2021.

MO Missouri, US state in the Midwest. It’s almost always abbreviated Mo., to distinguish it from Mississippi. It entered the Union as a slave state in 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise. The short-lived Pony Express started in Missouri in 1860. The capital is Jefferson City, and the largest city is Kansas City, where everything’s up to date.

MP Northern Mariana Islands, a Commonwealth (U.S. insular area), like Puerto Rico, but unlike states such as Massachusetts. It’s in the Pacific. Capital and largest city: Saipan.

MS Mississippi, US state in the South. I found it oddly humorous as a teen when I discovered Miss. became MS. I was in the state for a very short time in 1970. Capital and largest city: Jackson.

MT Montana, US state in the West. Formerly Mont., it’s easy to remember because it resides in the Rocky Mountains. Capital: Helena. Largest city: Billings.

M’s for ABC Wednesday

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

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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