Thirty-Three Maps That Explain The United States Better Than Any Textbook

Years ago, famed historian E.H. Carr made an apt point that one cannot separate the historian from history and that what we see in history books is not necessarily pure fact–it has been made and presented as such due to the judgments of a very fallible and selective person. All of this is to say that when it comes to getting to the reasons why the United States looks the way it does today, “truth”–if we can find it–is quite hard to come by.

For every historian who disputes the reasons why a certain war broke out or how a particular president’s decision changed the fate of America, there’s a map which lays hard data bare and allows for the viewer’s own interpretation. Maps aren’t as immediately exciting as a good story, which is why we tend to overlook them when trying to understand our present. We’d like to change that. Without further ado, here are thirty-three fascinating maps that explain the United States:

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The Highest Paid Public Employees In Each State

The Highest Paid Public Employees In The United States

Once additional compensation from media appearances, fundraising and apparel contracts are factored in, sports coaches are the highest-paid employees in 40 out of 50 states.

The Status Of Gay Marriage By State As Of February 2015

Gay Marriage 2015

When the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, many activists rejoiced--gay marriage was here at last. While they did declare DOMA unconstitutional, the Supreme Court still left the decision of permitting or banning gay marriage up to individual states. As of this writing, 37 states allow gay marriage, with groups challenging marriage restrictions in the states that haven't adopted more inclusive marriage laws.

Meth Labs By County

Meth Labs By County

Once a relatively obscure drug associated with biker gangs, methamphetamine has become one of the most popular drugs in America thanks to its relatively easy and cheap production. In a recent nationwide survey, one out of two hundred adults in America reported using meth in the past year.

Mean Center Of Population In The United States

If each American had the same "weight", the mean center of the US population would be the point where, if split down the middle, the two halves would perfectly balance out. As we can see, the lure of the western "frontier" has really stuck.

Global Obesity Rates

Global Obesity Rates

Among developed countries, the United States has the highest rate of obesity, with one-third of the population classified as obese. This rate is estimated by the Harvard School of Public Health to reach 50% by 2030.

Global Incarceration Rates

Global Incarceration Rates

As of 2014, the United States has the highest incarceration rate on the planet. While America represents 4.4% of the world's population, it houses 22% of the world's prisoners.

US Economic Activity Map

In many respects, the United States is the tale of two countries. Not only is money increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer people, but also in fewer areas of the United States.

The Largest Ancestry By County In The United States

Ancestry In The United States

The legacy of conquest and opportunity-seeking can be found in our blood--and on our maps. African and African American ancestry is most common in the once slave-holding South, just as Mexican heritage in Texas transcends annexation and war.

Countries That Use The Imperial System

Metric System

As of 2015, only three countries continue to eschew the metric system in favor of the Imperial system: Burma, Liberia, and the United States.

Size Of Alaska

In the standard Mercator projection map, Alaska is shown to be comparable to Texas in terms of size. In reality, it's actually twice the size of Texas and roughly 25% the overall size of the continental United States.

Deployment Of American Troops By Country

US Worldwide Troop Deployment

A consistent source of global tension, 230,000 members of the United States military are deployed in over 160 countries across the world.

Paid Maternity Leave In America

The United States joins Suriname, Liberia and a handful of other countries that decline to provide paid maternity leave. Meanwhile, access to affordable contraception and family planning services has become the subject of intense political debate.

How Americans Say Groups Of People

"Y'all" is one of the most common linguistic markers of Southern heritage, but its origins actually come from across the pond. Scots-Irish immigrants brought the phrase "Ye aw" with them to the South, and the rest, they say, is history.

Racial Segregation In Chicago

Racial Segregation Of Chicago

While government-mandated racial segregation ended in the 1960s, de facto residential segregation has sprung up in its wake. The above map of Chicago's white, black, Asian and Latino populations visualizes just how insulated groups continue to be from each other.

United States Census Blocks With No Populations

Uninhabited America

While the green tones collecting in the Western half of the US might inspire a misanthrope to make a move to Utah, beware: most of the uninhabited areas in this map are only that way due to natural features that make it difficult to live there or because human settlement is prohibited there (think national parks).

A Map Of Light Pollution In The United States

Light Pollution United States Map

The east coast of America suffers from some of the worst light pollution in the planet, depicted in the heat map above of light pollution in the continental US.

Extermination Of American Bison

Once numbering in the hundreds of millions in North America, the American Bison were slaughtered in the 1800s for their fur and meat during the westward expansion of the United States. Bison populations were pushed to the point of near-extinction with only 1,000 left in the 1890s, but were saved by an aggressive conservation program put in place by Theodore Roosevelt. Read about the near-extinction of American Bison on All That Is Interesting.

Mexican Drug Cartels Map

There are a number of reasons why drug cartels have gained such influence over the Mexican state and the United States never-ending War on Drugs is one of them. Mexico is a major US heroin supplier as well as the largest foreign supplier of methamphetamine and marijuana. In fact, production of these drugs has only increased since Mexico launched its own War on Drugs in 2005. Currently, the drug trade employs approximately 500,000 people and contributes around $30 billion a year to the Mexican economy.

The Happiest States In The United States

Happiest States In The United States

America Visualized By Distance To The Nearest McDonald's

America Map By McDonalds Locations

In many ways, McDonald's has become the face of America both home and abroad. Domestically, one can hardly drive without encountering one of the 14,000 McDonald's located in America, visualized clearly by the map above.

The Fourth Congressional District Of Illinois

Gerrymandering In The United States

Gerrymandering -- the practice of manipulating boundaries of political representation to favor one party has become a country-wide problem. The Economist calls Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District one of the most strangely drawn gerrymandered districts in the country. Crammed into these two tiny swaths of land are a vast amount of left-leaning Latinos, which effectively ensures that they will only have one representative in Congress and consequently cannot sway other races in the city.

The Most Popular Website By State

Most Popular Website By State

Regional differences don't only mean culinary and linguistic distinctions, but also differences in media consumption, in part due to local employment sectors. The tech-heavy northwest prefers TechCrunch while the states surrounding Washington DC favors Politico.

The Most Recognizable Brand From Every State

Recognizable Brands Of Each State

Florida, we're looking at you.

Death Penalty Practices Across The World

Death Penalty World Map

The United States is currently the only developed nation that still practices the death penalty. In 2008, it joined China, Iran, and 43 other countries in voting against a United Nations resolution against the death penalty.

The Gender Imbalance Of Singles Across American Cities

Single People In America

If you're a woman looking for love, it might behoove you to head west.

The Height Of The Mexican Empire In 1823

Height Of The Mexican Empire

From 1821 to 1848 California, Texas and New Mexico formed three provinces of the Mexican Empire.

The Amount Of Snow It Takes To Cancel Snow By County

Snow It Take To Cancel School In The US

The United States is one of the most geographically and topographically diverse countries on Earth. Case in point: temperatures have hovered around -50 degrees in Alaska on the same day that temperatures top 130 degrees in Death Valley.

State Autocomplete Map

We can trace the US story through stereotypes: in the South, many wonder why states are so poor, racist and backwards, and why the Northeast is such a white, liberal enclave.

Fifty-Six Years Of Tornadoes Mapped

Tornado Tracks United States

Known as Tornado Alley, the American Midwest is home to the highest frequency of tornadoes in the world.

The Probability Of Upward Mobility In America By Locality

Upward Mobility In America Map

If you want your child to have a shot at entering a higher tier of the socioeconomic echelon, you might not want to settle down in the South, where segregation both class and race tends to shape your future.

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If you enjoyed our collection of maps of America, check out All That Is Interesting’s other posts on twenty-five maps that make sense of the world and interesting facts that will blow your mind!

Let It Bleed: A People’s History Of Menstruation

Menstruation History Calendar

Source: Fem Side

It’s just about impossible to imagine how people from the past would have coped with some of today’s most prominent medical issues. What would the Ancient Egyptians have made of attention-deficit disorder, for example? How would the Vikings have coped with clinical depression? Were there obsessive-compulsives with Tourette’s syndrome among the Ancient Maya? Nobody seems to know, and it’s possible these elements of our biology are unique to modern society. Menstruation, however, is not.

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Boffins Gone Bonkers: The Best Science Pranks

You don’t want to get into a prank war with a scientist. While today’s scientists adhere to the rigors of the scientific method, they come from a long lineage of thinkers who were not above using their intelligence to have some fun at the expense of another. Here are some of the best science pranks of them all.

Prank Perrin’s Gyroscope

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These Classic Circus Posters Remind Us Of A Time When Entertainment Didn’t Require WiFi

classic circus procession poster

The traveling circus was once such a popular event that families would plan their vacation around it coming to town. read.gov

It might seem impossible now, but there was a time–indeed, there were centuries–when entertainment could be found outside of an LCD screen. Before “Angry Birds”, there was the circus, which in many ways was the proto-TLC, as circus execs relied heavily on shock and exploitation to provide people with an escape from the drudgeries of reality–and, of course, make some killer profits for themselves. Today, the circus is largely anachronistic, evocative of a time in which diversion was not at your fingertips but at a fairground. As with today, though, marketing still mattered:

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classic circus ringling bros

Five of the seven Ringling brothers founded the world-famous Ringling Brothers Circus, which promoted the biggest acts and garnered the entrepreneurial siblings a ton of wealth. wikipedia

classic circus barnum bailey

Promoted as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, the Barnum and Bailey Circus was the Ringling Brothers' fiercest competition. Eventually, Ringling would buy out Barnum and Bailey in 1907, combining the two troupes and eliminate that competition for good. wikipedia

classic circus forepaugh sells

Before Adam Forepaugh and the Sells Brothers combined their shows, their separate acts were quite successful. As with the Ringling Brothers' acquisition of Barnum, it was very common for one circus to purchase a rival or two to join as a way to increase revenue by lessening competition. wikipedia

classic circus french circus

It wasn’t only American circuses that used colorful posters and animal acts to promote themselves. This poster from a French circus features one very dextrous bear. imgkid

classic circus ubangi tribe

Somewhat similar to today's reality TV shows, many acts in the classic circus used exploitation as a means of entertainment. Shock sells, and the circus could bring spectacle to scale like few others could. One step above slavery, so called “savages” would be brought from their homelands to sell tickets to the masses. circusposters

classic circus madame castillo

Madam Ada Costello was a very popular horse act for the Ringling Bros. Only the biggest attractions received their own posters for the coming shows wikipedia

classic circus clark and sons

M.L. Clark and Sons were known for their expert wire artists. A family of daredevils, the members saw the wire as their canvas and were always looking for new tricks that would provide for an exciting final product. imgkid

classic circus horse dancer

Others still wanted to seize on the circus' national popularity. One was the Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers Circus, which operated from 1896 through 1911. One of their biggest acts featured Great Danes, which were unfamiliar in the United States at the time. circusposters

classic circus tattooed woman

Few ‘freak show’ attractions were more popular than the Tattooed Woman. Nora Hildebrandt was America’s first professional tattooed lady, but over time the art would become normalized, and Hildebrandt would be considered less of a "freak" and more of a trendsetter. Maud Wagner (shown here) was a circus artist as well as America’s first female tattoo artist. lastsparrowtattoo

classic circus tiger tamer

Animal tamers were all the rage under the Big Top, and a female tiger tamer would surely bring in the biggest crowds. wikipedia

classic circus maloon bros

The Maloon Brothers Circus operated off and on from 1913 to 1921, and had a rocky go of it from the very start. An excerpt from a 1913 Billboard Magazine states “A rumor is out that Maloon Bros.' show disbanded at Union City, Indiana, June 24, and it is alleged that Manager Carlton Maloon vamoosed with two weeks' salary of the troupe and a week's door receipts, amounting to somewhere in the neighborhood of $500.” Carlton must have shown back up eventually, as this particular troupe was around for seven years afterward. circus history

classic circus elephant rider

Given their imposing size and exoticness, elephants were typically one of the biggest draws in a traveling circus. Many tragic stories surround the use of the pachyderms for pure spectacle for this reason. circus history

classic circus sideshow performers

Many individuals with deformities or disabilities found work at the circus, since otherwise it would be incredibly hard--if not impossible--for them to find gainful employment. The more bizarre the act, the more popular it would be, and the more money would be made. Some of the performers were natural wonders, and others ‘invented’ themselves to become a marketable commodity. new republic

classic circus norris rowe

Given the alternate world that circuses carried in their caravans, towns often held parades upon a circus' arrival. Musicians and other acts would perform to sell additional tickets to the audience. mt history revealed

classic circus wagon

As much as the acts traveling within them, the circus wagons themselves contributed to the circus' other-worldly aura. circusnospin

classic circus voise family

Trapeze acts were also huge attractions at the traveling circus. Family acts tended to dominate this sphere of the circus world, too. Featured here are brothers Harold and Jack Voise, along with two other performers (possibly Eilene and Bob Porter). Harold Voise

classic circus beautiful trailer

The circus wagon trailer for ‘The Show Beautiful’. Harold Voise

classic circus animal truck

The caged animal cars were perfect for giving potential circus goers a quick peek at the wild attractions before attending the shows. the circus world

classic circus bell wagon

Some wagons served multiple purposes; this bell wagon could carry supplies while also adding music to the parade festivities. Dover Library

classic circus horse riders

The parade of horses, performers, musicians and animals through the streets would be a whole show unto itself, leading up to the main events under the big top. Once the shows were over, the troupe would pack up, and parade back out of town to the next location. Dover Library

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