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Watch How The States Got Their Shapes


How the States Got Their Shapes is a television show that currently plays on the History channel. The show is based on a book by Mark Stein with the same title but delivers the message in a unique style. How the States Got Their Shapes tells the story of how the separate states in the United States established their borders, thus literally getting their shape, but it also delivers interesting and less known aspects of the history of the United States of America. Some of the interesting details they bring to light are failed attempts at becoming states, proposed ideas for new states or states in the future, among other things. What makes the show interesting and different than most history shows is it also shows us how certain modern-day U.S. states became the way they are.

The show is hosted by Brian Unger, who provides various historically accurate commentary. Each individual episode offers a basis for the storyline for that particular episode, such as dialects and how they formed from region to region and then state to state. Unger travels all over America and not only supplies narrative, but also interviews people in the area and interacts with them in various ways. Unger visits important historical and cultural sites in the U.S., and intertwined within his commentary and storytelling are other historians' input to help push the story forward.

Originally airing as just a two-hour-long special, after receiving high critical praise, the history channel decided to bring it into show format. The first season consisted of hour-long episodes; however in the following season the show has been moved to a half-hour format instead.

Tuesday 10:00 PM et/pt on History Channel
2 Seasons, 31 Episodes
May 3, 2011
Documentary & Biography
8.1/10
Cast: Brian Unger, H.W. Brands, Mark Stein
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How The States Got Their Shapes Full Episode Guide

  • A closer look at American values.

  • What is the impact of the size of states?

  • The impact of the quest for resources.

  • Conflict between the states.

  • Everything is bigger in Texas. It's the only state that acts like a country, but has it grown too big for its britches? We'll mess with Texas to settle this ten-gallon rivalry.

  • A closer look at misconduct within states.

  • A closer look at the differences between the East Coast and West Coast.

  • A closer look at city living vs. country living.

  • Americans have been racing to tame the West since they first set foot on the continent, but now that the West has been won, what's next? Is the West still the best.

  • Exploring the American West.

  • A closer look at the Midwest.

  • A closer look at vices within each state.

  • A closer look at how the influence of religion shaped the U.S.

  • A closer look at the value of property in the Great Lakes region.

  • How geographic location stirs up fear of unexplained phenomena.

  • A closer look at cultural differences that exist between the northern and southern U.S. states.

  • The influence of the Hatfield-McCoy family feud of the 1880s on West Virginia and Kentucky.

  • A closer look at the influence of rural communities on American culture.

  • It's a rivalry that tears us apart every four years, but how did our nation divide into red states vs. blue states, and what happens to the states caught in the middle?

  • It's a rivalry that tears us apart every four years, but how did our nation divide into red states vs. blue states, and what happens to the states caught in the middle?

  • How the States Got Their Shapes

  • We all live in the same country, so why do we sound do different? Why didn't the southern accent exist until after the Civil War? How did California athletes end up coining so many new words? Why do we have so many different words for the same things - like pop versus soda? Will one particularly strong accent cause New York to break up and create a 51st state?

  • Cultures and rivalries within states threaten to break them up. In extreme cases, they can divide states in two. How did World War II preserve the shape of California? Will part of Maine break off and become Northern Massachusetts? And as new cultures move into Florida, will the state's cowboy tradition get pushed off the map?

  • Money has defined boundaries and redrawn state lines. How did Green Bay help carve our border with Canada? What does football have to do with fur? Is North Carolina the real "Golden State"? And why should we all move to North Dakota?

  • Since the Pilgrims, what and how we believe has shaped our map. Could Utah have been bigger than Texas? How did religion shatter New England into such odd little shapes? And did the Civil War actually begin... in Kansas?

  • How the states have changed their shapes since the beginning.

  • What secrets are hiding in our map? What's behind the "blank spots" like Area 51? What possessed the citizens of Key West to throw down their margaritas and secede from Florida? And even in the heartland, there are those living on the edge -- in Kansas, old missile bunkers are now five bedroom dream homes. And what about the county in Georgia that was left off the state's quarter?

  • Why does Montana appear to have taken a bite out of Idaho? Why wasn't Texas broken up into five states? And why do we have two Carolinas?

  • Long before the Founding Fathers drew the map, mother nature had a hand in shaping some states. An asteroid created the border for three states, glaciers plowed the great plains and natural disasters continue to alter the map.

  • How did transportation influence the boundaries of the American map? Could Chicago have been in Wisconsin? Why are states out West so big and boxy? And why did we almost had a state called Forgottonia?

  • Learn how water has literally shaped the United States.

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How The States Got Their Shapes is currently available to watch and stream on History Channel. You can also stream, download, buy, rent How The States Got Their Shapes on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Vudu, iTunes online.